Tips for management of digital transformation project in vegetal R&D
After several years helping agro-food research departments with their digital transformation, I’ve become aware of wide disparities in project management practices and beliefs. That’s why I’m sharing with you these guidelines tohelp you liftoff your project to build IT environment that supports your research management along its 3 phases:
- • Before the project with upstream work to take care:
- • Then along the project advancement for the good execution
- • And by the end at ending the project to ensure the transition
Vegetal R&D relies on Researcher's innovation and department collaboration. Maximize both isn’t an easy task: Every organization has its own (secret) recipe and that’s great! This genuine activity setup, true DNA of the R&D department, ensures its success.
But this work organization lies on the IT system that connects every researcher and enables them to do their daily work, and such system is not eternal: When it’s time to change it or make it evolve, you need a plan, THE plan.
"Asking big “WHY” question is to dig through the root cause of changes, how to manage it and achieve a more tangible result." Pearl Zhu, expert in strategic planning and IT, author of “Digital masters” book series and the blog “Future of CIO”.
Upstream digital transformation: Your needs and your solution
Define precisely your business scope is probably my best advice. And the sooner the better, in order to find a solution that responds to current needs and is evolutive enough to address future insights.
In vegetal R&D we face difficulties making this step is even more strategic for the future good execution of your project:
- • By nature R&D processes are evolving: How to detail exhaustively R&D needs if they change season after season?
- • Final users can reasonably accept to modify their processes depending on system constraints
- • Also this step can be underestimated as it is a costly work in terms of internal time mobilized.
- • We often get not really needs but also requests, which can alter the project scope.
The project Paradox: Formalize your needs upstream empowers you with the necessary knowledge when you can still take decisions.
Cornerstone of digital transformation in vegetal R&D, the choice of an IT solution lies on three pillars: Flexibility to be self-configured for tools and processes; Inter-operability to open with other systems; And sustainability to bring enough scalability for future needs.
The frequent selection criteria we encounter are:
- • More collaborative information management
- • Improve analytical methods
- • Better integration of breeding and agronomy with other activities
- • Renew with more up-to-date technologies and lower maintenance costs
When discussing with a provider, make sure the IT solution (software, integration services and support) matches all your needs thanks to a proof by example during pre-sales discussions.
Pre-sales stages for inquiries.
"The sustainable success of digital transformation comes from a carefully planned organisational change management process that meets two key objectives, one being the company culture, and the other one is empowering its employees." Enamul Haque, author, researcher, managing consultant and teacher on digital transformation.
Execution: Project management tips
1. Opt for an adapted methodology (agile)
It’s time to choose a suitable methodology that fits the specificities of the digital transformation of your R&D.
You must have heard of Agile methodology that consists in periodic reviews of the scope delivered and research teams acceptance. It may not be applicable to the whole project, but I warmly recommend following such a roadmap with planning of charges and teams: It helps to focus on the most valuable features and adjust the deliverables along the project.
Conciliate functional and integrated management approach help avoid the difficulties we are often dealing with for project execution, such as approximations in business requirements and teams’ availability.
Example of Agile methodology applied to plant breeding software implementations.
2. Team cooperation
To overcome issues on project team availability it is important to find agreement with partners on resources allocations. Project success highly depends on R&D availability to describe their needs, make tests and review of sprints delivered.
At Doriane we recommend settling a project team that represents final users scope (with business referents) and experienced project management staff from IT or R&D services. It is more than important when we share tasks of integration between internal customer consultants and our service team.
Doriane recommendation on implementation project team.
3. Measure risks and avoid traps
Exchanging with your partner on project risks is the only way to share a common vision and prevent from project difficulties.
Planning the availability of R&D teams is crucial to see when the project staff will go back to normal missions.
Another major insights is the level of software customization to address specific needs. The risk of too much configuration is to deviate from the software standards and endanger maintenance on long term. We recommend to reach a good marriage between software customization and the adaptation of working methods to the standard solution.
Impact of standard software customization on Team adaptation and project cost.
"When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together." Barack Obama.
Valorize digital transformation: Transition management
Some studies show that 46% of Companies say user adoption is one of their biggest challenges with a software implementation project.
For a vegetal R&D department, adopting a new IT system is a success when the teams are autonomous and able to develop the software tools and processes by their own. It lies on a smooth transfer of skills, but there’s a snag: Users have to accept some changes in their working habits.
Strong implication of leadership is crucial to share a strategic vision of the project and focus on business benefits brought to the final users.
All this support to ensure the transition for any organizational change and particularly on digital projects is well documented into JP Kotter studies into Harvard Business Review “Leading Change”. He recommends that transition shall be managed at every stage of the project around pillars exposed before.
My vision on management of transition split into ¼ training and communication and ¾ cooperative work.
The last point I would like to share is to focus on the importance of maintenance and evolutions after the project go-live.
Robert Glass, renowned for his studies on software engineering, reports in Facts and Fallacies of Software engineering : “Maintenance consumes between 40% to 80 % of costs of building a software on his complete life cycle”. He even adds that this rate is higher for technical software with specific business. And these figures match with my experience: Software implementation in vegetal R&D shows the most of benefits over 5 to 10 years maintenance.
What does it mean for your project? You need to anticipate maintenance drawbacks from the start, in order to see the benefits of your new IT System and valorize this long-term investment.
And who else is strongly involved into the maintenance and evolutions of a software than its own providers? At Doriane we are highly engaged into the maintenance and evolutions efforts for our customer. They benefit from corrective maintenance, configuration optimizations and product enhancements.
Division of roles between the software team and the customer has proved its efficiency as well. At Doriane we promote this collaboration that ensures reactive and comprehensive user assistance but also to support customer into features evolutions. In many of cases L1 support is done by internal teams who work closely with final users and can bring assistance and evolutions. Doriane experienced consultants can support internal Administrators and data architects for advanced features developments.
Doriane maintenance recommendation for Service Level Agreements.
“Most executives agree that data, analytics, and the Internet of Things will transform R&D. […] To capture the potential before competitors do, companies need a compelling and ambitious vision, a pragmatic approach that focuses on business value, and a willingness to invest in new capabilities, processes, and tools.” Mc Kinsey Article: Prepare for R&D’s connected future.
In a nutshell: Digital transformation brings innovation to vegetal R&D
Software implementation projects need to be managed with a lot of care to find the target by reaching the user adoption and measuring a return on investment.
It reminds me this quote of Seneca “It's not the change that scares people, but the way they portray it”. Even before initiating the implementation of R&D software we can modify the representation of this change, notably by focusing on the benefits: Saving research time to focus on R&D decision and optimize general performance of R&D processes.
Your new IT system will bring much improvement to the whole R&D team. They will gain in productivity and have some control on the development of their R&D, and every user can see the benefits:
- • Rely on a single and coherent system,
- • Digitalize specific research processes,
- • Centralize information and make easier its access,
- • Organize internal and external information flows,
- • Have management and decision analysis tools,
- • Make faster decisions with centralized data.
Well managed, digital transformation valorizes the research department and gives the opportunity to innovate!
For 30 years Doriane has been working on projects of software implementation with vegetal R&D departments. We are notably certified ISO 9001 for project management services and support, and we would be pleased to exchange on your project