Three crucial things to consider before making a major capital investment

With the recent Australian Government budget providing tax incentives for company expenditure, we can expect to see an increase in large-scale investments just around the corner. These tax incentives suddenly make it a whole lot more attractive to invest capital expenditure in digital transformation, major infrastructure and future proofing initiatives.

Our word of advice to organisations across Australia is to tread carefully. The simple truth is that large transformational initiatives have a very high fail rate – and most fail for completely the same reasons:

  • Lack of alignment/shared vision to bring the transformation to life
  • Significant gaps between the rhetoric and the reality of the transformation
  • The transformation doesn’t actually meet the real needs of the people they are doing it for

Our years of providing support to successful transformational initiatives enable us to provide the following recommendations:

1) Discover rather than assume

An open-minded exploration of needs, pain points and opportunities is an essential part of a successful transformation initiative. Many organisations (wrongly) think that to transform we must forget the current and focus exclusively on the future. Understanding today’s landscape is an essential part of any successful transformation – even if you throw away the old and entirely replace it with the brave new vision, the detailed understanding of the current helps with communication and change strategies. But seldom is a transformation quite as brutal, you need to understand what works and what doesn’t to help you prioritise and identify things to maintain.

Qualitative research, synthesis and current state journey mapping creates a deep and shared understanding of the landscape and can help prioritise efforts.

Here are two examples of upfront investment in discovery that reduced risk and increased confidence about what to focus on: 

2) Don’t own it, collaborate

The initiative is highly likely to require the input of others to bring it to fruition and/or its success will be judged by those outside of your jurisdiction. The earlier and more you collaborate with a diverse group, the greater the chance that they will lean into the change, contribute to it and make it successful.

I was asked by a senior individual from a large Australian private organisation “how do we get the implementation teams in our organisation to see that our great ideas are worth implementing?” to which I replied “engage with them earlier and let the ideas be theirs as much as yours”. That may all sound too simple to be true, but the sheer act of getting other parts of the organisation closer to the inception of the idea makes a supreme difference in their attitude towards the idea and ability to work with it, critique and ultimately support (or kill it) at the appropriate time.

Collaboration goes a lot further than just the inception of ideas. Creating platforms where diverse groups can transparently work and provide input is a core component of successful transformations. 

Here are three examples of successful government and private sector collaboration:

  • Co-creating ASIC’s Financial Wellbeing Network 
  • Co-creating Port Authority of NSW’s Sustainability Plan 
  • Co-creating solutions to increase sales of energy-efficient homes. 

3) Prototype, learn and refine

You won’t get it right the first time. The important thing to do is build the ability to try things out, reflect and make adjustments  into the process. 

Over the years we’ve prototyped things as diverse as digital customer experiences, physical customer experiences, staff processes, organisational policies, building fitouts, physical structures and often a combination of the above. However good the prototypes are going into these sessions, we have not once walked away without insights that would make things better.

The great thing about prototyping is that you can do it early and explore lots of ideas and raise the fidelity of things as confidence grows. 

Including iterative prototyping in your project plan massively reduces the risk of failure. But beware, there is always a risk that you are only hearing what you want to hear when you prototype things. Whenever one prototypes one needs to be prepared to throw the prototype away and take what one has learnt and put it into a completely new idea.

Here are two examples of upfront investment in prototyping that led to more successful outcomes:

Where to from here

These are but three of the things that human-centred design (and Meld Studios) can assist with as you consider the initiatives encouraged by the budget. Feel free to reach out to us to talk about the above, or specific project requirements that you have –

1 Comment
  • Dan Szuc

    October 20, 2020 at 7:37 am Reply

    Nice read, thank you

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