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Apr 14, 2021

Mirage: Prioritizing the right digital transformation project, not so simple!

by Vooban

Ghislain Quirion is the director of IT at Mirage, a North American leader in the manufacturing and marketing of superior-quality hardwood flooring. Innovation has always been part of the DNA of the company, which has been operating for over 35 years. That’s why the company has always taken care to replace, maintain, and reinvest in its computer systems.

However, in recent years, the company wanted to take a new step in the innovation and integration of new technologies. This is how the concept of digital transformation surfaced in the organization. The idea was simple: take technological innovation a step further, integrate technologies like AI and IoT, and make the company’s data talk. Ideas and projects quickly came in from all departments; now it was time to set priorities.

The company decided to use the problem framing methodology to define and prioritize the most promising projects, those that would yield the best results at the end of the digital transformation. Manufacturing companies understand that implementing certain technologies can help them stand out from the competition. “Where it becomes difficult is to find the right method to make this transition, to filter the different projects, to determine the strategy, and especially to have a clear vision,” adds Mr. Quirion.

Why make a problem framing?

«The problem framing approach is really interesting because it allowed us to bring managers around the same table to define a common vision for our digital transformation plan.» Since each participant comes with his or her own vision, departmental constraints, and background, a lot of work has to be done to counteract each other’s paradigms so that everyone can rally around a common goal. In «Problem Framing helps you see the opportunities that could really set you apart» the end, the main benefit of the methodology, according to Mr. Quirion, is that it allows to «bring the whole team together toward a clear and common vision of what we want to achieve with our digital transformation.»

Overall, Mirage conducted four three-hour workshops that identified about 10 opportunities and determined most of the obstacles inherent to each of them. Each opportunity was then classified according to its impact on the company and its level of difficulty in terms of effort and investment. For Mr. Quirion, this was undoubtedly the most fascinating step of the exercise. «You see the opportunities that could really set you apart, and at the same time, you understand the level of risk associated with each project.»

prioritize problems to find the right solution

One of Mr. Quirion’s observations is that this approach is very different from traditional consultation mandates because “the workshops are very well structured. We have clear objectives to achieve for each step, it’s agile, and we get straight to the point.” This approach makes it possible to not only quickly obtain an innovation plan but also ensure that the plan is realistic by addressing the “quick wins” as well as some of the more audacious “big bets” and the so-called “incremental” projects that are necessary for the other projects. This makes it much easier for the organization and employees to adopt the innovation since they have been involved throughout the process.

Before starting the problem framing process, Mirage already had a series of digital transformation projects underway (technology replacement, a smaller-scale innovation project, etc.). Thus, the team finally decided to retain only two promising projects in phase 1, which will be completed within 18 months. One will be related to customer satisfaction and the other to quality control. By proceeding in this way, Mirage uses different resources in the company, mobilizes different teams, and ensures better change management.

Once these projects are properly implemented, Mirage can repeat the exercise to define and prioritize the next projects to be included in its digital transformation. It is crucial not to try to make a five-year digital transformation plan. Instead, target the projects to be carried out over the next 12 to 24 months at the most and then repeat the prioritization exercise. Beyond 24 months, it’s impossible to predict what technologies will be available by then or even whether your business model will have changed. Your priorities may not be the same at all. Technological innovation must be based on a philosophy of iteration.