We spoke to Dave Loudon, founder and managing director of DTL Creative. Over the last 11 years, Dave and his team at DTL have helped deliver successful change initiatives for social landlords. We asked him his opinions about transformational success, traps projects fall into, and for his top 3 tips to deliver successful projects.
Q: Dave, what’s your definition of true transformational success?
A: That’s a big, big, question. I always come back to one word: simplicity. When a company wants to go through a digital transformation, whether it’s a new system, moving to the cloud, or new infrastructure, implementing a new finance system or processes, you need to keep it simple. After 25 years, I’ve learned that needless complexity is dangerous. And, it’s easy to get consumed with fancy technology. Sometimes, people overcomplicate things. Perhaps because it feels good to show off all the functionality, all the clever things that technology can do!
That’s not the answer. The real question to ask is, what do customers and users really need, and how can they get measurable benefits, fast. So, to answer your question, the simpler you can make it, the more effective your transformation will be.
Q: Can you help us understand some of the traps that you’ve seen housing associations commonly fall into?
A: Some of the traps I’ve seen during projects include:
Running before you can walk: Teams want to jump into projects. They see something shiny that promises them the world. They buy it because they think that’s a good thing. But then, before actually thinking about some of the basics, they jump in. And then later on they realise that the project is not delivering the desired transformation. The solution would have been in planning and measurement.
Communication: Communication is absolutely at the top of the traps. An organisation is like an iceberg. The surface is the tip, underneath people are paddling away. What do they really feel and how will they take the change onboard? You have to get buy-in. You have to get your stakeholders talking. You need a communication strategy. And, people must feel able to tell you what it is they want the system to do.
Over-communication: There is a flip side to communication. You can overdo it by sending update emails every day to everyone. This saturates people’s minds and they just turn off. “Not another email!” It’s about getting the balance right. Make sure that you tell the right people, the right thing, at the right time.
Boringly tedious: Another trap is making it boring. Digital and process mapping can be tedious and then buy-in is lost. Honestly, all that detail can be overwhelming and just too hard. But with the right focus, you can make it fun (for at least half the time). And, to be successful you must be inclusive.
Avoid smoke and mirrors: Don’t hide anything. Get everything out in the open and especially what the tech can do. Transparency is your friend, shines a light and keeps the project on track.
Q: What are your tips to deliver successful projects and to help cope with these traps?
A: Go quirky and capture their imaginations: Projects don’t need to be stressful and as difficult as some people make it. A few years ago, a landlord worked with us to make it fun. Using fun theory, we deliberately made the project a little bit quirky. A little bit weird. For example, people got to wear project T-shirts and there were big jigsaws that people could complete as the project went along. It really worked for that project.
Seek great advice, just ask people: In social housing, people love to speak to each other honestly. Other landlords will gladly talk to you. Get people talking to people. Find like-minded peers who have been through the journey. Ask the vendors and consultants detailed, honest and constructive questions. Use your networks such as LinkedIn, and get advice.
Measure, measure, measure: Decide on your success measures from day one: Measurement is absolutely key. You need to write down at the start what you want to achieve. Ask yourself, right at the start; “can you define the 10 things you want it to deliver?”.
Then measure. Otherwise, you’ll get to the end of your project and say; “that’s not what we wanted to achieve”. You can’t just define success at the end of the project.
Take on the mantra: measure twice, cut once. Help yourself not to waste time and resource with mistakes. It’s something that we apply to change and transformation projects. Digital / business transformation technology cannot really solve every single problem, but it will solve many of your problems if done properly. There is no magic button, but the measurement of success is key.
You’ll open up the possibilities: Releasing your people from the necessary but repetitive or high-volume tasks can open up endless possibilities. It’s extremely potent in a customer experience orientated environment because staff can use that freed-up time on activities that need more cognitive, imaginative and interpretive work and more complicated interactions with customers. It allows robots to perform the menial tasks, freeing up people to concentrate on delivering a great experience for customers.
Want to find out more?
Why not take a look at the full interview at our recent Open House event. You can watch OnDemand here. Or do you want to learn more about the projects we have done with housing associations? Take a look at our customer stories here and look at their tips to deliver successful projects.