6 Reasons Why Digital Transformation Efforts Often Fail

Digital transformation is not a transactional event, and is much broader than purchasing a new CRM, or redesigning an app. It’s a continuous optimization of processes – internal and external – that improve the performance of your core business services through technology. Understanding this is the first step towards successfully transforming your business in the digital age.

Here are 6 common pitfalls that often curtail a business’ ability to successfully implement new processes and technology to better serve customers.

Lack of self-awareness. The reality is, a lot of businesses are still unsure what digital transformation is, what it means to them, and where they sit on the digital maturity scale. It’s impossible to introduce genuinely transformative processes and technical solutions without have a baseline understanding of your current-state. Without a comprehensive assessment of your digital business enablers (tools, methods and people), you run the risk of wastefully buying costly tech, investing time and effort in non-impactful projects and reinforcing overall bad practices.

To help mitigate these risks, start with an honest assessment of your organization’s digital maturity. Audit the existing processes and technical solutions, and once a standard has been established, start mapping out internal and external business problems you are looking to solve. From there, build a 12 to 36-month roadmap defining objectives, then implement, test and review. Rinse and repeat.

Commitment issues. Like any evolution of substance, it takes time, patience and commitment to digitally transform. Businesses sometimes fall short in will; they lose focus, run into project fatigue, budget shortage or reprioritization. When the decision is made to digitally transform, it’s important that it remains a paramount focus and there is a strong sentiment of organizational accountability for its overall success.

Accomplish this by forging cross-organizational committees that meet regularly to review progress and performance. Establish key performance indicators and measure success against them, and make changes where necessary. Lastly, provide transparency of “wins and losses” amongst the entire company.

Weak sponsorship. Leadership alignment is obviously critical — executives hold the checkbook and have the authority to define and implement policy. However, middle management and respected “A-players” represent massive spheres of influence, and are equally important as sponsors within any transformative effort. If strong leadership personalities, respected subject matter experts and other interoffice influencers don’t buy-in, you’ll see considerable performance leakage through lack of adoption, participation, and ultimately, progress.

Counteract this by including these voices in the planning, buying and implementing phases whenever possible. Seek input and perspective, and collect and synthesize feedback regularly. Providing these individuals with the opportunity to participate at each stage fosters consensus, which will increase the likelihood of broader alignment throughout the organization.

No measurable goals. “It looks so much better”…“people seem to be responding well to it”…”I think it’s working well”. Unsubstantiated or anecdotal evidence supporting the success of newly introduced process or technology is often a killer of transformation, as well. Perhaps the most powerful digital advantage to emerge over the past decade is the ability to capture an extraordinary amount of data with relative ease. Yet businesses still struggle to collate and synthesize this information, and rarely use it effectively to inform decisions. They don’t establish measurable goals, and they don’t reconcile performance against these goals. This can lead to a major gap in perception vs reality.

Establish key performance indicators. Synchronize them with your objectives, and capture and review data to provide a realistic representation of progress.

Poor technology decisions. Technology investments are big. Not only do they represent a significant amount of spend, but also man-power and time. Unfortunately, making poor decisions regarding a product, platform or its usage have massive implications on the ability to successfully conduct your business. And it happens all the time. Companies buy software that they can’t support, that they don’t utilize or that doesn’t solve core business problems. These bad decisions have consequences; consume budgets, waste time and stop transformation momentum.

Protect yourself by buying slow. Do product and platform assessments. Take the time to learn features and functions and ensure they’re aligned with your needs. Make sure it’s something you are committed to supporting, and that it can evolve with your business. That being said, even the finest of technology decisions can all be undone by…

Failures in change-management. Implementing new ideas and behavioral changes effectively is often the greatest challenge of any transformation effort. To be successful, you have to lead with policy, process and cultural adoption, and facilitate with technology. Businesses often invert this, creating a reality where their technology solutions define their business practices, and even worse, simply just introduce a technology solution and stop there.

Apply the appropriate focus on change-management:

Communicate – share goals; explain the “what” “how”, “why”, “when” and “who” across the organization. Be clear and consistent with messaging, and reinforce frequently.

Train – when introducing new processes and technical solutions, don’t just send an email or post a doc on the intranet. If you want people to use something, show them how, and why to use it.

Gather insights – test, collect and review performance data, and seek feedback via survey. Don’t implement and forget. Continuously assessing performance is crucial to ensuring adoption, and more importantly, efficacy.

Adapt – If it’s broke, fix it. Allowing a process or digital tool that is failing to continue to fail is a sure fire way to derail the ultimate goals of transformation.

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