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Why your digital transformation may be failing

Digital transformation as a concept and business strategy is finally being taken seriously, writes Natasha Bougourd, tech firm TSG’s Lead Applications Writer.

Initially, it was dismissed as a buzzword or a fad – a fanciful idea that could never truly be realised. However, business leaders are finally understanding and implementing the fluid and adaptable strategy; 79 per cent said that digital transformation is now a strategic priority (Vodafone).

It’s encouraging to see that so many leaders are adopting a digital-first approach, an essential in the modern business landscape; 4 out of 10 current market leaders will be displaced by those prioritising digital methods (Global Centre for Digital Business Transformation). However, it looks like businesses are struggling to make their strategy a success. Business leaders are clearly adapting to change, but perhaps aren’t approaching a digital-first approach in the right way. Unsuccessful transformational projects can happen for a multitude of reasons, as there are a number of factors that can contribute to the failed execution of your strategy.

No formal strategy

Digital transformation sounds exciting, and promises a number of benefits to businesses including improved processes, better customer service and ultimately an increased profit margin. Because of that, businesses leaders can jump in without giving strategy full consideration. This lack of a clearly-defined strategy is why 35% of digital transformation projects are unsuccessful (Wipro Digital). There’s no point in implementing a solution if it isn’t going to contribute to your strategic business goals. By identifying your goal, you can understand what you need to do to achieve it and how digital technologies, powered by experts, can support this. This ensures you don’t stray from your focus and apply effort in areas where you’re less likely to see a return. Which is strongly linked to the next reason businesses often fail when it comes to digital transformation…

Thinking it’s about the latest tech

Naturally, the term digital transformation conjures images of futuristic technologies; some may even envisage robots powered by artificial intelligence. This is a widespread misunderstanding that’s frustrating to those of us in the technology world. While innovation and modernisation are key tenants of business transformation, this is a one-dimensional view.

Technologies like artificial intelligence and augmented reality are at the fore of technological advances in the media. But innovation can come in surprising packages; artificial intelligence is now embedded in the applications that businesses use every day like ERP solutions or CRM systems. By looking at how you can improve an existing system – whether that’s replacing it with a more innovative solution or simply upgrading to the version that comes with all of these benefits – you can achieve your strategic goals more effectively than bringing in a technology that isn’t relevant to your business. According to Forrester, 2019 brings with it the understanding that digital transformation is as much about small, incremental changes as it is about seismic shifts, which rings true.

Your executives aren’t convinced

A strategy that isn’t understood or backed by your CEO and executive-level management is doomed to fail. Many leaders lack confidence in their own digital skills (Deloitte) or the skills of their people, which can translate to resistance to change. Your executives need to drive this strategy, so it’s essential that they understand the benefits it will bring and how it will be implemented. That’s why it’s essential to have IT representation at the highest level in your organisation. As the department that likely owns a business’ many technologies, IT holds the key to getting the most out of those technologies, spotting areas of weakness and identifying systems that must be improved.

Resistance from around the business

It’s not just your executives who can be a barrier to digital transformation; buy-in from your employees is essential to making your digital transformation journey a success. An Oracle study identified resistance to change around the organisation as a barrier to businesses looking to move to the cloud, with HR and finance departments found to be the most difficult.

It’s not that your employees are just difficult. Often, employees get comfortable with the systems that they know and have worked with for years. If you dig deeper into this, it often boils down to insecurities around digital skills. That’s why consultation and education are essential elements of your digital transformation journey. Tearing apart the systems your employees know and work with every day without understanding their needs won’t do you any favours. A key tenant of digital transformation is how it can transform the way your people work, eliminating manual or repetitive, time-consuming tasks so they can focus on adding value. What’s more, newer technological advances focus on user experience, meaning they’re easy to use. By presenting your strategy in this way, you’re sure to win over even those most resistant to change.

You haven’t considered your customer experience

Some 95 per cent of respondents to the Couchbase survey identified the end goal of digital transformation as an improved customer service. The service you provide to your customers can make or break a business relationship; 70pc of organisations that move supplier do so because of poor customer service from their previous partner (Accenture).

There are so many strategic business goals you can achieve with digital transformation. You can make significant cost-savings by eliminating redundant technologies and processes, increase your profits by improving or increasing your products or services through technological changes, or better understand the pain points of your industry and use data to drive better insights. But without taking the customer experience into account, you’re setting your business up for failure.


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