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AI and its impact on ecommerce business discussed by Alisdair Blackman, Digital Rehab

Artificial Intelligence impact for online business

Unless you have had your head in the sand, you’ve no doubt heard loads of buzz about ‘machine learning’ or ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI). In this article, I want to assess the opportunities and threats posed by AI to all online businesses specifically ‘online retailers’. 

It should be noted that over the past 6 months I have been working on a new platform for ecommerce that will incorporate AI with the purpose to increase conversions and purchase volumes and hence have a deep affinity and keen interest in this space.

AI is starting to become more pervasive in our everyday lives than most of us would know.  Google and Microsoft have been for some time weaving new AI smarts into their business. Google’s purchase of start-up DeepMind will be the first of many as the company looks to pioneer and be at the forefront of AI application.

Business Insider predicts that over 85% of all communications during the purchase cycle will be automated and computerised by 2020. Raises the obvious question of what impact this will have on customer service departments?


Stemming the tide of cart / sale abandonment

Did you know that over 70% of carts are abandoned online? This is hugely costly for ecommerce businesses. For fashion retailers, they suffer even higher abandonment rates given that discerning customers have a preference for coming into store to ‘try before they buy’. 

Given this, where AI will make a huge impact is in driving customers through the cycle by offering a more personalised experience.  Take for example, The North Face who recently partnered with IBM to better personalise their customer experience, incorporating AI into its online shopping. IBM’s Watson creates a psychoanalytic profile of customer data in less than a second, and from there, asks questions about where, when, and for what activities customers will be using their apparel. By doing this and according to IBM, customers spent an average of two minutes with the AI, increased trustworthiness and achieved a 60% click through rate for product recommendations through to sale.

The point is that using AI for personalisation in ecommerce could solve the huge issue of ‘the runaway customer’ and raise conversion rates.

Visual search poses to fundamentally change the way we search and digest information

AI is helping ecommerce companies like eBay, Target, and social media giant Pinterest take the guesswork out of online shopping by simplifying the search process. Recently, Pinterest reported that 93% of its users use the site to plan purchases, so the company recently used AI to create searchable images where users could tap just one part of an image to find product information. Retailer Target has recently partnered with Pinterest to substitute keyword search for image search in its app, users can just upload a photo and let AI technology scour the company’s inventory for a perfect match.

Ebay has recently added similar technology but is upping the ante by allowing users to share images from social media or websites in order to find similar products for auction on the site.

Recent studies show that social media platforms are responsible for 3.2 billion daily visual shares, so it stands to reason that customers want to shop what they share. Visual search is still in its early stages, but AI technology is leading the charge in blurring the lines between online and in-store shopping.

I believe the larger opportunity is to aggregrate all product image libraries and have AI empower shoppers to effortlessly discover comparative things for purchase from a range of sources. I whole heartedly believe this is a huge area where AI will have a lasting role and importance in providing contextual image based likenings to help aid in purchase.

I have invested in MashN – an online visual search to purchase business so again am wildly excited about the future for visual search.

Content to be written by AI

Gartner predicted that by 2018, 20% of business content would be computer generated. 

The Washington Post  aims to provide its readers with hyper-local sports coverage and knew it didn’t have the manpower to send reporters to hundreds of games that only mattered to a handful of people. What they had instead was AI technology. An AI program called Heliograf analyzes data around scores, players statistics, and weekly regional rankings then uses that data to write hundreds of sports articles that the Post never could have covered using human reporters.

The potential for AI in ecommerce is boundless, but most ecommerce companies are focused on AI for online shopping. And while chatbots and more accurate, personalized recommendations are exciting, using AI to analyze customer data and language in order to create hyper-personalized content is another revolutionary possibility for AI.

Retarget potential clients

As indicated by Conversica, no less than 33% of advertising leads are not followed up by most businesses. This implies pre-qualified potential purchasers keen on your item or administration, fall through the crack.

Omni-channel retailers are beginning to gain ground in their capacity to remarket to clients. The substance of offers is changing with organisations reacting openly to the will, desires and needs of their clients. 

AI Personalisation to set a new benchmark 

With the ever expanding advancements in man-made consciousness and machine learning, new profound levels of personalisation have begun to infiltrate the quickly developing online business world.

While AI based personalisation for online business adopts the multi-channel strategy.  The scalability and impact of AI in e-commerce is only expected to increase. The increase will allow identification of exceptional prospects, building better customer relations, boosting sales, and bridging the gap between personalization and privacy.

Concluding Remarks

Despite the fact that the term ‘artificial’ may suggest something negative or dehumanized, artificial intelligence is already enabling great strides to improve the customer experience, sales forecasting, warehousing and stock management etc. AI will fundamentally change the way business is done and yes, their will be an impact on some jobs. In my estimation, it will however give rise to new talent needs, requirements and career opportunities.

AI will serve to improve the efficiency of search, retreival and purchase experience. Online businesses more than ever before need to embrace innovation and at very least look to implement AI to safeguard their revenues if not to maintain or obtain a competitive advantage.

Decisioning and need for action-led decision

Need for action-oriented decision-making and agility

Musings today center around:

  • the power and efficiency wins realised through agility,
  • ways and means to reduce the rarely valuable, obligatory meetings from peers, and 
  • the need for institutions to cutback on ‘over populating’ program/project teams


Management consultancy McKinsey & Co says rapid decision-making is one of five traits of agile organisations. Action-oriented decision-making is central to agility. Staff are empowered to make fast decisions and there are fewer approval layers. 

More companies are trying to move to an agile model of smaller, self-contained, empowered and networked teams. The goal is to become adaptive and entrepreneurial in the digital economy and better able to hold up against aggressive and nimble start-ups efforts to take competitive market share.

Compare this approach to organisations that decide by consensus. A team, usually larger than needed, forms around a project and the leader will not cull staff from the decision-making process for fear of offending them. Decision timelines are fluid and all too often balloon out of control, leading to budget overruns and quality/scope compromises.

Too many people attend meetings, slowing the process, and meetings take forever to organise as diaries are checked, or are delayed when people are away. Phone or video conferencing is used because staff are scattered across locations, further dulling meeting effectiveness and torturing attendees. Doe this all sound very familiar?

Each person reviews the project online,. The project is exposed to other teams in the organisation, leading to unnecessary changes from people who are too far away to make informed decisions that ultimately impact on the end result, be it new products/services or customers.

This consensus decision-making style creates grinding, soul-destroying progress. The team leader wants to be inclusive, encouraging and supportive for staff, so listens to all opinions and factors them into the final product. The importance of the ‘Customer’ or end user/audience is lost somewhere in the process.

Worse, the project lacks authenticity and a voice. The internal process is more about internal politics and self-promotion than exceeding customer expectations.

Compare that to an agile approach where a small, empowered team drives the project. The focus is on rapid project iteration and tight deadlines, and few and short meetings. Less talk, more action!

Too many organisations have allowed technology to lengthen rather than shorten decision-making processes.

Crucially, the team leader owns the project. They make quick decisions, confident in their skill and accountability for the finished product. They take risks and can talk on their feet, have strong self-belief and get things done.

Their communication is authentic and stakeholders believe the message because they can tell it has not been work-shopped.

Too many organisations have allowed technology to lengthen rather than shorten decision-making processes and been seduced by political correctness and a consensus style. Risk aversion in product launches in endemic.

The underlying problem is companies not auditing decision-making processes. They do not realise a dozen people were involved in the project when it needed only three or four, or that two of the five approval layers were unnecessary and hurt agility.

Next time you work on a new project, ask yourself: How many people were involved and did each need to be there? How many reviewed the project and were all reviews necessary? How many approval layers were required and was there too much decision-making by group consensus?

Every company and project is different but if more than a handful of key people are involved in the main review process, ask why. There might be a good reason, but as organisations grow they usually have more people and diaries to fill with unnecessary work.

Inspired by Tony Featherstone’s article in SMH on 14th June 2018

Project change and transformation stress management

Project, Change & Transformation: Stress & Fatigue Management

We all experience differing degrees of stress and exhaustion. With change / transformation impacting many of us, its inevitably going to take its toll.

Here are some tips around how best you can manage your stress, anxiety and to stave off fatigue and keep you at your best.

Know when you are stressed and learn to control it

Stress is personal and impacts on each of us differently. Good Project Managers, Change consultants etc develop equanimity that puts us in control, even when projects go bad as they so often do. It is important to appreciate that stress is not always a bad thing. We need challenges to hold our interest and stress can often serve to motivate and energise us. It is only when the stress or environment around us starts to fail that we start to struggle be it antagonistic stakeholders, conflict, your work getting deprioritised over a more pressing issue or problem or just the fear of the unknown. In any case, stress/anxiety and fatigue bring out a “fight” or “flight” response which needs to be carefully understood and managed.

Stress has physical side effects – your body can naturally handle only so much before it leads to physical exhaustion, cognitive impairment, burnout and other serious health consequences. 

Manage your stress through exercise, sleeping and resting, staying hydrated, and minimising sugar and caffeine in your diet.

Now I realise this is a crazy thing to advocate.  I still drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day, but it’s incredible when you incorporate exercise every day (be it walking/cycling/running) what a huge difference it makes!

Be the Master of your own Mindset

Your personal perspective and how you react to changes at work, socially, private life influences your wellbeing. How you relate and empathise with others is impacted by your state of wellbeing. So,

  1. Build / tap into and demonstrate Resilience
    One of our strongest attributes – it helps with the acceptance of external factors that are outside your control. Encourage others around you (your team) to see the positives, accepting that there are some negatives, and keep everyone’s sight on the end goal.
  2. Manage your relationships
    Your friends, family and co-workers (team) are your support network and this too is important to keep you grounded. When projects become increasingly difficult and negativity creeps in, your support network is critical to being able to provide advice and helps to put things back into perspective.
  3. Mood & mindset impacts on others
    Your mood and headspace can unknowingly influence and make or break your project team. Your mind is where your fiercest battles are fought, where half the things you feared were going to happen never eventuated, and its where your expectations are set. 

If you can’t change external factors beyond your control, don’t fight it. Focus on the fact that the only thing you have dominion over and can control is HOW YOU THINK.

Creating a Healthier, Happier You

I’m no shrink or medical expert. I do however have over 22 years’ experience in dealing and managing with stress. Here is what I have found really has worked for me:

  1. Work will always be there – it’s not as important as family/friends and your overall wellbeing. the wonderful Italians have this little expression “the sun will rise again tomorrow” to exemplify the point that irrespective of what work you do today, the same will be for tomorrow
  2. Go home on time – if you are efficient, appreciate that only so much can get done in each day. Don’t feel guilty for leaving early one day in recognition of working late on another
  3. Have fun – Try to be more relaxed and happy at work. Spend time with new people, get to know them and find commonality
  4. Take breaks – Get up from your desk, go for a walk outside, go for lunch with friends, go to the gym and just refresh your mind
  5. Exercise – irrespective of the strenuous nature or otherwise, just incorporate forms of exercise in your daily routine
  6. Diet & Hydration – regularly eat and try and avoid snacking or what happens mostly – skipping meals. Try to aim to drink 1 litre of water a day (minimum)
  7. Sleep / Rest – aid to be in bed early (before 11pm) so as to ensure your body has a chance to rest and recuperate
  8. Danger signs – if you are failing to sleep, it may mean stress is weighing you down. Use stress management methods to refocus and minimise the impact that the stress is having on your mind and body
  9. Monday morning blues – we all have them particularly after an action packed or enjoyable weekend but if you have the need to have a ‘sickie’ then something is not right. Similarly, if people in your team are not showing up on a Monday – then look to address the issues head on
  10. Treats/Rewards – I often believe that coming into work with treats for the team (ie. cakes, snacks or taking the team out for a nice lunch) will serve to have fun and reconnect with the team.

We all work differently in stressful / pressure cooker environments to deliver successful outcomes. The key is to look after yourself to ensure your behaviour, activity and performance is not compromised from the lack of sound management of stress, anxiety and fatigue.

agile tips to avoid failure Digital Rehab

How to ensure project failure using agile

Given business’ love affair with ‘continuous improvement’ and enterprise agility, I want to take a moment to pause and reflect on some of my learnings (both observations and from first hand experience) along with identifying common ways agile can fail.

Ofcourse no new program aims for failure yet having witnessed and learnt from past experience, I can tell you what conditions and factors are usually present which lead to doomed projects and change programs.  If any or a blend of the following exist, the fundamentals of the program/project(s) will likely fail: poor planning, poor or inexperienced/ill-equipped or ill-informed teams, lack of communication, false or unrealistic expectations, absence of executive buy-in and sponsorship. See elaborations below which should serve as some tips for completely failing in agile project management: 

Piss poor planning 

One of the greatest non-truths around agile is that planning and structure aren’t essential. This is rubbish!

“Agile is not an excuse for poor or loose project management,” says Alisdair Blackman, founding principal of Digital Rehab, a firm that provides project management and agile expertise.

Too often, the business vision and roadmaps are ambiguous — too high-level for engineers to execute upon — but using a framework that can be broken down into checklists ensures alignment and provides constant reminders that keep a given project on track. 

The agile release train (ART) is a basic planning tool that aligns individual teams to a common business and technology vision/set of requirements.  ART can help serve to plan sprints (a set period of time during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review), manage and estimate resources required and some cases even frame up costings. 

“Businesses that use agile development methodology efficiently can plan projects 6-12 months in advance, with high accuracy stemming from their experience and knowledge of their own capacity and capabilities and will most often deliver successful change,” Alisdair Blackman says.

See also my earlier article around the role and importance of proper planning

Mobilising an inexperienced team

Complimentary skills across an agile team is key to the success of any project or program.

“If you have a team that have worked together and are cohesive, allow them to continue to refine and deliver playing to each other’s strengths and weaknesses”

Resource management is essential regardless of how and what methodology is used. I would always recommend spending time during the initiation phase of the project to assemble the right team that have complimentary skills and experience, availability (bandwidth) and gauge the level of engagement and positivity across your team toward the body of work. 

In a perfect world, agile teams should be self-sufficient and ideally comprised of generalists rather than specialists ensuring depth of experience while possessing both technical and business acumen.

Silence is golden

Agile teams with poor communication skills or who do not engage with others in the business are rarely successful. 

Free flow of information is a critical success ingredient in those organisations that embrace a continuous delivery mindset.

Agile demands frequent communication across all stakeholders in the business specifically the program owner, sponsor, steering committee and any other key persons.

Communication can take a variety of different forms but daily stand-ups and sprint retrospectives provide excellent check-ins for key stakeholders and offer the optimal setting for iterative correction/refinements to be agreed and in this setting the team can share learnings. 

It’s also important to get all agile teams together so that they can see how each team communicates and they can all strive for consistency eg. using the same nomenclature / terminology. With agile, there are alot of acronyms and I have observed that many executives can be confused. Consistency in language across all agile teams is a way to mitigate risks that arise from confusion. 

Poor Executive buy-in and support

The Agile way, if executed and followed properly should ensure business leaders and influencers are engaged and on-board from the very beginning. It’s important that before you start an agile project/program of work that you make sure someone at the top supports it, can remove obstacles as and when they present themselves and provides context of the project across the business.

The best way to win support is to demonstrate that both the agile method to be used as well as the mobilised team will meaningfully increase the chances of a successful project delivery. 

See previous article which calls out the importance of strong executive leadership in digital transformation

Testing…why test?

Testing is absolutely critical – be it unit, functional or integration. 

Many agile teams use test-driven development practices which would see the creation of test cases written before coding starts. There are also considerable automated testing tools that can be run over the code to continually validate.  With agile, at the end of the day, it is the project sponsor and owner that need to verify that the output created works to satisfy the initial requirement/aligns to the vision ahead of deployment/launch/release.

Ignore feedback

The Feedback or Review step is integral to agile development, delivery, deployment and to continuous delivery.

For continuous delivery environment to be created, feedback needs to be embraced and woven into daily agile management of a project/program of work. Unlike the approach taken some years ago where feedback would only be sought at key project milestones/decision gates – agile hinges on continuous feedback being received, interpreted and acted upon.

Needless to say, agile teams need feedback to inform their retrospective at the end of iteration. This feedback and the outcomes of the retrospective then stimulate further process improvements that can be implemented in the next build cycle.

Agile views feedback (be in internally or externally provided) to be pivotal in all aspects of planning and development and this itself increases the stickiness and traction of the project and will represent increased value in the output created.


Alisdair Blackman and Digital Rehab were recognised as 2017 Top 25 Most Promising Agile Solution Prodivers in Asia

APAC CIO Outlook Agil Providers Award

Digital Transformation leadership by Alisdair Blackman

The role and importance of strong executive leadership in digital transformation

In an environment where everyone seemingly is a self professed expert on all things transformation, I am stunned by how little content is available that talks of the importance & critical role played by the Executive (and CEO). What exactly should the Executive (or CEO) be doing, and how different is this role from that of the executive team or the Sponsor(s) for the transformation? These are key questions which are worthy of further assessment.

Having worked on over 20 transformation projects, I have first hand witnessed both active and passive roles played by the Executive and wish now to highlight what is needed for transformation to be successful. 

Now, given that every business is different and appreciating that no one size fits all,  the exact nature of the Executive role will be influenced by a large number of factors not least of which the size, urgency, nature of the transformation, capabilities and weaknesses of the business and finally the style and experience of the leader(s) involved in the business.

That said, I have identified FOUR (4) key areas of critical importance for the Executive leadership to actively participate in in order for transformation to be successful:

  1. Making the transformation meaningful. People will go to extraordinary lengths for causes they believe in, and a powerful transformation story will create and reinforce their commitment. The ultimate impact of the story depends on the Executive’s willingness to make the transformation personal, to engage others openly, and to spotlight successes as they occur and are delivered
  2. Engender the right change mind-sets and behaviour. Successful Executives typically embark on their own personal transformation journey. Their actions encourage employees to support and practice the desired new types of behaviour
  3. Resource & build a strong and committed team. To harness the transformative power of the transformation team, the Executive must make tough decisions about who has the ability and motivation to make the journey and pre-empt where resistence may be encountered
  4. Relentlessly pursue impact. There is no substitute for a CEO or an Executive rolling up their sleeves and getting personally involved when significant financial and symbolic value is at stake. This involvement created impact that inspires and motivates teams and diverse stakeholders and more often than not best ensures adoption and take up

Everyone has a role to play in a businesses transformation. The role of CEOs and the Executive is unique in that they stand at the top of the pyramid and all the other members of the business take cues from them. CEOs who give only lip service to a transformation will find everyone else doing the same. Those who fail to corrale stakeholders and to drive change in behaviours or who opt out of vital transformationinitiatives risk seeing the transformation lose focus. 

Making the transformation meaningful

Transformation requires extraordinary energy. All employees must rethink and reshape the business while continuing to with business as usual (BAU) duties. This energy can be created and harnessed only if and where Executive buy-in and support is understood and absolute such that the Executive can empower, excite and inspire that the business comes along for the journey.

Power of a personal touch

CEOs who take time to personalise their approach to transformation can unlock significantly more energy for it than those who dutifully present the PowerPoint slides that their working teams created for them. 

Openly engage others

When a CEO’s version of transformation is clear, success comes from taking it to employees, encouraging debate about it, reinforcing it, and prompting people to infuse it with their own personal meaning.

Celebrate every success

As the company’s transformation progresses, a powerful way to win over support from others is to celebrate the wins and reinforce the benefits to be come. Sharing wins helps crystallize the meaning of the transformation and gives people confidence that it will actually work.

Focusing on the errors can generate feelings of fatigue, blame, and resistance. Emphasising what works well and discussing how to get more out of those strengths taps into creativity, passion, and the desire to succeed.

Lead by example and transform yourself

Executives must embrace change early and be the role model. Accordingly they need to transform themselves before they can expect others to follow suit.

Take radical action

The quickest way to send shock waves through a business is to execute a series of high visibility acts signaling to employees that they should behave in ways appropriate to a transformation and support these types of behaviour in others. 

Invest team time

Even with the right team in place, it takes time for a group of highly intelligent, ambitious, and independent people to align themselves in a clear direction. Typically, the first order of business is for members to agree on what they can achieve as a team (not as individuals), how often the team should meet, what transformation issues should be discussed, and what behaviour the team expects (and won’t tolerate). This can then be periodically reviewed to gauge performance.

Roll up your sleeves

Initiatives with a significant financial or symbolic value require the CEO’s personal involvement for maximum impact. This serves to ensure decisions are made quickly, enable consensus and engagement to be secured and priority to be given.

Leaders must be willing to roll up their sleeves and help resolve difficult operational issues. 

Hold leaders accountable

Successful executives never lose sight of their management responsibility and need to drive accountability across the business.

Executives & CEO’s also play a critical role in ensuring an appropriate balance between near-term profit initiatives (those that deliver performance today) and organisational-health initiatives (those that build the capacity to deliver tomorrow’s results). 

For Executive’s leading transformation there is no single model that guarantees success. That said, making transformation meaningful, building a strong and committed team, and relentlessly pursuing impact. Together, these can powerfully generate the energy needed to achieve a successful  transformation.

Business Transformation explained by Digital Rehab

Survival Guide for Organisations Pre and Post Transformation

New and emerging digital technologies combined with the increasing digital literacy of organisations are making for considerable opportunities. That said, businesses traditionally are not designed or able to often internally support the process of transformation. 

Technology led transformation projects need experienced change agents to navigate and challenge specialist thinking and behaviours.  Direction and oversight provided by an experienced and independent consultant & advisor can help ensure total objectivity, strong collaboration and integrity of purpose aligned to the project vision. Consultants autonomy to exercise a degree of professional scepticism is often critical to secure a better outcome and implement good governance.

Governance as the system of corporate processes, mechanisms, rights distribution and relationships through which businesses are controlled and directed is foundational to achieve and sustain the transactional and transformational performance of a business.

Transformational performance is not only defined by the costs and the quality of transformation. ‘Time to transform’ has now become a key metric of competitive importance. 

For this key reason, here are some important considerations businesses must take heed of pre and post transformation:

  1. move from risk to opportunity thinking
  2. provide space and time for innovation
  3. collaborate and celebrate divisity of thinking
  4. continually seek out greater balance in skills and competencies across teams
  5. learn, lead and don’t be afraid to learn by doing
  6. be intimate with the problem(s) you are trying to solve and understand all those impacted


Change everyone wants but nobody wants to take responsibility for

Alisdair Blackman talks of importance of change managementI came across a brilliant cartoon which sadly too often nowadays sums up the sentiments toward change within all businesses.

Digital Transformation requires strong executive or Board level buy-in – without which the role and importance of the change in systems, processes will far well short of their desired objectives and adoption will falter. It is in the communication of change and applying Kotter’s 8 step (or a variant thereof) to managing change that has for us at Digital Rehab seemingly worked best. See below the key ingredients that Kotter notes:

Kotters 8 step change management discussed by Alisdair Blackman




Digital project management explained by Digital Rehab

What does it mean to be a Digital Project Manager

The world has embraced digital and along with it, created new jobs and made redundant old jobs. Over the past 20 years we have witnessed a radical shift in the skills, competencies and demand for ‘digital’ jobs.

One of the job types which is in demand more than ever before is the role of a Digital Project Manager. In this article, we explore exactly what it means, what skills are required and the expectations around the role.

Digital Project Management is as much about process and documentation as it is about efficiency and ‘quick’ delivery of meanful change and modernisation.

So allow me to explain what is meant by the role of a digital project manager(s).

1. What is digital project management?

Digital project management is the managing of projects the revolve around digital – that being anything that involves wholly or in part digital data, security, interoperability with other key business systems etc.
As with all project management, the role requires that the project be managed from concept (business requirements gathering/scoping through to formulation of a business case) through to delivery within budget, to an agreed timeframe and to draw on key resources both internally and externally to a business or organisation if and where relevant.
Digital Project Management involves coordination, listening to the needs of often a vast array of stakeholders, documenting, planning, delegating, tracking, reviewing, and measuring  results and always looking for opportunities for continuance improvement. The goal of every project is different, but the overarching objective is to improve business efficiencies and to derive ROI from each project.

2. What are some skills required for a digital project manager?

Skills include time management, resource management, planning, organising, communication and delegating can be developed in almost any role. 
Specifically, below is a list of some of the required skills for a good digital project manager:
  • Communication (verbal and written)
  • Change management
  • Schedule & lead project meetings
  • Draft meeting agendas & meeting notes
  • Assign & schedule project tasks
  • Lead & direct project team members
  • Prepare & monitor project timelines, resourcing schedules & budgets
  • Manage project scope
  • QA all project deliverables
  • Contribute to client proposals & quotes
  • Build project reports
  • Assess and evaluate project success
  • Manage numerous external vendors (suppliers)

3. Is there unique methodology used in digital project management?

There are numerous methodologies. The most common are either Waterfall or Agile. Waterfall methodologies are a much more traditional approach to project management; building scopes, managing resources, and working in phases. This process is popular because it is pretty easy to envision and ramp up quickly. 
Agile is a much more evolved methodology that requires flexibility and collaboration. While Waterfall has a strict plan to follow, Agile approaches give the team the ability to respond to change quickly and efficiently. This also allows the client or stakeholder to come in at different stages and make sure their expectations are actively being met before moving forward.
If you’d like to learn more about methodologies, read 5 Lessons Learnt from working with Agile and Waterfall project methodologies

4. What tools are recommended to support digital project management?

There are a number of critical tools I recommend to support best practice in project management. They include:
  • Smartsheet (for timesheeting, schedules etc)
  • Mindjet Mindmapper (for brainstorming, workshops, meeting note taking and general communications)
  • Cloud based collaboration tools (Basecamp, Wrike, JIRA, Confluence etc) 

These tools combined can support the tracking and monitoring of overall progress, such that you can communicate with executive stakeholders using real, up-to-the-minute data. You can cut out status update meetings, because you know what’s going on just by checking your project management tools. 

Keeping all your documents, project inputs and other project outputs information in a cloud-based project management tool and/or file storage tool means people can download the files they need right when they need them — without hounding the Project manager.
For transparency and accountability, feedback and decisions can all be maintained centrally  so the business can refer back to them as and where required. Imagine, no more arguments over “He said/She said” or “I didn’t realise that was my responsibility,” since everything is clearly documented in one place that everyone can access. You can also track availability and resource plans.
Most importantly, a good digital project manager is one that regularly and often reports up to a project steering committee or authority where decisions can be made, issues escalated and remediation effectively managed. 
Outsource digital project delivery with Digital Rehab

The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Project Delivery

The key decision around whether to  in-source or outsource your digital project delivery function rests firmly around several considerations, namely:

  1. the nature of the project
  2. the complexity involved in the project
  3. existing internal capacity/availability, capabilities and competencies/expertise

Importantly to call out, there are pros and cons of both resourcing models. Below are some musings and questions businesses should ask themselves which should guide in decision making.

Does your in-house team have the necessary expertise to deliver?

In answering yourself this question remember, that most businesses have projects that are either one off or repeatable. For one off projects, these best are served by drawing on expertise from outsourced vendors as they carry often a higher risk profile and usually involve far more unknowns. 

Whilst building in-house expertise should always be considered, in certain instances once the project is completed, the skills developed by the internal team may simply not be portable due to the one off nature of the project.

Mobilising and developing an internal capability can be a significant investment (and often is more expensive than if assuming an outsourced model) and even once in place may not possess requisite skills and expertise to manage effectively both one off and repeatable projects. 

In contrast, engaging an external vendor with runs on the board in niche areas can de-risk delivery and – if managed well – will increase the liklihood of successful project delivery.

Is it a simple or complex project?

Depending on the complexity of your projects, in-house project management teams can do well for repeatable  projects where over time risks and other variables can be far better known and controlled. Take for example, infrastructure related projects, i.e. Operating System upgrades etc. These projects can best be undertaken by an internal team rather than requiring external expertise. Maintaining core system support and knowledge is key.

In contrast, one off projects depending on complexity are best delivered by external specialists.

Will the outsource vendor have skin in the game?

This is more a consideration once a decision has been made to outsource. First and foremost, a delivery partner should be identified with the expertise that is required to execute the project.

The next step is to assess if your selected partner has sufficient skin in the game to ensure they will be full committed to the right outcomes for the duration of the project.

Whilst contractually there are some safe guards that can be put in place in terms of SLAs and similar agreements, this should not replace due diligence and significant efforts on the part of both parties to foster an extremely collaborative relationship for the duration of the project.

This is best achieved if the relationship is established from the outset to be less master/servant and more one of a partnership.

Digital Rehab commonly operates on a discounted day rate and a success bonus demonstrating a willingness to carry some skin in the game and for complete alignment with successful delivery.

What is the risk to the business if the project fails?

All projects contain risk. These risks can impact on a business. Risk profile of a project should also be factored into the decision making around the suitability of in-house versus outsource models.

Outsourcing can appear the more costly option at the outset but this should be set against the potential cost, operational and reputational impact to the business of project failure.

Typically the greater the potential adverse impact to the business of project failure then the more consideration should be given to different delivery approaches including outsourcing the project to a partner with expertise.

Change Management

Managing change is one of the most critical elements in ensuring success of any project. It has been my recommendation to hundreds of clients that the process of change is best undertaken by stakeholders within the business rather than having reliance on an external vendor managing the change process in a setting, structure and foreign organisational cultural. Yet, change is rarely managed well. 

So, seeking external guidance during the change process usually also provides for greatest success.

Due diligence, contextual assessment & governance

Outsourcing digital project delivery is a proven model and should be given due consideration when an organisation is deciding how best to deliver a diverse portfolio of projects.

Irrespective of the delivery approach taken, outsourced projects should still be covered by sound portfolio management and internal project governance if the best results are to be achieved. 

If you wish to speak further around your digital project requirements and what delivery options are best  suited, call us on 0414 869 530

APAC CIO Outlook Agil Providers Award

Digital Rehab in Top 25 Most Promising Agile Solutions Providers 2017

APAC CIO Outlook Agil Providers Award

In the closing days of 2016, our team was informed that Digital Rehab was selected out of 1,400 consulting firms across Asia Pacific as one of the top 25 most promising agile solution providers by APAC CIO outlook.

CIOoulook awards Digital Rehab award

Excerpt from Magazine article:

Digital Rehab employs a small team of eight people across Australia and Asia, each one of whom is a leader in their respective area. Blackman believes that his company’s success lies in the close relationship it has with its clients and in the professionalism, resourcefulness and subject matter expertise of his team.

Digital Rehab doesn’t only look at IT related projects, but manages anything transformative which could be from a strategic or a tactical standpoint in digital. The firm serves as the custodian of change. They adopt the right methodology and set an approach, which is relevant to each of their clients’ needs. Providing end-to-end solutions to its clients, Digital Rehab delivers its clients with the best possible solutions

Agile software development provides continuous feedback and support to the teams during every phase of the product development cycle. Agile practices encourage transparency and visibility—the crucial aspects of any project. Agile provides multiple opportunities to every stakeholder before, during, and after each project cycle. Agile enhances the stakeholders understanding of the product deeper and allows them to deliver higher quality product. The iterative nature of Agile methodologies encourages check at every step while enabling benefits to be realised early on in the product development cycle. The advantages such as increased speed to market, transparency, high quality, visibility, cost effectiveness and customer satisfaction further encourages corporate IT’s to deploy agile software.  

Given how integral agile software development has become in successful project execution, clients must tread cautiously when selecting an Agile consultant.

Click here to view the story on Digital Rehab

Click here to read the full March 2017 feature issue on agile:

CIO Outlook APAC magazine feature on Digital Rehab