Digital transformation pretty much does what it says on the tin. It’s changing up your customer touchpoints, internal processes, business’ information, and other activities needed to run your business, through the application of digital technology. That might sound simple, but there are several pitfalls to avoid when undertaking a digital transformation programme in your company.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First of all, you might be wondering why your organisation should undergo digital transformation. A lot of other companies are doing it, but why? 42% of CEO’s in the UK have already begun digitally transforming their organisations, with 56% already seeing positive results and improved profits.

Digital transformation drives efficiency

Digitally transforming your organisation can have a huge impact on your productivity, efficiency, and ultimately your profits. It allows your organisation to swiftly respond to changing markets and pressure from competitors. It makes everything run more efficiently, which means people can spend time working on the stuff that matters, instead of hunting around the ether for misplaced documents. Which also means happier employees!

Speaking of which, your customers spend a hell of a lot of time online. That means your organisation should be too – and your online experience needs to be seamless across all customer touchpoints. Digital transformation helps with this.

However, as with all good things, it takes a bit of work to get digital transformation right. There are some challenges that other businesses have uncovered in the course of their own digital transformation programmes that I’m going to run through below. After all, one company’s mistake is a lesson to be learnt for all of us, right?

1.Resistance to change

Change is hard, but in the case of digital transformation, it’s also necessary. In all honesty, there is some hard graft (after all, you’re transforming your entire organisation!), and this can create some resistance. Symptoms of this organisational resistance usually appear in the form of the digital transformation programme having trouble being funded, resourced, having to prove/provide exceptional returns, or even being put through a maze of legal paperwork.

The cure is to engage with people and communicate throughout. Getting the entire business – every department – involved and behind the programme is the to ensure buy-in and a sense of ownership is an effective way to limit the level of resistance you get during your digital transformation programme. It’s not a one-person race, it’s more like a relay.

2.Failing to meet (or understand) customers’ digital needs

Part of the benefit of a digital transformation programme is that your customers get an ultra-efficient, super optimised online experience. In order to achieve this, you need to understand your customers’ current pain points with their online experience with you.

Those insights lie in your customer data. Sales data, for example, can be combined with call centre data to see where customers might be having issues with purchasing items online. Your website analytics can be combined with social media data to see how people are using your website, what they think about your overall online presence – and to alert you when something might not be working as well as it should.

3.Scuppered by silos

Silos are great…for storing grain. Not so much for your digital transformation programme. A lot of data is held in silos that could be useful organisation-wide, and that’s a crying shame. Breaking down the silos is essential for your digital transformation, and also just way more efficient when you’re doing any kind of data analysis in the future. That’s where good data governance comes in, and it feeds into your overall data strategy as well. Before you start any kind of digital transformation, you need a sound data strategy in place.

There are also employee silos. That’s where Sam from accounting never speaks to Alex in marketing. The kind of culture where everyone keeps to themselves isn’t good news for digital transformation. There’s a huge culture shift that occurs with digital transformation, and it requires a great deal of collaboration and communication. A lack thereof can threaten the future of your digital transformation. Establishing cross-departmental teams and communities can be an effective way to break the barriers down and create the kind of dynamic where digital transformation thrives.

4.Legacy systems and an inflexible tech stack

Not all legacies warrant being remembered. We rarely recall the businesses that stuck to their legacy systems, except as perhaps a cautionary footnote (Woolworths anyone?).

To move forward, sometimes things need to evolve. Legacy systems resist this, which means that your digital transformation can struggle to progress. Adapting to working digitally isn’t always easy, especially for larger corporations or organisations that have been around a long time.

Outdated, inflexible technology can be a tough barrier. Digital transformation cannot run on Windows XP. There’s a need to adapt to a more agile workflow and break some of your older business rules. Data will need to be stored and used in a different way to when you initially started collecting it, and that might need a whole set of new systems. Again, that’s where a good data strategy really flexes its muscle. It’s worth updating your tech stack and methodologies if you find your technology isn’t keeping up to date with your transformation. Think about whether you need any API enabled platforms, DevOps teams to help you build and deploy technology quickly, and PerfOps teams to ramp up the performance of your systems, for instance.

5.You just can’t get the right staff nowadays….

As businesses become increasingly digital, the need for digital skills becomes ever more apparent. Unfortunately, there’s a digital skills gap. That means that it’s going to get harder to find the people you need for your digital transformation programme. Almost a third of CEOs surveyed by Forbes state that this is already an issue for them. Luckily, there are a couple of solutions to help with this.

First up, you can try to develop the skills that you need internally. You’ll probably have to do a degree of this anyway, as you implement new technology and get everyone up to speed.

The second option is to recruit externally. That doesn’t just mean full-timers, but also freelancers, agencies, or consultants. They can help you plug the gap whilst you find a permanent alternative. In reality, a combination of the two approaches will probably prove most effective.

Digital transformation pays off in the end

Your organisation’s digital transformation might have a hiccup along the way, but it’s definitely worth the effort. When carried out well, digital transformation will fundamentally change the way your organisation does things – for the better. We live in a digital time. Your business needs to become digital or risk staying in the past, or becoming a relic of it


Written by Jason Foster


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