Sprinting to your Digital Evolution

What’s holding your organization back from making that digital leap? Whether it be automating invoice processing, applying cognitive computing to candidate screening or transforming your customer service with a chatbot, these are all digital wins that organizations are chasing today. But when questioned, organizations often admit to us that they have yet to bring any of these digital initiatives into practice.

So what’s the problem? For starters, it doesn’t seem to be strategy. Our research shows that 63% of executives surveyed in our Work Ahead study rate digital transformation strategy as being very important to their organization. But when questioned further (often away from the boardroom and with a drink in hand), these initiatives often unravel in extended project cycle time.

Not only do these schemes fall apart due to project length, but those that do make it through much of the process are sometimes found to be unsuited to the form of automation proposed. The result: disenfranchisement of the digital strategy within the wider team. Organizations need to be able to fail (and succeed!) fast to sustain and maximize enthusiasm and commitment to the end goal.

So what’s the solution?

Well in 2009, Alphabet’s venture capitalist division Google Ventures (GV) opened and quickly began investing and mentoring startups, including Uber, Nest, Slack and Jet. Needless to say, these startups have enjoyed rampant success, and one of the key tools introduced to these businesses was the Agile practice of a “sprint” – what GV calls a bold new way to “solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days.

In a nutshell, you pack a room with either employees or SMEs, split them into teams tasked with tackling a problem (usually either productivity-, brand- or design-based) and set them on their way. At the end of the allotted time frame, teams present back on findings and demo prototypes. An organizational head, usually the CEO, will then select the preferred idea and take it forward with the required business unit. What this essentially does is shorten cycle times from the traditional idea – build – launch - learn to, instead, idea – learn.

Since 2009, this idea has moved beyond the startup and into the established business market. Organizations such as Waitrose, Barclays and John Lewis have used this method to great success.

Just to emphasize, these aren’t all-day, all-night sweatshop exercises. They fit into normal working hours, generally running from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. What is required, though, is focused teams, with a free five-day schedule.

As with most development philosophies, a sprint is not a silver bullet. However, it does allow organizations to move an idea from the abstract to the concrete, keep your team focused on what’s important for this project, force crisp decision making and encourage quick follow-up.

So, is the sprint the key to getting your organization to meet its digital strategy goals? To be sure, it could be an extra arrow in your quiver, putting you well ahead of the majority.