How to Avoid the Most Common Digital Transformation Pitfalls

Scroll down
How to Avoid the Most Common Digital Transformation Pitfalls

By: Keith Krach

According to a recent survey by digital marketing resource Smart Insights, approximately two-thirds of companies are currently engaged or planning to engage in the digital transformation process. Organizations throughout every sector are rapidly realizing the numerous benefits of a digitized enterprise, from individual-level workplace efficiency to connectivity with an increasingly digitized global economy. But despite the countless advantages of digital transformation, the process carries significant risks. Forbes has found that 84 percent of all digital transformation efforts fail.

Whether your firm has already begun implementing digital improvements or you’ve just begun developing your digitization roadmap, it’s likely that you’ll encounter at least a few challenges along the way. In many cases, obstacles to digital transformation have very little to do with technology. Most significant roadblocks will likely come in the form of pushback from people within your organization, regulatory challenges, or the considerable task of integrating multiple digital tools into a comprehensive digital strategy.

The following are tips for dodging some of the most common digital transformation roadblocks and keeping your digital transformation moving smoothly forward:

Prioritize awareness and education.

Having the support of your organization is important when launching a digital transformation, but a sense of awareness and understanding at all levels of the company is just as integral. Inadequate education on upcoming digital initiatives may cause your employees to falter or balk in the face of change, and may even lead to inaccurate expectations regarding the impact of digitization. Making sure that your employees are well-informed on the details of your digital transformation strategy will help ensure that each individual is prepared to adjust to changes, work through obstacles, and do his or her individual part to help bring about a company-wide digital transformation.

Clear and transparent internal communications strategies are necessary to keep personnel informed throughout a digital transformation, and you should also consider implementing educational programs to help guide employees through the digital transition. However, it is also crucial that you, as a business leader, possess a strong understanding of digital transformation—both as a general concept and a strategic tool for your particular business.

A survey by one UK digital marketing firm found that while over 86 percent of business leaders view digital transformation as a necessary strategic step, only about 50 percent felt they had a firm grasp on the concept. With this in mind, defining digital transformation for yourself and your organization should be a top priority when mounting a digital transition. In the most general sense, digital transformation refers to the integration of digital tools to achieve a strategic objective, be it enhancing customer value or increasing productivity. As digitization takes various forms across different industries, it’s useful to develop a more detailed definition specifically for your organization.

Don’t overlook company culture.

Once employees are both familiar and on board with your digital transformation strategy, they must implement it on a daily basis. A successful digital transformation requires far more than strategic development and the introduction of new technologies. Instead, it should also encompass an evolution in your firm’s approach to daily tasks and decision making.

Business leaders should strive to weave their digital strategies into the fabric of their organizations, working to create a truly digital company—not simply a firm where people happen to use digital tools. To accomplish this, it may be helpful to identify influential team members who can champion digital culture on a day-to-day basis, as well as outline how digitization can enhance daily or administrative office functions, such as meetings or attendance tracking.

Forge a clear path forward.

It is nearly impossible for a digital transformation to be successful without a comprehensive strategy guiding the process. Even digital projects that may not seem like a full-fledged digital transformation, such as the creation of a new company website, should fall within a broader digital strategy designed to steer your organization toward its strategic goals.

Viewing digital transformation as an ongoing, company-wide process and forming a roadmap for success will help you avoid spending unnecessary time or resources on projects that are not feasible or will fail to yield long-term benefits. When creating a digital strategy, be sure to consider how potential changes will impact your customers and their experience with your brand. This is likely to uncover new opportunities to implement digital tools to enhance customer value.

Form an effective leadership team.

While you may hold the highest leadership position in your company, yours should not be the only voice guiding your firm’s digital transformation. Just as the process requires employee engagement at all levels of the organization, most successful digital transformations benefit from diverse teams of executives and technology experts spearheading the initiative.

Business leaders should avoid placing digitization entirely in the hands of their technology departments. While your company’s resident IT experts may be familiar with the latest digital innovations in your industry, they may lack the necessary knowledge or resources to align company culture with digital change. At the same time, a leadership team without sufficient technological expertise may fail to harness the full potential of emerging digital technologies. Fellow business leaders with successfully digitized enterprises and professional digital consultancies can be valuable resources when pursuing your company’s digital transformation.

Don’t be afraid to address risk factors.

Holding a pre-mortem—that is, a meeting in which digital transformation stakeholders discuss what could potentially go wrong during the process—can be an effective way to avoid pitfalls. People in your company may have concerns or reservations based on genuine risk factors related to digitization, but they may be reluctant to present them for fear of seeming uncooperative or uninformed. Encouraging stakeholders to share concerns and potential risks can help you map out solutions to problems before they happen. In addition, anticipating and planning for risks can help quell your colleagues’ nerves and increase overall confidence in the project.