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7 checkpoints to create success for your digital projects

Vegard Ottervig on

Keep your head above water with these tips on how to maintain your skills, run digital projects, and enforce success formulas.

Running successful digital projects is no plain sailing, even if you're an experienced project manager or advisor. Every now and then it might be good to sit back and evaluate what you're doing, and read some friendly tips on best practices or the latest trends.

Here are some specific methods, strategies, and tactics you can employ in order to create success for your digital project.

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1. Align with corporate strategy and goals

A football team performs best when every teammate plays on, well, the same team. The same principle goes for any organisation—a deviation from any coworker or department will cause you a relative amount of friction and potential loss, to the degree the deviation amounts to.

Deviations from a common direction and goal must of course be avoided in your project as well. A carefully planned and thought-out alignment with corporate strategy and goals is therefore an important first step in any of your project undertakings.

Ask yourself some basic questions: What am I trying to accomplish with my project? What is my organisation trying to accomplish? And then you can map out common traits and rule out elements that are not, before continuing with realising the project. For instance, if your organisation only sells professional services to a B2B segment, it makes no sense to run a project trying to cut costs with methods tailored for a B2C segment.

Also, it is useful to keep in mind that research by Gartner found that alignment to company strategy and goals is one of the most commonly used metrics to evaluate the success of projects by project management office leaders.

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2. Enable a prime mover

According to Aristotle, the "prime mover" was the primary cause for all the motion in the universe. In a similar vein, every organisation needs a prime mover to inspire other coworkers and to get things done.

Steve Jobs is an example of a prime mover. The late CEO of Apple drove his company to astronomical heights, never settled for mediocrity, and had an exceptional philosophy of life:

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle."

With this vigour and outlook, Jobs embarked upon life and business, and the results are for the history books. Finding and enabling a skilled person of conviction with the ability to perform decisions in your project or organisation as a whole, is something you should strive for.

The person doesn't have to be a Steve Jobs, an Elon Musk, or an Andrew Carnegie, but should embody the same principles. If you don't have such a person onboard, the results might become what many people dread in any organisation attempting to be effective: Watered down democracy, where everyone gets a piece of the pie no matter what, where processes are slow and actions lead nowhere.

To achieve success in your projects, you need a person in a good architectural role, able to make decisions in functionality and in the technical realm. Great product management skills is also a highly sought-after bonus.

3. Gather the right team

A piece of machinery will not work properly if some or all the cogs are missing or don't fit. Your organisation and team aren't stronger than your weakest link, so you better make sure that your coworker dynamic elevates everyone or that your "weakest link" is as skilled and robust as possible.

Digital leaders and CIOs often rely on technical specialists, when they perhaps should focus on people able to envision how new technologies can be applied to create new and stable business models in a disruptive digital environment.

However, digital projects require several skills that bypasses the traditional business landscape, and knowing what you need or how to consider new roles may not be a given.

You should gather coworkers from across the enterprise for your digital project dream team, and they should embody a mixture of skills within business leadership and technology leadership. Also, look inside your organisation for talents, whether hidden or in plain sight, who possess relevant knowledge and skills.

As for the composition of your team, you should increase the number of people with both deep skills and a wide scope of roles in order to drive experimentation, innovation, and wide communication.

Finally, you should periodically map your project team's achievements to your top-level business objectives, and fetch new teammates as required to meet the goals in a shifting market.

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4. Enable the right tools and technologies

With the purpose, strategy, prime mover, and the right team in place, you now need the right tools and technologies to unlock the full skills and potential of your teammates. To achieve this, you must ensure that you have a flexible platform with the right kinds of technologies that motivate rather than frustrate them.

Most likely you already have a platform, and in this case you need to evaluate whether it is right for your current or future projects. If the platform is unfulfilling, you should of course consider a new platform.

In a new platform you should look for modern technology, flexibility, scalability, functionality, support for modern development methods, agility, and the possibility for continuous deployment.

Having the right platform and tools are paramount for making your coworkers both happy and effective. For instance, you wouldn't want your developers to consider their own effectivity rate to be just 10–40%, but this is exactly what happens if they cannot use their own devices, are subject to rigid processes and bureaucracy, and are dependent on the constant thumbs up from other people in their organisation.

Enable agile tools that your teammates love and remove obstacles from their work day, and you have come far on the road to create success for your digital project.

5. Allocate assets to new projects

The classical dichotomy of maintenance vs. innovation will most likely present itself to your projects, no matter what you do or the degree of your organisation's digital maturity. What the dichotomy amounts to is this: the balance between maintaining your current platforms, systems, and tools, as opposed to using resources to innovate and find new and more effective solutions in the same areas.

One thing is clear, however: If you don't adapt to the changes brought on by digital transformation, your brand and organisation will lag behind and may ultimately disappear from the market. Think of Kodak—once the preeminent photography brand, or Nokia—once the undisputed king of mobile phones. Because these and similar businesses couldn't keep up with new trends and solutions, they were either reduced to a shell of their former selves or went bankrupt.

A method to combat business stagnation is precisely digital projects, and you should fight hard to convince your leaders to allocate the necessary assets to new projects and innovation. The exact details aren't important here—first you need to know that this is what you need to do to start climbing the path to success.

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6. Be customer centric

While running projects and attempting to meet deadlines and KPIs, it's easy to forget that the project is there for a reason. The bottom line is of course cost avoidance and increased revenue and ROI, but another parallel bottom line is the purpose, why your organisation is in business in the first place. The purpose is of course to build and deliver products or services aiming to solve a problem and to please a customer.

Always being customer centric in all your endeavours, especially in running digital projects, will make sure that you never forget your purpose or the directions on the road that lies ahead. Ask yourself this: What tasks do you need to solve for the customer? How can we keep a close dialogue with the customer all the way?

Every customer seeks as smooth and painless a process as possible, and if you have this in mind in every project undertaking, your end results will be more customer centric, quality minded, and increase revenue.

7. Acquire early gains

Morale is important to keep people motivated to excel at work, and something which boosts morale exquisitely is an early gain in your digital project. If you for instance launch a successful campaign at the beginning of your project tenure, you enable pride in your coworkers and organisation.

Not only will an early gain kickstart your project and garner optimism, it will also sport long term effects. A success story is something people will talk about in years to come—as well as being a handfast example you can refer to on conferences, talks, and networking events.

The road goes ever on and on …

An organisation and an organism share many similarities—they both have to perform certain actions to maintain themselves, and both have to be purposeful in this regard. Just like an organism, for instance a lion, has to retrieve, stalk, hunt, catch, kill, and eat its prey, an organisation has to run projects to discover customer needs, research viable products and services, market said products, sell said products, and keep an amiable relationship to customers and partners.

Even when one given project is done and successful, you have to continue the processes to develop your organisation, products, and services. Creating lasting success, not only for your initial project, but in the long run for your organisation as a whole, is a continuous and neverending quest.

Use the formula sketched out in this article to any and all of your current and future digital projects to maximise the chances of success.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a digital project?

Undertaking that aims to introduce, transform, or manage digital strategies and operations in or with your organisation.

What skills do you need for digital projects?

Depending on the project: project management, solution architecture, UX design, web development, back-end development, continuous deployment, web editing, SEO, and testing.

How to run a digital project?

Align with corporate strategy and goals, enable a project owner, gather a skilled team, enable suitable tools and tech, allocate assets, think customer-centric, showcase early gains.

Topics: 
digital projects
digital strategy
project management
marketing tools
customer journey