How to get Business users to take ownership of their digital transformation project

Written by Greg Taffet

Providing strategic and high-level consulting services to startups and highly-scalable companies across the country with a primary focus in the South Florida and NYC tri-state areas.

Tuesday, Dec 01

Much is said that the business user must own the digital transformation process to make it successful but what does that mean? 

We have heard many comments from department and divisional leaders that:

  • We can do it with our existing people
  • My people are the best
  • We know what to do
  • We have experience implementing systems
  • IT can help with that
  • That process/problem is a different departments responsibility
  • The new system will know what we want and do it automatically
  • Etc.

In a previous article, I wrote that for ownership the individual business departments must have:

  • Have appropriate staff to do normal production work and implement the project
  • Make sure their SME’s are available for the design, testing, and go-live
  • Make sure their department knows when they are needed and set up their schedules accordingly
  • Have a plan to have the appropriate organizational structure for the new system, new processes, and new procedures in place by the time the new system goes live.

But what if they think that they already have these resources in place and are prepared for a new system implementation?  Do they have:

  • Many under-utilized people already hired and sitting around waiting to start working on this project:
  • People who will be finishing another project just in time to re-deploy  to this project:


They are deluding themselves into thinking their current staff, probably in some cases, downsized and overworked staff, can do their full-time job and the digital transformation project. 

This is where all the theory and positive business journal articles hit reality.  If you are part of a successful company that is looking to implement a new system:

  • Of course, you are good at what you do
  • Of course, you have good people
  • Of course, you have set up good processes and procedures to be able to serve your customer.

This is where all your skill and team building get tested.  You are not alone, and you are not the first one to go through this process.  Your people are not experts in implementing new systems and even if they have successfully completed a system implementation in the recent past, systems change so rapidly that this will be a new experience.  It is not a one size fits all for each of the points below.  You may need to go into more depth with some departments than others.  Make sure that your users know there will be confusion as they try to learn the new system and that it is normal for them to need to see things repeated multiple times before they sink in.  But also insist that they keep at it until it makes sense.

To have the business users own the digital transformation to have a successful project you must consider and make sure you have addressed the following:

  • Determine the systems maturity level of your people and provide training to bring them to a level and understanding of what is required to implement the system.  This is a department by department decision and in some key cases a person by person decision. 
  • Provide a plan in enough detail of what is required of the users with specific deadlines and tasks, so they know exactly what is required of them.  This is both a high-level long-term plan and a very detailed plan for the next few weeks up to a few months.  At certain points of the project, you may be able to plan for 2 months into the future at other times it might be difficult to plan 2 weeks into the future.
  • Make sure the business users understand the implementation methodology.  We talk about agile and all its variations and component parts.  Use what works for your business but explain it to them first because they have enough on their plates without having to also figure out for themselves.
  • Define the scope of the project so they know what is included in the project and what is excluded
  • Make sure they have the proper documentation. Some teams will need more and some less.  Gauge your organization to determine what are the proper support documents required.
  • If this is a large project that will go over a year you might want to include what is in phase-1 and what is not in phase-1.  For long-term projects, you might be able to designate a phase-2, etc.  but if you cannot determine what will be in the next phase just say that.

I would welcome comments from your personal experience of items that should be added to the list above and next time I will start to go into detail on each of these items.