Beware of the ego: a new factor to consider in digital transformation programs
Managing the network and tech needs of your customers’ digital transformation projects is tough enough, but there may be another factor to consider; ego, says Adam Bird, NSW General Manager for tech consultancy KJR.
“There are three main components of an IT deployment: hardware, software and the ‘wetware’ - the people involved - and they may be the weakest part of a digital transformation project,” Adam explained.
According to Adam, the problem is becoming prominent because more organisations are undertaking digital transformation projects. Technology leaders presiding over major IT deployments such as cloud migration are under pressure to deliver. “In our experience, there are occasions in most deployments when the project is negatively affected by someone’s ego.
Sometimes it starts with the vendor. They convince their client of the merits of the system. The client then goes to get internal buy-in and in the process they become committed to the solution, even if it turns out not to be the right one for their needs,” Adam said.
“Other times the project lead might be committed to a certain approach because it is what they have used in the past and they are comfortable with it. There are also examples of where CIOs who haven’t done something like cloud migration before, don’t ask for help because they feel they should already be comfortable with the technology,” he added.
CTOs and IT managers can also focus too much on gauging progress through measures such as the number of software releases or application updates per week. “Prioritising speed over velocity is a common pitfall in transformation projects. Leaders should keep centred on the program’s objectives rather than pursuing ‘vanity metrics’ that might look good but don’t contribute to meeting their objectives,” Adam said.
At the extreme end, Adam says that the influence of ego can stop organisations from achieving the goals of their digital transformation initiatives. It can also lead to inflated expectations. As Adam puts it, “we’ve seen projects that are based more on hopes and dreams than on facts and figures. Some call it the disproportionate ego to talent ratio but talking up the benefits and promising unrealistic outcomes is not uncommon when someone feels their reputation is at stake.”
The good news is that being aware of the potential for individual and vendor egos to influence the project is the first step to avoiding the problem.
According to Adam, organisations need to start with a clear idea of their objectives. “I recommend leaders use a tool such as a lean business canvas. Don’t start the project until you have answers, and buy-in from internal stakeholders, for all of the questions on the canvas.” CTOs and IT managers should also solicit insights from peers who recently went through similar processes to find out what went wrong and right and consider how that might apply to their organisation.
being aware of the potential for individual and vendor egos to influence the project is the first step to avoiding the problem
Once organisations are in the middle of a transformation, communication and openness is vital. “We try to encourage our clients to have honest conversations with each other. Analysing an example of what went wrong can open the doors to fixing the problem. Get someone in to provide a fresh set of eyes and experience and validate your thinking. It’s particularly important if you are hitting friction. But if you aren’t getting any friction then that’s also a tell-tale sign that there are no checks and balances, and you need to get some fresh perspective,” Adam said.
“Digital transformation programs can be complex and high-pressure but taking time to consider whether an individual’s ego is playing a role in decision-making can stop projects going off on the wrong trajectory and instead deliver the required business outcomes.” Adam concluded.