Empathy – a successful methodology for digital projects

Using a mixture of methodologies is the key to success for any digital project, together with a strong capacity for adaptation.

Whether you work for a large, medium-sized or small organisation, you will most likely manage your digital projects by following the latest trends. Today it’s all about Agility (@Scale or 'light'). But it’s important not to forget the basics.

Life before the Agile age

Before the era of Agility, organisational structures existed within companies offering real added value. Therefore, it would be a shame to destroy this added value today by trying to implement a whole lot of new methodologies just because they are fashionable.

The Agile Era

Organisations and digital factories (teams that use digital technology for a new industrial model), often try to adopt a methodology such as Agility, or the Waterfall model, as they believe it is the key to their project’s success and essential to their company’s digital transformation. However, it is crucial to remember the following:

  • There's not just one methodology for handling a digital project
  • Trends are trends… Waterfall/Agility@Scale/etc.... Pragmatism is the only judge

The path to success involves taking a look at your internal IT organisation. Find its added value and structure your own project methodology around this. This means you will be able to engage the rest of your enterprise and ensure they adopt your chosen methodology.

Everything is Digital today as it was yesterday

It is therefore important to explain that a digital project is sometimes just a reinterpretation of what people already know (their current skills). For example, if we look back over the past decade at the newspaper industry, the first digital transformation projects often failed or partially succeeded because of the haste with which they were implemented and the belief that these digital projects should be treated with new methodologies (the Digital Paradise). The often-monolithic approach of IT service providers did not help either. By thinking too much in technological and methodological terms, the IT service providers often forgot the heart of the subject - the importance of the content (the articles) and the layout (the very specific format for highlighting this information) which represented the real added value of the press. As a result, many consumers felt lost when reading their "new" newspaper, because they could no longer find the editorial quality and layout they were expecting. Consequently, many digital press projects had to be completely redone.

What was right before Digital is still right today

One of the major European banking players recently decided to manage all of its digital projects in Agile @ Scale mode. Although this strategic option had been taken by them years ago, they forgot that what had worked in the past, within in their organisation, was still valuable today. The added value that had been created by their "old" IT team in terms of organisation, communication, project methodologies and more ... was partially destroyed by their determination to implement the Agility @ Scale processes. Here, innovation had clearly been destructive and not disruptive.

Empathy is the key

There is no single dedicated methodology for digital projects, as these assignments are just like any other projects; they need a smart methodology mix to fit with the organisation in question and a strong human capacity from the project team (Project Directors, Customer Management team and top Management), to understand what real added value pre-existed within the organisation and how to protect and maximise this. Therefore, understanding organisations, their people and how everything and everyone work together is crucial when it comes to choosing the methodologies that will work for your digital project. This is nothing new; it’s all about empathy.