Transformation starts with a few home truths … Time to get rolling and look digital transformation in the eye

Uncomfortable conversations are an essential part of successful transformation projects. Asking yourself difficult questions and, even more importantly, answering them truthfully will reveal where your company is right now and, where you want it to be. Just like a fish might not recognise the water in which it swims, the act of probing your own organisation can be challenging without outside help (more on that later). But business leaders who take the time to chase the questions down will be rewarded with a solid point of departure and an answer to the million-dollar question: Are you busy standing still, or are you focused on true transformation?

While digital transformation is accelerating and the rate of transformation is increasing, most organisations are still mainly concerned with managing the conflict between the business’ strategic needs and its ability to deliver goods and services at the frontline.

These considerations typically compete for primacy and, all too often, one is dealt with at the expense of the other. The challenges decision-makers face do not stop there. As companies are wrangling remote workforces and navigating ever-evolving customer requirements, IT leaders are tasked with changing the way business is conducted to build a ‘new better’ future for the business and its employees. They must bring about this new future at speed and scale while making sure operations, customer service and profits are uninterrupted.

However, despite the challenges, obstacles, and risks, digital transformation – done right – will always be worth it. It’s a sweeping statement and one that needs to be fleshed out to have any bearing on actual business. To do this, we need to have an uncomfortable conversation about failure.

Whether it’s one’s own experiences or the cautionary tales of others, talking about digital transformation fails is important since they form the lessons on which success is built. Based on more than three decades of experience and countless conversations with companies joining the digital transformation fray, we can summarise our learnings in a top-five of digital transformation fails, accompanied by some thoughts on how to avoid them.

Fail 1: Not realising that transformation is human, even when it’s digital

Ignoring the cultural implications of change is an oversight that can potentially grind even the most well-researched digital transformation project to a stone-cold halt.

Both a top-down and bottom-up perspective must be adopted at the outset, so that the digital transformation project truly becomes a true company-wide matter, and not seen as an imposition dreamed up by some siloed business unit or out-of-touch leadership team.

In this regard, the critical error is failing to involve the right stakeholders from the beginning of the digital transformation journey. All staff need to understand the reasons for, and benefits of, the change before it is carried out. Transformation is not an easy task, but without the hearts and minds of the people it’s meant to benefit, the task will go from difficult to impossible.

Beyond a broad acceptance among the workforce, digital transformation initiatives also need the full weight of the C-Suite. If an executive sponsor isn’t passionate, engaged, and committed to making the project a success, teams will struggle with motivation and are likely to choose the path of least resistance, potentially leading to a middling solution.

Another vital mistake, which was mentioned in the introduction above, is the failure to seek outside help. From customer journey mapping and process standardisation, to technology selection, decisions should never be made in a vacuum or, even worse, an echo chamber. In this sense, digital transformation can be seen as a team sport and companies should tap their partner networks for all they are worth to ensure their plans are well thought out from every angle.

By getting this aspect right – by realising that digital transformation goes nowhere without people – businesses are in a prime position to harvest the potential benefits of transformation while boosting employee morale, better adoption rates, and presenting a united front to customers.

Find out the other 4 digital transformation fails –  download our e-book below.

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