Successful digital projects

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On the day I normally sort out the newsletter, I was in a long meeting and had several hours of train travel going on. So, I thought I’d ask LinkedIn if they had any topic ideas because, frankly, my brain was a bit fried.

Sam Armondi, Co-Founder of Thought Quarter jumped in and had a suggestion. I regret asking LinkedIn now, but here’s what he suggested.

“The role leaders play in getting successful digital projects going - how to create the right environment, build the right teams, and select the right partners.”

Well, blimey. Thanks a bunch, Sam. My first impulse was to reach for chatGPT here, but when it’s so easy to automate a generic response, it’s even more important we take the time to think for ourselves.

So let’s take this puppy apart, shall we? Sam asks several questions, which is a bit cheeky, Sam, isn’t it? I’m looking at you with my stern face right now, Sam. I hope you’re feeling it through the screen. Yeah, do you see what happens?

To avoid this turning into a book, I’m going to break the question into parts and give a short, purely subjective and opinionated answer to each element. Bloody hell, Sam.

Short pause while I walk around the house a few times…

The role leaders play in getting successful digital projects going

This depends on the level of digital knowledge the leader in question has and what the project is (surprise). My strong recommendation is that leadership stick to setting the goals for the project. Be specific about what they’re trying to achieve and for whom. If they mandate the output (e.g. it’s a website, or it’s an app etc) they risk alienating the specialists and dooming the project from day one. Set the goals then get out of the way.

How to create the right environment

Depends again. In general, the best digital projects have failure built in. What do I mean by that? One of the characteristics of the digital environment is rapid evolution. What was true last week may not be true this week. Just look at any of my recent presentations about emerging technology.

Assumptions cherished by leadership must be allowed to be challenged. The way to do this is with experiments. Some people don’t like the work experiment as it sounds like you don’t really have the answer. Well, that’s exactly right! The way to increase the odds of success is to embrace the Scientific Method. Hypothesis, Experiment, Analyse, Report, Repeat. Starting your project with this goes a long way to creating a good environment.

How to build the right teams

God, Sam, that’s a difficult one. Let’s face it - sometimes you don’t have a choice. You have the team you have and you might not have the luxury of building one. I don’t want to wuss-out on the question by saying “it depends on the project” but it really does. So I just did, didn’t I.

I think you can look for, or encourage, certain qualities that contribute to a great digital project team. For me, it’s people that are comfortable saying “I don’t know but I have some thoughts about how we might find out”.

How to select the right partners

I’m going to answer this in reverse. Don’t user a tender process to select your digital partners. By the time you start working with them, they’ll already be fed up with you. The opportunity cost of completing tender documentation through a 1980’s style “portal” runs to thousands of pounds. By issuing a tender, you are costing us money and sucking all the joy out of our work.

So, I hope you’re happy now, Sam, and that I haven’t done any lasting damage to my career. Always a risk when you summarise your opinions.

If you’re a leader about to start a digital project, have a look at the Thought Quarter website. No, this isn’t some creepy sponsorship thing, but I don’t imagine Sam suggested the topic without having some thoughts of his own. Or talk to me about it.

Successful digital projects
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