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OMAN: Critical success factors for ‘Digital transformation’: Part 1

Tadafur organized a series of business simulation game workshops to follow on from their highly successful executive training program ‘e-Government & Digital Transformation’. Many government organizations have taken part in the executive program which reflects the Omani Governments investment in talent development as a critical enabler for their digital transformation initiatives.

The first simulation exercise directly followed the final exam for the current executive program. The simulation was ‘Grab@Pizza – converging Business & IT’. Delegates could translate their newly acquired theory into practice in the simulated environment.


Why this simulation? Digital Transformation is now sweeping across all Industries and across the globe. As a result of this, ‘Business & IT Alignment’ is once again a number 1 CIO priority in a global survey. This has been a top 3 issue for more than 15 years! How can we finally address this problem? This simulation helps explore this.

The simulation game

Grab@Pizza is a very successful company selling millions of Pizza’s every year. But after 6 months in the current year, the sales figures are far below expectations. IT is posing a significant business risk due to downtime and the inability of IT to respond to changing business needs (Risk Optimization). The CEO urged the Business Manager to make a challenging recovery plan. This plan is based on a 6 month strategy to bring the sales and profit back on target (Benefit realization). Existing IT capabilities are poor, resources are tied up in ‘Keeping the lights on’ rather than supporting and enabling new innovations. The IT department must ensure the appropriate capabilities are in place to execute the strategic plan and sufficient, appropriate and effective resources are provided to ensure both benefits realization and risk mitigation ( Resource optimization).

The experience

After the first game round it was clear that perceptions between Business and IT did not match.

The team was asked ‘How did it go’?
Business: ‘Bad’; IT: ‘Average’
It was interesting IT saying ‘Average’ considering the situation that emerged when we reflected on the actual situation.

  • Business were ignored by IT and felt frustrated about this and a lack of information,
  • Business lost 25 million revenue opportunity as the importance of the project was lost ass it travelled through the end-to-end value chain,
  • ….5 million lost because of downtime, owing to the fact that IT operational support did not understand the impact of outages on the various business units,
  • Share price was hit because of unfulfilled market expectations, IT had no understanding of external market drivers nor the external impact of unfulfilled IT capabilities,
  • we were losing franchise business because of poor IT systems, IT did not understand that poor digital services would deter new investors, damaging market credibility,
  • every time business asked a question IT said it didn’t know, the business was unable to take fast, effective decisions,
  • Innovation initiatives were backlogged as there were insufficient BRMs, It did not have the capability to translate business ideas into innovative digital solutions,
  • business changes were being bumped by IT changes that nobody knew where they came from,
  • changes were prioritized based on ‘who shouts the loudest’,
  • the IT director was running around trying to find reports and everybody in IT kept escalating to the IT director as roles and responsibilities were unclear…..
  • The IT employees were frustrated as roles were unclear, the process was unclear, people wouldn’t listen, lack of ‘ownership’, lack of CSI leadership,
  • Nobody in IT knew the business strategic goals and timelines

‘Like I said an average day at the office’!

The team recognized that IT people are generally ‘Too internally focused’. Because the game is played with end-to-end stakeholders in one room, it became obvious what the downstream consequences of this can be, where communication was breaking down, and where bottlenecks were occurring. Business outcomes were not achieved and downtime was damaging business performance. The team also recognized the lack of governance from the business which compounded the problems.

This is partly what makes the Tadafur program so successful. Using experiential learning to help translate the theory into practice, allowing delegates to experiment and explore in a safe environment and capture new insights, new knowledge and more importantly, new actions to take-away.

We explored with the team, ‘What did you discover in the simulation that you need to take away and transfer into your own digital transformation initiatives’?

  • The importance of clearly defined, agreed and well understood roles, responsibilities, authority and accountability for ‘decision making’ and ‘information’. This also includes for the process and the procedures AND for CSI (Continual Service Improvement). Getting people together, end-to-end as we did in the simulation helps.
  • Ownership for translating ‘improvement’ ideas into action. The need to embed CSI into daily work. Somebody has to commit to taking THESE actions away and doing something with them!
  • Don’t accept new solutions being thrown over the wall without clear ‘Roles & responsibilities’; without it being embedded into the ongoing operational processes. Ensure the risks are understood, and if it is forced into production that a risk mitigation budget is taken into account.
    Ensure also that open ‘issues’ from the deployment are embedded into CSI.
  • Start using VOCR (Value, Outcomes, Costs, Risks) in daily discussions to start creating awareness and changing attitudes. This helps IT break out of the ‘Internal focus’.
  • The need to develop BRM (Business Relationship Management) skills and capabilities.
  • Improved ‘time management’ – (in meetings) and also in the end-to-end ‘Flow’ of work. When does the CAB decision making happen; understanding critical business time-lines.
  • Organizing the workflow, end-to-end. Involve all relevant stakeholders in decision making.
  • Improved communication – ask upstream and downstream ‘what do you need to do your work? To prioritize your work? To be able to make decisions’?
  • Present relevant facts and figures in terms the business understands.
  • Ensure a ‘No blame’ culture to foster open/honest feedback and daring to say ‘I don’t know’ and ‘admitting to mistakes’ – don’t try and make things up or say what people ‘want to hear’.
  • CAB – ensure right decision makers are involved, and ensure a priority mechanism aligned to business benefits and to managing risks (VOCR).

This was a powerful way to bring the theory into life, it also gives us things we need to take away and do differently”.

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