Why it’s time to focus on outcomes in Digital Transformation

Posted by Team Sharktower on November 2nd, 2021

It’s no secret that organisations perform better when there is clarity, alignment and commitment to shared objectives. So why are we still so bad at it?

According to the PMI, a lack of clear goals is the most common factor behind project failure, while BCG reports that 70% of digital transformations fall short of their objectives.

But what’s going wrong, and how can we overcome it?


Why it’s happening

From our work with medium to large organisations in industries facing disruption, we see three main issues:

  • Intense pressure to deliver creates a tendency to rush into work and outputs, where success is measured by completing projects rather than achieving measurable outcome or impact.
  • Organisations become fixated on plans, which makes changing direction very hard – and at a time when we know the direction is very likely to change.
  • Organisations start with the right intention, but the focus gets lost in continuous delivery. Launching digital products and platforms; transforming to digital ways of working; ongoing innovation as new products are released to market – outcomes can quickly be forgotten among the pressure to deliver.


Knock-on effects

As well as failing to deliver or meet objectives, the impact can be further reaching and lead to:

  • A disengaged workforce with no clear measure of success.
  • An overburdened leadership and management team that is constantly driving direction.
  • Change fatigue, as new initiatives pop up with no visible end goal.
  • Top-down planning, with limited input from the teams or ‘staffers’ delivering the work.



Are you the problem?

Well, that depends what you’re here to achieve.

As change leaders, we shouldn’t think of our roles as existing to hit project milestones. Instead, our core purpose should be to deliver required business outcomes and value. Project plans, milestones and deliverables are of course important, but are not the ultimate goal – these can and should flex.

We often see that once the business case ‘hurdle’ is overcome, projects are driven forward purely on scope deliverables and project stage gate milestones, losing sight of –  and lacking attention to – the end outcomes and business objectives.



The same is true with many processes required to deliver business outcomes; these can be procurement processes, process change, people initiatives, campaigns – it’s common for the focus to be managing the process and on the deliverable i.e. the contract award or operating model change.

The purpose should not be to simply manage the process. The purpose is to deliver change that results in a business, customer or organisational outcome that has a positive effect – a value outcome.


Moving to an outcome-focused mindset

At the beginning of a project, you have to be clear about what it is that you want it to achieve and the outcomes you want the project to deliver. End goals vary of course, but are likely to be a combination of gaining a competitive advantage, increasing revenue, improving processes and operations, and improving the customer experience.

The challenge now is to ensure your outcomes don’t get forgotten among the rush to deliver output.

Your goal might be to sell more products online, so you decide to roll out a new digital platform. You can design and build the platform, and deliver it on time and on budget, but that doesn’t mean you have achieved the goal of selling more products online. The platform is the output. The project may have been delivered, but has the outcome? Did the platform work as you designed it? Has it had the impact you expected?

Outputs are still important, after all, they are how the outcomes are achieved. But outcomes are the measurable results that deliver business value.


How intelligent project delivery software can keep you on track

Digital transformation isn’t a one-time project with a clear beginning and end-date. It’s a continuous process. Consider the list of projects that tend to fall under digital transformation – consolidating data centres, moving IT applications and services to the cloud, automating business processes, creating new digital products and services models. It’s easy to see how organisations fall into measuring outputs.

The good news is, the right software can help you deliver successful outputs AND achieve outcomes.

Here’s how it works in Sharktower.

  • Create high-level objectives in the platform and give each a due date
  • Assign relevant Key Results to each Objective
  • Link those Key Results to associated projects – immediately linking the overall business goal to the everyday work.
  • Within each project, you can create any number of outcomes, each with a due date, and a clear Project Milestone or Business Outcome.
  • Now everything is connected and driving towards your high-level business objectives


See it in action

In this 2-minute video, our Chief Customer Officer Lynsey Taylor gives a short walk-through of managing OKRs in Sharktower.




Let’s talk

If you’re managing continual change and want to know how Sharktower can help, get in touch today.