Four reasons your digital transformation project could fail

Digital transformation has accelerated in recent months, but not all projects are successful. Here's what to look out for

Digital transformation has been one of the biggest buzzwords of the last few years, and has accelerated business changes even more following the outbreak of COVID-19.

If your business hasn't already adopted new technology, tools or processes to better serve customers, as well as support your employee productivity, it should be an integral part of your strategy in order to stay relevant, to compete in the current climate, and to ensure you're not left behind in the future.

But it's not just about the implementation of new technologies - which are constantly evolving - it's what comes from the new innovation, be it a new digital business culture or practice. 

Amongst other things, your organisation could cut costs, streamline processes and increase revenue. However, in a bid to achieve these benefits, you don't want to fall into one of the many traps that could cause your digital transformation project to fail.

Getting it right means getting everyone on the same page, having the right skills (and people) and having a collective understanding of what the benefits will be, and that starts from the top.

Support from the top

From the outset, you need to ensure that the key decision makers and budget holders within your organisation are aware of what the digital innovation or transformation will achieve. If there isn't an understanding or agreement on goals, and without the buy-in from the leadership team, the project will simply become lost amongst the other ones.

Companies prioritise projects that bring in the most value, so by anticipating this at the beginning, and if you can define the opportunity the use of new digital products will present and relate it to growth, you're much more likely to get leadership support.

For example, by showcasing how new technology could replace legacy hardware, resulting in cost savings and faster transactions, you'll gain the traction and funding you need.

The right approach

As in the case of many companies that had to evolve their business models in the wake of the pandemic, there can be a misunderstanding that digital transformation needs to be done quickly. 

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Project teams may select the latest innovative solution for speed, rather than considering if it's the best solution for them, which can result in delays later on.

Others can be too enthusiastic and throw huge budgets at innovation projects in an attempt to get ahead of competitors. Yet this hasty approach can put them at risk of malicious actors taking advantage or, the project taking even longer to come to fruition when weak points are identified, which then require a solution.

An alternative approach is a phased one, perhaps as a result of limited company budget, where the implementation of new technologies are achieved in clusters. Unfortunately, without the ability to scale the innovations, business leaders might see a poor return on investment and halt the project in its tracks.

It comes back to getting the support from the top - in order to scale digital projects effectively and deliver that ROI, project leaders need to present alternative metrics and show how the transformation can deliver value to get support, i.e. how it can free up staff for other more interesting tasks.

By taking a more methodical phased approach and delivering value for its stakeholders, your company will have greater success in achieving its goals.

The right partners and the right technology

If you don't know where to begin, it's important to find the specialist help that does. The many challenges a digital change brings, from data management and implementation to increasing software costs, means that without the right people in the organisation and the right technology partners, your project might never get off the ground.

Everyone needs to work together and be aware of the same goal. Without an overall insight of the company's goals, technology partners won't know how they can help.

Similarly, internal IT and business teams need to align and be more transparent in order to work more effectively with their technology partners, and achieve the continuous business investment required to deliver the project.

With the new investments in technology, like the cloud, supporting technology may also be required to improve productivity, particularly in the case of a distributed workforce. But where possible, if the technology can integrate with existing systems, you'll also be able to deliver the cost savings that the investors want to see.

Getting everyone on board

As well as a lack of support from the top, digital transformation can also falter if your staff aren't accepting of the new technologies; therefore those driving the transformation must make sure that all employees affected by the changes are engaged. 

By supplying them with the technology they need to perform their tasks and by providing training, you can empower staff from the outset. They, in turn, can then further test and evaluate the digital business processes and contribute to their evolution.

Digital transformation doesn't just stop when you've reached your initial goal. There will always be an expectation for technology solutions to get better and better, so by creating a culture of innovation amongst employees, you can ensure your digital projects continue to evolve and your business thrives.

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