How to Keep a Complex Solution From Going Off the Rails

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Any organization with multiple customer-facing touchpoints is bound to have mounting challenges of complexity and efficiency. Canada’s most heavily used urban mass transit system is a case in point.

The Toronto Transit Commission has four rapid transit lines, 75 stations, more than 149 bus routes, and 11 streetcar lines that transport more than 500 million riders per year. The public sector organization employs more than 15,000 employees within four different unions.

In an effort to digitally transform complex, manually supported processes and better serve its workforce, the TTC decided to standardize, streamline and automate processes in its payroll, finance and human resources departments.

Here are three critical success factors the TTC and IBM focused on to successfully transform and modernize using technology as an enabler.

  • Focus on the problem first, not the solution

Many technology projects have failed because the solution is decided before the problem is clearly understood. It’s like putting the cart before horse, or for a transit system, putting the cars before the engine.

The TTC was drowning in manual, paper processes. After careful analysis of their challenges, they selected IBM as an integrator and an SAP software solution to deliver business and employee benefits. Together they evaluated the quantifiable benefits versus the costs to implement. All partners in the solution were committed to solving the problems and worked through the challenges as they arose.

  • Allocate dedicated and empowered people to the program

Every complex program requires dedicated oversight with key stakeholders allocated to the project full time. Many plans have fallen off the rails after senior leaders enthusiastically launch the initiative, but then neglected to check in on its progress or allocate appropriate resources.

Successful implementation at the TTC began with commitment from leaders in finance, human resources and information technology. The CIO led the project and was intimately involved in every step. He dedicated people from within the TTC to work on the project alongside IBM and SAP.  Today there are knowledge experts across the TTC organization who have helped their colleagues adopt the new tools.

  • Insist on change management discipline

Change is hard for every organization, but when properly managed, it can be a positive experience. People at all levels need to understand the impact and benefits of the new solution, so effective communication and management of expectations are essential.

The TTC had a strategy to put simple, easy-to-use HR capabilities into the hands of employees and managers. The process involved developing new systems and processes, and removing administrative burdens so employees could spend more time focusing on customers. Employees were willing to give up the old system, once they understood how the new tools would provide access to the right information to empower them to make better and more timely decisions.

While digital transformation is never an easy task, simple steps can be taken right from the start that will better ensure a successful outcome.

General Manager, Global Business Services, IBM Canada

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