Digitization Prioritization: Low Hanging Fruit vs. Biggest Impact

When looking at where to focus your efforts on your Digital Transformation, it can be hard to decide between the short-term, impact projects and the longer-term, strategic game changes. 

Even before concerted efforts to digitize began, companies have struggled with the balance of smaller, low hanging fruit projects and larger system investments. This balance is suddenly made harder by the immediate necessities brought about by COVID-19, which will create some lasting changes in how business is done.

Low hanging fruit is attractive to pick. You find something relatively easy to do that can be deployed quickly, and is likely to show immediate benefit to your staff, customers, partners and bottom-line. Great examples abound – texting tools, self-service digital evidencing solutions, digital payment solutions, and more.

These are all valuable solutions, and likely worth the resource investment to bring to market. When you do a series of little, point-specific projects, though, you run the risk of something someone recently said in a panel I was on. If he lets his kindergartener dress herself, she picks out all of her favorite articles of clothing that each looks great. But when you put them together, you do not end up with a cohesive, matching outfit where each article of clothing complements the others.

As an example, if your core systems do not support APIs, you may still be able to implement many low hanging fruit digital solutions. You may choose to implement a digital payment solution this way since many can run independent of your core system, ledger, etc. Staff would have to rekey payment details into the digital payment system, and accounts would have to reconciled regularly. Repeat the same story for other, similar, quick-to-implement digital solutions without addressing the bigger strategic gap in your core system, and you end up with many digital capabilities that simultaneously create a series of secondary, wasteful side processes to support.

The solution is to step back, and ask yourself, “What do we want the future state to look like? What do our customers need it to look like? What will our partners need?”

In painting this picture, a more cohesive purpose comes through where a bigger program of work can emerge to coordinate various efforts together to speak to an overarching set of business wants and needs.

This will include various investments, large and small. It also allows you to plot a course to fulfilling those needs. You can see when and where to invest in low hanging fruit, but also understand it in the context of larger, more involved delivery needed to get to your goal state.

To structure the work itself, following a truly Agile methodology is crucial. Use short-term sprints with requirements defining, development, testing, deployment and learning. Each sprint should feed insights and guidance into the next sprint, creating a holistic approach to meeting your overall objective. This can help steer you along that journey without overcommitting to long-term deliveries that may become detached from a changing business environment or miss the chance for each delivery to feed into the next with course-corrections or gaining the value of new insights learned along the way.

Without this first visioning step and iterative deployment ethos, you can end up fully committing your resources to a series of unrelated, but valuable small projects, or stop yourself from making quick, tactical progress along your journey by turning away from all low hanging fruit in the pursuit of large, resource-intensive projects.