4 ways HR can support digital project success

3 minute read
Nearly a third of digital projects are abandoned and most fail to deliver on objectives. HR can play a vital role in helping such projects to succeed, says Greig Johnston, CEO at Vidatec

Digital transformation fail

According to a recent survey 84% of digital projects fail to deliver on agreed objectives, with most delayed and/or running over budget. Incredibly, 31% are either abandoned or cancelled altogether. A telling example of digital project failure is the bungled introduction of Waitrose’s new computer stock control system, which resulted in empty shelves, frustrated customers and lost sales.   

A key reason that so many digital projects fail is because transformation tends to be driven by the tech team, operating in a silo and without fully considering the wider business context, organisation culture and the people impact. All too often, tech teams are under pressure to deliver digital projects to a tight timeframe, which results in their jumping straight into scoping and resourcing – overlooking these vital elements.

To guarantee digital project success it’s essential that sufficient time is taken up-front to engage all stakeholders and fully scope the project. This ensures that everyone is agreed on the end outcome, how to get there, and roles and responsibilities. This is where HR comes in. At Vidatec our experience is that appreciating and applying ‘softer skills’ as part of any digital project helps to avoid confusion, frustration and interpersonal conflict. With that in mind, here are my top tips for how HR can make sure they are involved for digital project success.

Involve yourself at an early stage

Digital transformation is an ongoing process of change to the way a company operates. It could include changes to technology, infrastructure, culture and/or other aspects of normal business operations. Any transformation done in this context is needed to stay competitive in today’s digital world.

So, before you begin any digital change project, it is highly beneficial that as an HR professional you are brought into the conversation. The HR team is ideally equipped to ensure that relevant stakeholders from across the organisation are included in stakeholder mapping exercises. This means the right voices are included in the conversation at the right time. The HR team is also most likely to understand the organisational culture, which will help ensure that any digital change project is viewed as something positive rather than something to be endured.

Invest in self-awareness

Another incalculable benefit of being involved as an HR professional is that you will understand the importance of – and support investment in – self-awareness. Self-awareness helps you understand people’s strengths, any potential ‘blind-spots’ and how you are perceived by others. It also teaches you how to adapt and connect, which means you’re more likely to build positive, lasting relationships, increasing productivity and achieving goals.

With the foundation of self-awareness teams working on a digital transformation are likely to collaborate successfully. Collaboration has always been important, but it’s more important than ever when you’re working in a remote/hybrid environment and with people from different cultures in different time zones.

Continuous communication

People absorb and process information differently, which can result in different judgements and decisions being reached. The involvement of HR can help to ensure everyone is using the same language and on the same page, improving understanding and accuracy throughout the digital project lifecycle. It can also enable people to raise issues and challenges in a positive and healthy way, avoiding the kind of misunderstanding and upset that can cause digital projects to be delayed – or totally derailed.

Establishing clear communication protocols is essential for successful collaboration in digital projects. This includes setting up a communication platform, such as Slack or MS Teams, and establishing rules for how and when team members should communicate. It’s also a good idea to set up regular meetings to ensure everyone is always on the same page. At Vidatec we have daily stand-ups and weekly/bi-weekly retrospectives.

Lead with values

It’s my belief that three core values should also be consistently applied – shared responsibility, mutual respect and understanding, and honesty about performance. When applied in support of digital change, having shared values means you can seamlessly dovetail how people work and how technology works to deliver the desired digital project outcomes.

I also find it immensely helpful to set expectations from the outset – this includes setting expectations for the project and each team member’s role is key. You should also consider setting deadlines, outlining roles and responsibilities and establishing a timeline for the project.

In a post-pandemic, 24:7, digital world, it’s unrealistic for any tech team to work in isolation and expect to deliver a successful digital project. Taking time to get involved from an HR standpoint and work through the project plan with a ‘people lens’ will always improve awareness and understanding. And that always leads to better engagement, collaboration, and communication – which strengthens relationships and creates digital project success.

Greig Johnston, pictured below,  is CEO at mobile and web development company  Vidatec

Greig Johnston

Published 8 February 2023
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