Digital Transformation Journeys: Why It’s Not All About IT
Updated: Jul 24
Digital transformation is an underlying driver for solving most business issues related to growth, risk management, product innovation, customer service, cost management, operations efficiency and productivity.
And yet up to 70% of large-scale digital transformation initiatives fail to deliver on their declared goals. Unsuccessful initiatives either lack business value or the capability to scale. What are the factors that lead to businesses successfully implementing digital transformation, and achieving positive results?
Let’s take a look at four of the factors that improve an enterprise’s ability to realize transformational goals:
1. Understand the broader business strategy
One of the fundamental reasons digital transformation programs fail is that executives put the cart before the horse. If change is focused primarily on the IT initiative and not on organizational practices, then there’s a real possibility transformation will not be driven by the broader business strategy.
Rather than selecting one specific tool to effect change, the leadership team should take a holistic view of the enterprise. How does the organizational culture need to change to bring about the desired outcome? For example, instead of choosing a specific technology tool to solve a problem such as a lack of efficiency, executives need to examine how changing all the factors that create value for the business – within the context of strategic objectives – will result in a digital transformation journey that generates a more efficient business. In the end, complex digital transformation is much more likely to require the deployment of a suite of tools to improve efficiency, than a sole tool as a solution.
Further, it’s key that digital solutions are integrated with the organization’s IT environment as a whole, so that the entire business can realize the rewards. Otherwise, transformation initiatives run the risk of operating in silos that benefit only one area of the business, and could, in fact, negatively impact other areas of the business.
2. Get leaders that are digital experts
Change efforts are far more likely to succeed if leadership is digital-savvy, and highly involved in the transformation. In addition, leaders that are digital experts have advantages over traditional business leaders. They understand the culture of agile decision-making. They know that it’s both challenging, and critical to procure top digital talent in a highly competitive marketplace. They also have the capability to secure the right partnerships for an organization’s digital transformation. Finally, leaders with an extensive digital background have the expertise to ensure the necessities of digital compliance and security are met.
3. Embrace employees’ experience in the workplace
Earning buy-in from employees can make or break a digital transformation initiative. Without engagement, many employees will be skeptical of the benefits of digital change. And reluctance to embrace new operations may cause employees to deliver lackluster efforts.
Smart leadership will involve employees from the outset of the digital transformation journey. After all, it’s staff who are the ones with intrinsic knowledge of customers, services and products – and the day-to-day problems. To earn engagement, employees need to be a part of the process and actively solicited for their input. Secondly, it’s important to identify and connect employees’ strengths to different aspects of the change efforts, so that they understand they have a valuable and concrete role in the outcome.
4. Infuse a culture of innovation and speed into the organization
When businesses are undertaking a change journey, slow transformation is not effective. Nor is relying on tried and true operational methods. There will be an element of risk in order to effect true change, because innovation is by definition, venturing into the new and unknown. A flat organizational structure is preferable in order to move decisions forward quickly, rather than having them get bogged down in layers of management.
Agile methodology began as a tool for teams to move in rapidly produced iterations and prototypes. Now the process can be applied to organizational culture to move quickly and flexibly toward goals. Using the agile method, decisions can be made speedily. Also, the agile method lends itself to natural risk taking, which is important as digital transformation solutions will typically require much experimentation before a solution can be chosen. At this point, employees need to be supported in learning from their failures in the various iterations.
By focusing on these four factors – harnessing technologically-savvy leadership, engaging employees, adopting an innovative culture, and tackling change under the direction of strategic goals – businesses will be in a far better position to drive digital transformation with vision and confidence of success.
About the Author
Ashiq Ahamed is the Founder of SolvedAF Consulting Inc., a boutique consulting firm providing fractional CIO and digital transformation services. As Principal, he leads the implementation of various programs and projects that increase innovation across businesses. Learn more about SolvedAF at www.solvedaf.com.
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