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Digital Transformation for Nonprofit Organizations
Learn about typical phases and milestones of DT with examples of corresponding outcomes from each
Article by Konstantin Polukhin,
Head of Digital Transformation for Nonprofit Organizations
In my recent conversations with colleagues from the nonprofit sector, I came across a couple of interesting observations:

  1. In the last couple of years practically all conversations I participated in about the future trajectory of a business ( across the spectrum of industries), would include the successful “Digital Transformation” (DT) as a key prerequisite to realize the business vision.
  2. There is significant variability in opinions, understanding, and expectations of what DT is and what it can bring to the organization.
Following a suggestion from my colleagues, I am putting together a very high-level picture of what DT could look like: typical phases and milestones with examples of corresponding outcomes from each. The goal is to provide an overview and some very practical considerations and examples you can use in your negotiations with external vendors and implementation teams during DT.

A typical drive for DT is to enable the organization for data-driven decision-making, which brings about optimizations to improve the current state of things. It starts with Strategic Planning, followed by Discovery, which leads to Implementation.
The goal of Strategic Planning is to identify objectives and measures of success for the entire organization over a time horizon of 3 - 5 years. This is one of the inputs into the definition of future state on the macro level.

During Discovery, the goal is to describe the organization in terms of business capabilities and technical capabilities. Where business capabilities can be viewed as business outcomes of one or more business units of the organization in the production of value. The business capabilities are supported by technical capabilities - software applications, infrastructures, data, etc. Both business and technical capabilities are enabled by people with specific skill sets working together in specific ways (business processes). The next step is to bring the future state to the same level of detail from the strategic macro view to what needs to be in place from business and technical capabilities to achieve the strategic objectives. The outcome of the discovery is the plan or roadmap of how to achieve strategic objectives given the current state and existing gaps.
Implementation brings the outlined plan from the Discovery phase to live, typically by executing a set of projects identified as Minimum Viable Products (MVP).

To summarize:
  1. Strategic planning: defining organizational strategic objectives for 3 - 5 years horizon.
  2. Discovery: assessment of business and technical capabilities for the current state ( "As Is"), formulating appropriate level of details for the future state ("To Be"), providing gap analysis - what needs to be changed to achieve "To Be" state from the current "As Is". Roadmap for 12 - 36 months, with the level of details sufficient to start the initial step - Minimal Viable Product ( MVP) at the end of the discovery phase.
  3. Implementation: MVP1, MVP2, … till done
The majority of organizations embarking on DT require the help of consultants or consulting organizations. It is important for the organization to understand what to expect from each phase of the DT. Examples can include the following:
Strategic Planning
  • List of strategic objectives
  • Timeline
  • Success criteria (set of KPIs)
  • Macro-level of "To Be"
Discovery
  • "As Is" - business processes, technologies, people, and data
  • "To Be" - translated from the strategic macro into the same level of details as "As Is", business processes, technologies, people, and data
  • Gap analysis of "To Be" given "As Is"
  • Roadmap from "As Is" to "To Be"

Implementation
  • Implementation level of details for MVP1
  • Implementation of MVP1
  • Implementation level of details for MVP1+
  • Implementation of MVP1+

Some practical suggestions:
A couple of world about "To Be".
"To Be" could be identified by the client, requested from a consulting organization, who would need to convert the client's strategic objectives into required architecture, business processes, people, and data; or as a joined effort.

Alignment between your organization and outside consultancy.
When the discovery is conducted by outside consultancy, one of the critical steps is an alignment on the roles and responsibilities, escalation process, expectations, milestones, and artifacts from the discovery phase between the client (your organization) and the team conducting the discovery.

Example of artifacts from a Discovery.
It would be a safe assumption to make that the initial DT stage nowadays will include the use of cloud technologies and building a skeleton data platform — a centralized location for collection, curation, a transformation of the data to turn it into the data asset.
This is an example of what artifacts you can expect from the Discovery phase:
  1. The information gathering is conducted across the entire organization, the support from the leadership of all units involved is essential.
  2. The outline of the deliverables should include:
"AS IS" for each business unit:
  1. Org structure, skill sets, roles, and responsibilities of all members of the team
  2. Goals for the business unit for the next 12 months
  3. List of KPI's the business unit is measured against, periodicity of assessments
  4. List of the business use cases covered by this business unit
  5. List of the deliverables from this business unit monthly, quarterly, etc.
  6. Technologies that support BAU for the unit
  7. Operating model
  8. Technical environment Architecture
  9. Data Architecture
  10. List of paint points with the corresponding area ( people, skill, data, technology, etc.)
  11. Current understanding of how to address these pain points
"TO BE"
  1. Quantifiable objectives and the timeframe
  2. Gap analysis for technology, data, people, business processes
  3. Business requirements to achieve the outlined objectives
  4. Target operating model
  5. Target organizational changes
  6. Target technical architecture
  7. Target data architecture
  8. Implementation requirements: development team composition
  9. Roadmap with implementation-ready details for "MVP 1" ( should not be longer than 3 - 4 months), and suggested function sets for "MVP 1+" for 1 to 3 years.
  10. Implementation budget
  11. List of risks and mitigations

Other requirements for the outcomes
Formats: Excel, PPP, MS Word, Visio ( or any other packages you use for diagrams), Confluence, Jira, GitHub, your choice of tool for project management.
All artifacts should be available on your organization's intranet.

Reporting
Weekly status reports which should include:
  • Accomplishments from last week
  • Plan for next week
  • List of risks and mitigations with the priorities (escalations), assigned owners, and expected resolution dates
  • If appropriate: total hours/budget, running usage
These outcomes can be included in your SoW with the consulting organization.
Putting together SoW for your discovery project with these requirements can be a good first step of preparation for the engagement.

Before you start Implementation
Consider having in place the following:
  1. Requirements for the team composition (skill set, seniority, roles)
  2. Implementation operating model: workflow from creating specifications to rolling to the production and support
  3. Implementation methodology (kanban, scumban, etc.)
  4. Level of details for MVP 1
  5. Functional Requirements for business functionality delivered by MVP 1
  6. High-level technical architecture
  7. High-level data architecture
  8. Backlog stories with acceptance criteria
  9. Testing strategy
  10. Non-functional requirements
  11. Timeline
  12. Basic components of software development life cycle:
  13. Development/Testing/Production environment
  14. UAT
  15. Jira /reporting
  16. Release process
  17. Triage / prioritization
DT is a challenging journey however it is worth taking. Good luck!