Brandon Satre 100x100

Author: Brandon Satre, PMP

On Thursday, May 17th, the Switzerland chapter of PMI welcomed Ronízia Moura to present “How Project Management can enable successful enterprise Digital Transformation” at the Roche Learning Center in Basel. Ronízia is originally from Brazil where she began working for Roche in 2002. Relocating to Basel in 2012, Ronízia is currently the European Head of Digital at Roche. Given her technical and personal experience in Digital and an honest admission to being a “technology geek” the evening promised to be interesting and insightful. Her skills in working with people and technology in unison were put on display in the hour or so that she presented. It was engaging, refreshing and practical.

Now I don’t know that the relevance of this topic for the PMI community really needs to be spelled out, as a company’s ability to “go Digital” is essential to sustained success and competence in the global marketplace. On the one hand, it becomes clear how important it is to engage people as the primary means for digital transformation. It turns out this can significantly affect the degree of success one obtains in such undertakings.

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The evening consisted of experimentation, research, and trial and error. The first experiment: using a live polling application to see how attendees would describe digital transformation in one word. With just under 50 people responding via their smartphones, the top four results (respectively) were: 1. Change 2. Evolution 3. Innovation 4. Technology. But notice that from the top four “people” did not make the cut.

The next experiment: rock, paper, scissors tournament (yes, our experimentation progression took an ironic turn going from digitally-based to “old-fashioned” face-to-face interaction). I will spare the details, but essentially it involved two main teams and everyone in the room experiencing an epic battle of skill-less one-on-one competition until we ended up with two opponents in the coveted championship round. In this silly abstract exercise we realized several insights that describe what one might find in regards to digital transformation projects. The tournament began in confusion and people “dragging their feet” but quickly evolved into understanding and motivation. Why is this? It is because people connected on a personal level with the others on their team and were marching toward a common goal – to put their best foot forward and win. This is just one example that demonstrates the behavior of people and the application of team dynamics in project execution.

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How exactly does this all tie-in to digital transformation? This by no means discounts the need to focus on digital technologies. But the point is the digital technologies are only as good and useful as the people who stand behind them. We must not forget to invest ample time in the people who are not only on the project team, but also (and perhaps especially) those who are most affected by the digital transformation. It may end with a digital transformation, but it all starts with people!