From The Editor | April 11, 2018

Digital Transformation: Balancing Speed And Execution

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Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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Field Service Puzzle

As companies adopt various digital technologies along with new strategies in an effort to make operations more efficient and to provide better service to their customers, determining the appropriate balance between speed and thorough execution is sure to be a challenge. Field service organizations especially are under a lot of pressure to optimize productivity, to deliver a superior customer experience, and to become a profit center. Under the weight of that pressure, it’s easy to race through your current initiative in an effort to “check the box” and move on to the next phase.

While speed isn’t inherently a bad thing, rushing almost always is. Speed can be a valuable tool when applied appropriately, but there are also certain areas in which it pays to slow down. Here are my thoughts on some of the areas related to technology evaluation and deployment that fall into each camp.

When To Take Your Time

The first area in which I think it’s worthwhile to take things slow is in thoroughly understanding your customers’ wants and needs. This is arguably the most important criteria you’ll have in building your digital transformation strategy, so taking the time to get an accurate and deep understanding is worthwhile.

Taking your time in developing your business plan or strategy is also important (as long as you’re not moving so slow you aren’t making forward progress — there’s always a balance). The reason this step can take time is because the efforts you’ll make in digital transformation demand a solid foundation in terms of processes. Slowing down in an effort to examine your field service processes and ensure they serve your company’s (and customers’) needs will make your digital transformation initiative smoother overall.

Finally, it will never pay off to rush through the communication of change with your employees. Take the time to help them understand your company’s vision and strategy, and to ensure they feel heard in their questions and opinions. You cannot execute a successful vision without the cooperation and commitment of your frontline employees, so taking the time to make them feel as though they are valued participants is essential.

When Speed Pays Off

When I speak about speed, I want to reiterate that there’s a difference between useful speed (another way to think of useful speed is as agility) versus rushing. So while I wouldn’t suggest rushing through technology evaluation and selection, I do think that being decisive is a good thing. Reason being, I see too many companies get bogged down with all of the choices to the point that their selection process will drag on for years — all the while, competitors are making progress. Technologies also evolve so rapidly today that if you don’t move with some speed, what you start evaluating will become obsolete before you get to the point of adoption. Do your due diligence, but if you’ve done a good job of building a solid business plan, you should know what you need and be able to be confident in finding the tools that meet those needs. Avoid getting distracted by “cool” technologies that don’t play a role in your current initiative, as well as getting overwhelmed by features and functionalities that don’t serve a purpose for the project at hand.

I think there’s also something to be said for some speed in implementation, especially in regards to software development. I wrote an article recently about companies like ServiceMaster and National Grid that are moving to an agile software approach and the value it is bringing to their organizations. Again, there’s a difference between speed and rush, but the idea of agile is starting with a basic, functioning solution and making iterations as you deploy and learn — versus setting and end goal for development and not deploying at all until the solution has reached that goal. Whether agile is right for you or not, you want to ensure that your deployment of the solutions you’ve selected is as efficient as possible so that the technology is in your employees’ hands and making its intended impact as soon as it can be.