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How can programme managers drive digital maturity to ensure SME survival?

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In 2020, digital transformation is no longer a choice. It is a necessity for survival. According to International Data Corporation (IDC) digital transformation is worth more than 20 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), with 60 per cent of enterprises having a digital transformation strategy by 2020.

For many small to medium enterprises (SMEs), this can be a glass half empty scenario. On one hand, the growth of artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and the cloud has driven competitive, data-oriented solutions. On the other, the fourth industrial revolution simultaneously poses new risks and uncertainties. Research from Hiscox, has revealed the extent of this problem. A small UK business is hacked every 19 seconds, at an average cost of £25,700. Despite this, 9 in 10 SME leaders lack knowledge on GPDR compliance.

So how can programme managers drive digital maturity and lead transformation to ensure their organisation's survival?

1. Put people first…

People drive change. Your team shapes the direction and future of your organisation so getting their buy-in is essential. In the words of Kenneth Blanchard, successful leadership is based on ‘influence, not authority’.

Digitally driven cultures rely heavily on iterative and hybrid ways of working. That is the combination of people, process and cultures to build self-disciplined teams. This culture relies on encouraging your team to embrace changing requirements. Creating a culture of continuous learning where your team are presenting deliverables at intervals that are more regular. Not only does this increase employee morale and motivation, but it simultaneously creates a rapid response culture. Increasingly important for British based organisations who may need to adapt their working practises in the event of the UK’s departure from the EU Digital Single Market.

2. Create a digital roadmap…

We cannot navigate London Underground without a tube map, and digital innovation is no exception. Welcome… the digital-first roadmap. This roadmap is a prototype of your organisation's vision for digital growth. It marries your overarching business and digital objectives, and outlines current digital maturity, value definition, programme objectives, infrastructure, timelines and review process.

The key to achieving deliverable products is shared ownership and buy-in from stakeholders. Its content should be informed by organisational and stakeholder expertise, whilst remaining flexible to changing business requirements. You can think of it as a 'North star guide’, so to speak. A benchmark against which to measure progress, rather than a gospel truth. As market forces change and your organisation evolves, you may need to make amendments, but the general vision should remain consistent. This consistency is essential for gaining sustainable executive commitment.

3. Start with the cloud…

The cloud is the foundational basis for all digital transformation. Research from the Cloud Industry Forum reveals that 80 per cent of business leaders consider migrating to the cloud, an essential element of their transformation strategy.

This shift away from traditional software packages provides opportunity for scalability. Legacy providers such as Microsoft are modelling new ‘pay as you go’ models which allow project professionals and business managers the flexibility to upgrade their package in line with organisational growth; paying only for services procured.

This flexibility extends across time and space. With remote working on the rise, businesses need to streamline opportunity to work from anywhere in the world. Real-time access to systems and data have created new expectations from employees. With 77 per cent of individuals considering flexible working arrangements when weighing up opportunities. We need to embrace this new culture so we can diversify teams and create value through innovation. With this in mind, embracing cloud applications is not a question of why but how.

In summary, leading SME digital transformation is about building digital skill capability to meet current and future demand. In an age of AI and self-parking cars, the future of technology seems limitless and project professionals as well as organisations need to stay on top of this mega trend so they don’t get left behind.

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