Last week, I introduced you to the concept of the Digital Colleague Lifecycle (DCLC). For those of you familiar with the software term SDLC (or software delivery lifecycle), the DCLC is effectively the equivalent, but for a digital colleague. There’s another key difference too, though.

Where the SDLC focuses almost exclusively on the aspect of delivery, the DCLC opens things up much further. The broader scope encompasses the identification of jobs that your digital colleague can do in your business, how these are delivered, and also how they are run, managed, supported – as well as how you track benefits on an ongoing basis. In a nutshell, it’s a much more holistic approach, concerned with the delivery of the full digital workforce programme – from concept to retirement and everything in between. And it’s necessary for organisations wishing to maximise the benefits that can be attained from their digital workforce.

No alt text provided for this image

I often say that there isn’t one part of implementing a digital workforce that is exceedingly difficult, but that there are a lot of different, inter-related elements that are important to get right. This is why the portrayal of the approach to successfully implementing digital colleagues as a lifecycle is important; this visual representation further makes the point that all of the aspects are interconnected and flow into each other. It also helps to correctly set the expectation that a digital workforce programme will continually mature, and that the adoption can take time. 

Although the DCLC provides a standard approach as a starting point, it’s important to realise that there’s no single blueprint for how to do this. So many aspects are determined by the scope and vision of your programme, the technologies selected, as well as – to some extent – the type of organisation or industry you’re in. For example, banks or other financial institutions are likely to have increased compliance measures and many more audit controls required than some other sectors.

So, what I present here is a typical digital colleague lifecycle model – one that organisations can use as a starting point and adjust to meet their specific demands. It is also worth noting that how you set things up initially will evolve as you grow in capability and discover what works best for your organisation.

A series of ever-improving stages

A lifecycle, by its very nature, represents a continuous sequence of developmental stages – starting from a new existence and charting the growth towards maturity. This is an incredibly apt description of a well-implemented digital workforce programme.

For starters, the robustness of your digital colleagues impacts the adaptability, reusability and amount of maintenance your programme requires. Components of your digital workforce solutions should ideally be reused. Not only does this provide efficiencies that lower the overhead of the initial configuration, it can also make the automation of subsequent processes (that might otherwise be cost-prohibitive) more feasible.

Not only that, the configured solutions (or digital colleagues) themselves will go through iterative changes as either requirements change, or the systems that they interact with change. This is much like a staff member would be trained on an updated system; either way, your digital and human colleagues are continuously learning and evolving.

The benefits realised and value delivered back to the business from digital workforce solutions then help to educate the business about what is possible for a digital workforce. This drives awareness, innovation, and the volunteering of other potential candidates for automation. A positive ROI can spur on the demand for more digital colleagues. Similarly, learnings from the delivery process and from business adoption should continually help to optimise further ideation and the delivery of more digital colleagues.

No alt text provided for this image

The key remains a holistic approach

Regardless of how businesses may need to adjust the various aspects which are conducted in their DCLC, the principle is that there are three major elements that fit together to make up a complete programme. Depending on your unique digital workforce, it is likely that these stages could be carried out at a different cadence or managed differently.

What’s important to note, however, is that each stage is largely continuous. While your delivery function might be able to operate in more of a project mode, the run function is necessarily the continuous ongoing operation of managing your digital workforce. Similarly, your pipeline will function as a continuous looping exercise, evolving as you work with different parts of your organisation, and – I hope! – your change management and communication around the pipeline and the programme will also continuously evolve.

From next week I will be sharing more detail about each of the three DCLC stages – pipeline, delivery and run – so keep an eye out for those and let me know any questions you would like to make sure are covered.