Choosing the right digital projects at the right time for your company can be a challenge. With so many things to consider, it’s no wonder that more companies are seeking advice on digital project selection. However, we’ve developed a new method for selecting the best digital transformation projects. It’s a sure-fire way for organizations to ensure they only pick projects that are truly worth pursuing.
By Senthil Ramani, Pascal Brosset, Eric Croeser, Guido Schauwecker, Alexander Lowden, Jurgen Weichenberger, and Amit Chander Gupta, Accenture
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Save time and money by picking and focusing on the right digital projects at the right time.
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The method helps organizations sift through hundreds of digital proofs-of-concept and pilots to find the right projects for them. That is, projects that offer high-value potential, short time to value, and high chances of success. Picking and focusing on the right digital projects at the right time is how companies guarantee they don’t waste money on digital duds. It’s also a crucial part of transformation planning and the journey to becoming a true Industry X business.
Accenture has helped dozens of major corporations to identify, plan and execute the very best digital projects for their business. And it brought together years of collective experience to create a simple but comprehensive framework for project selection. We call this new method the WIDE framework.
Needles in the haystack
When it comes to picking projects that drive digital transformation, the problem is usually a case of too much rather than too little. Organizations are often faced with an overwhelming number of projects to choose from. And most of these will appear to be winners at first glance. But this doesn’t guarantee that they’ll all win big.
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In fact, a 2020 Accenture survey found, that the average digital maturity of manufacturers' end-to-end operations overall is just 39 percent. Just a small group of manufacturers are creating substantial and sustainable value through digital technologies and solutions.
Companies that fail to make smart choices about their digital projects risk losing out on their digital transformation. They either stretch their efforts across too many initiatives or bet big on projects that deliver sub-par ROI.
So how can organizations, and the executives in charge of transformation planning, ensure the right project selection? How do they find the needles in the haystack?
Eyes WIDE open
Accenture’s WIDE framework helps organizations pick the best digital transformation projects for specific business objectives. It gives executives a robust method for sorting through hundreds of projects and selecting the most valuable. More important, it gives executives the confidence to choose the right projects at the right time for the company. A specialist team developed this framework. And it is guided by our years of experience driving digital projects across all industries.
The WIDE framework holds a series of steps organizations can take to develop a list of their most promising digital projects. From there, they can filter and shorten the list and prioritize the projects they want to focus on. This helps to maximize forward momentum and speed to value. But before they can get started, they must first make sure they’re aligned on the company’s business objectives regarding to its overall digital transformation. Keeping eyes on the transformation prize simplifies the selection process.
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Six steps to digital success
The WIDE framework features six steps to successfully picking the most valuable and rewarding digital projects:
- Establish a forum: Borrow a page from the venture capitalist book and set up a “show and tell” forum for partners to present their project selection ideas. This is a quick way to build a strong long list of potential projects. Once you’ve amassed enough projects, take them through the stage-gate funding process and check they pass the thresholds for more funding. We suggest that organizations focus on the projects that offer high value or ROI for the given objectives.
- Stay the distance: When reviewing projects on the list, focus on the “distance to value” and the “ease to cover the distance.” By this, we mean to determine how much money, work, equipment, etc. must make the project a success. And remember to estimate what’s needed to make the necessary investments.
- Look far and WIDE: When the long list has been completed, you can then use the WIDE criteria to create a shortlist of priority projects. Make sure you pick the projects with the highest WIDE scores. That is, those that score highly in:
• Wisdom: knowing what works for the company.
• Instrumentation: being sure that the instruments needed to support the project are either in place or easily obtainable.
• Data: knowing that the data required for the project is readily available, easily shareable, and of high quality and veracity.
• Enablement: having the confidence that everything required to make the project work is in place, i.e. the people, processes, change and adoption management, user personas, etc.
Note: Scores should be based on hard data whenever possible, but executives’ instincts can be factored in too. The key is to treat all ratings as hypotheses that you can track and test throughout (see 6). When possible, group initiatives and projects that are MECE—mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, with no overlap between groups so the totality of the groups covers all pain points.
- Filter for high value: Once you’ve created your project shortlist, sort through it again by filtering for high value. Specifically, think about pain-point relevancy and the overall value to the business. At Accenture, we use Net Present Value (NVP) as a value indicator plus the ease of implementation.
- Execute and scale: Pick the digital projects that you can execute and scale the quickest. These will be projects that you can take from pilot to viable project and then the program stage the easiest.
- Measure and validate: It’s important to continuously measure and validate all WIDE ratings and presumptions in addition to the projects’ overall value. The thing about digital initiatives is they often offer more value than you initially expect. However, companies may even struggle to capture the expected value. Therefore, it’s vital that said value is identified, managed, and captured as it appears.
Picking a winner
Successful digital project selection lays the foundation for successful digital transformation. By adopting the WIDE framework, companies can guarantee that they only launch the very best projects. And they can ensure their company takes the necessary steps to enable transformation planning and become future-proofed.
Senthil Ramani, Pascal Brosset, Eric Croeser, Guido Schauwecker, Alexander T. Lowden, Jurgen Weichenberger, and Amit Chander Gupta
Senthil is Consulting and Digital Business Lead for Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa at Accenture Resources. His expertise is in digital transformation and client innovation. To learn more, follow him on LinkedIn.
Pascal is a Managing Director at Accenture and is the Europe lead for Industry X's Production and Operations unit. Get in contact with him via LinkedIn.
Eric is a Managing Director at Accenture's in Industry X division. He is an expert in developing and implementing digital and IoT solutions across various heavy-asset industries. Meet him on LinkedIn.
Guido is a Data Architecture Senior Manager at Accenture's Applied Intelligence unit. He is an analytical and accomplished executive with extensive experience in business process transformation, IT program, project, and operations management and has written a playbook on WIDE methodology. Follow him on LinkedIn.
Alex is a Data Science Manager at Accenture's Applied Intelligence unit. His expertise is in the application of machine learning & AI within the energy and chemicals industry. Start a conversation with him on LinkedIn.
Jurgen is a Data Science Senior Executive at Accenture and the Global Lead for Industrial Analytics and AAI Industry Lead for Automotive and Industrial. He is experienced in Machine Learning and AI solutions for large-scale industrial applications. Visit his profile on LinkedIn.
Amit is a digital transformation leader at Accenture's Industry X. He has over 16 years of experience with a passion to transform operations of asset-heavy industries leveraging data and Artificial Intelligence. Get in touch with him on LinkedIn.