By Ben Walton, Ownum

When starting an initiative that has never been done before, there is a high level of risk and uncertainty. Since there is no precedent, the approach needs to be highly iterative and adaptable as new information is discovered. This applies to the process of digitization since creating a digital asset is usually breaking new ground. To then reduce the associated risk and uncertainty, it is crucial to be well versed in a standardized methodology for digitization. A common method consists of these five phases:

  1. Problem definition 
  1. Discovery 
  1. Implementation 
  1. Testing 
  1. Launch 

The goal of the first two phases (problem definition and discovery) is to answer four questions: 

  • What is the problem? 
  • Who is affected by the problem? 
  • What is the solution? 
  • How will the solution solve the problem? 

Common risks in these phases include having a poorly defined problem, the wrong problem, or a problem that cannot be solved now. By taking the time to truly understand and then define the problem – the project’s why – these risks can be identified and managed. There are three core steps to this phase. First, use current knowledge to identify and describe all the pain points associated with the current paper asset including frequency, current cost (time/money), future cost, and so on. Second, write down a clear problem statement with a potential solution. Third, list out all the assumptions made for the chosen problem statement and solution.

To validate the problem, the first step of the discovery phase is to conduct primary and secondary research to prove or disprove the assumptions made and further detail the identified obstacles of the current state. This ranges from finding data online to interviewing stakeholders. Common assumptions are that the current regulatory environment of the paper process would support the digital asset and the competition does not pose an immediate threat. The output of this phase should be a business case for pursuing digitization that details all possible risks.

Based on the business case, a decision must be made to continue or end the project, which requires understanding the feasibility in terms of technology and regulatory environment and the amount of effort in terms of time and funding. If the project continues, then the implementation phase kicks off a solution pilot. Before that starts, certain success criteria should be defined so that the results can be measured in the testing phase. Testing will also validate the solution with customers and users to understand their reactions and solicit feedback. After testing is finished, the pilot is likely launched in a controlled environment and monitored to measure its effectiveness. Possible next steps include expanding upon the pilot, starting another pilot, or working to finalize a full solution.

For many, digitization is unchartered territory so following the method outlined above provides a road map while reducing the risk and uncertainty common to a brand-new initiative. Key milestones include having a clear problem definition backed up with data, a business case to pursue the digitization effort, and a pilot to validate the benefits of the solution. By using or adapting this methodology, the foreseen challenges can be anticipated, and the unforeseen ones can be managed to result in a greater chance for a successful digitization project.