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5 Practices for Successful Digital Transformation Projects

James Barr

Strata delivers transformational projects for clients in a variety of industries, with vastly different organizational sizes, user needs, and market pressures. But across every one of those engagements we’ve found that key practices remain the same—and when followed, are highly predictive of success.

In this post, we highlight five core practices that have helped us again and again. We may go deeper into each in future posts.

  1. Onboarding
  2. Kick-off
  3. Feature Planning
  4. Status Reporting
  5. Handoff & Launch


If you're an agency, this is client onboarding, but the same process applies for internal projects. You and your team need to understand—and be aligned on—the key details up front. Create a document with (at least) the following sections.

  • Vision & business need. Your team needs to understand the outcome they're chasing, not just today’s work. Paint a picture of the end state in one to two paragraphs. Separately, list the reasons this matters to the business. 
  • Success measures. If you don’t know how success is defined, how do you demonstrate value? Eventually somebody is going to ask what they’re getting from the project. Don’t wait for that ask: figure it out up front and measure often. As a bonus, scoreboards help keep teams motivated.
  • Timing, scope, and budget. Budget matters on every project. It might be expressed in dollars, deadline, or number of heads, but it's always there, explicit or implied. Figure yours out and manage to it.
  • Links. Connect this document to everything else that's important (work management system, code repository, shared drive folder) so team members can refer to it.


This is where the rubber hits the road. Kick-off is a demarcation point where we review our list and avoid saying "We really should have done X" later. Build a checklist that ensures you have everything in place. First thing on the checklist is the Onboarding document. Already done? Great job! Not yet? This is your reminder.

Your kickoff checklist should also cover:

  • People. Is there a RACI of some type? Do we know our points of contact, who owns what, and who should be included in status updates and decisions?
  • Systems. Include technical prerequisites in the checklist. What tools and systems will be used? Do the right people have access yet?
  • Scope. What’s the technical scope? Have you defined what's not in scope? Has your development team reviewed & planned the first phase of work?
  • Meeting Agenda. You should have answers to as much of the above as you can before you officially kick off. The ones you don't should absolutely be on your agenda. Have you drafted it yet?

Keep your kickoff checklist short enough it can be reviewed in under 10 minutes, but not so short it's useless. Does it feel like you're asking obvious questions? Good. Pilots run a pre-flight checklist to catch things that are easily missed. Do the same, and prevent mistakes that are hard to correct later.

Feature Planning

You’ve got a scope, you’ve kicked off with your client, and it’s time to get to work. Don’t assume that your team can go from zero to done without clear guidance: The devil’s in the details. You don’t have to go crazy, but you do want to make it dead simple to keep the team aligned. Use a feature template.

  • When defining a single User Story, this can be as simple as the story itself and the Done Criteria (or test cases). Include design links if relevant.
  • At the epic level, include links to the specification, designs, and any user experience documentation that exists. Be explicit with your Done Criteria. It’s impressive how quickly these clarify expectations.
  • It’s not only about the dev team: track details that matter externally, too. The status of a feature doesn't stop at 'Dev Done', but when it's been handed off to, and accepted by, the client. If your stakeholders don’t agree that it’s done, it’s not really done.

If developers have everything at hand in the Epic or User Story, clearly defined with Done Criteria, they'll spend less time searching, they'll have less decisions to make, they'll move faster, and stakeholder acceptance will come sooner.

Status Reporting

Unless the project started and finished inside a few weeks, stakeholders are going to want updates. At some point soon, someone is going to ask you “how’s it going over there?” Short-circuit this: tell them early on, and with regularity.

  • Bad news ages poorly. Even good news gets overripe. A regular, predictable update to stakeholders builds trust, maintains alignment, and keeps interruptions at bay.
  • Format your Status Report so it’s easy to read, includes a good amount of detail, but isn't overly long. Keep it the same week over week so nobody gets lost, but don't be afraid to make small tweaks over time as you perfect it.
  • Your reports should, at a minimum, track overall progress, work milestones, decisions (along with the date), and risks. It may feel like busywork, but it won't be long before Status Reports save you from serious conflict. There’s a reason Project Managers have been doing this forever.

Handoff & Launch

You’ve planned the project, you’ve tracked its progress, and you’ve got acceptance on every feature along the way, but launch is a different beast. You need to wrap everything up and make sure your client knows you hit the mark, nothing was missed, and all teams are primed to take this to market.

  • Measure Your Outcomes. Review the work to date and compare it to the goals you documented in On Boarding. Is it done? Did you achieve the outcomes you expected? Review and share testing results. Is it stable? Ready for prime time?
  • Sweat the Details. How will you monitor the product, service, or tool going forward? Who's responsible for maintenance? Do the right people have access to the code? Make another checklist and use it every time. If you’re collecting analytics, they should be configured so that stakeholders have access.
  • Final Agreement. Launch is the last point of alignment. Bring your data and your checklist to the client and review. Make sure all your stakeholders agree: everything is complete, organized, and wrapped up with a bow. Everyone should be thoroughly committed to getting this thing out the door. Now launch it!

We’ll go deeper on some of these steps in future posts. If this was helpful (or wasn't) reach out and let us know! Feedback is always appreciated.

James Barr founded Strata Research in 2019.