As a business owner, manager or executive, you have probably read and heard a lot about Digital Transformation in industry publications and at conferences. As Gartner says, Digital Transformation is ‘the changes associated with digital technology application and integration into all aspects of human life and society. It is the move from the physical to digital’. If your business has embraced the concept of Digital Transformation and is ready to dive in and make it happen, you may be wondering about the pitfalls others have faced. A wise business manager wants to learn from the mistakes of others and increase their chances of succeeding without missteps.
In this article, we will provide some suggestions on how to navigate the five most common challenges businesses face as they plan for Digital Transformation initiatives.
Challenge #1 – The IT Team, Infrastructure and Data
The Challenge - To take on Digital Transformation (Dx), you will need the right IT team, skills and expertise, AND you will need to perform a full review of the technical architecture, enterprise architecture, analytical capabilities, data stores, data management, security and other related issues and fundamentals. Organizations that underestimate these issues are likely to fail in their Dx initiative.
The Solution – As with any other enterprise-wide initiative, it is helpful to have a comprehensive strategy and a skilled support system to walk you through the process. Putting a Dx plan in place is not a one-day task. It is something that requires assessments and a full review of dependencies and timelines. Consider engaging Digital Transformation experts. These IT consultants have experience in software development, analytics, data engineering and data management, and infrastructure, and can help you through the assessment, planning and implementation process, so your costs will be lower and you can stay on time and on budget with your technical, hardware, software, network, development and infrastructure initiatives.
Challenge #2 – The Team and User Environment
The Challenge – Remember that your team and employees are used to doing things in a certain way. Whenever you change things, you will face some pushback. People don’t like change and they often need to be convinced. That isn’t easy! Your enterprise can’t just assume that employees will embrace these changes. The team understands and has grown accustomed to certain tools, software and business processes and you will need their cooperation. Without it, you will risk delays or complete failure and your investment and efforts will be lost.
The Solution –Your assessment and requirements process must include an honest evaluation of your user expectations and where you feel you are likely to find the most resistance. Gathering and communicating with the right candidates who can serve as champions for the new initiative is a good way to get things moving. Choose people who are considered leaders and are respected among the team members and provide them with plenty of information about the benefits of the new initiative and specifically how it will benefit the team and make their jobs easier. Make sure that you accurately communicate why change is required and how it will help the organization and the careers of the people on the team. Assure the team members that they will be given plenty of support and training as required so that they can confidently embrace new processes and tools. And be sure you follow through on these promises!
Challenge #3 – The Organizational Culture and Reward System
The Challenge – Don’t make the mistake of assuming you can spend time and money and achieve your goals. If your organization does not support a distributed decision-making process and democratized access to data and software and tools that will streamline business process flow, decisions and organizational agility, you are going to fail. You can’t make meaningful change without changing the organization. If the decision structure is still limited to a silo approach or jealously guarded at the top of the enterprise, all the data and analytics in the world will go to waste. Businesses that fail to make changes to the culture and, equally importantly, to the reward system, are not going to succeed.
The Solution –Review and modify the culture to give your team members access and support so that they can use digital tools, analytics, software and data sharing to make day-to-day decisions. Encourage them to use these tools and support that by changing your reward structure. Team members that use data to support recommendations and suggestions and decisions should reap the rewards. Those who continue to use opinion and guesswork should not be rewarded. Provide the support network in the form of champions and leaders who are easily accessible so business users and team members do not feel they are left to figure it out on their own. Make sure the executive team and managers are committed and that they express this commitment and live that commitment on a daily basis.
Challenge #4 – Integrating Strategies and Work Processes
The Challenge – Don’t just dive in! Your strategy must include a complete assessment and a roadmap with detailed requirements to get you to where you want to go, including the technical, infrastructure, financial, team member, management, data integration and analytics facets of the project. Each of these pieces must include a review of the work processes and workflow that supports the various aspects of the project. If business processes stand along, without integration into the digital transformation strategy, you risk building duplicate systems that will further delay and hamper your success.
The Solution –To integrate and compile these pieces into a comprehensive roadmap, your business must commit to engaging the team at all levels – IT, data scientists, business analysts, finance managers, middle managers, sales staff, executives, etc. Every work process, every approval loop, every integration point for every system represents a possible obstacle. By engaging the various teams and roles, you are building commitment and involvement and ensuring that your strategy encompasses all necessarily building blocks. You can’t get there by assigning the Dx initiative to one business unit or one team!
Challenge #5 – Investments and Financial Issues
The Challenge –If a business does not consider all facets of a Dx initiative, it is likely to come up short when it comes to funding and without the appropriate funds and resources to complete the project, a business will risk abandoning the initiative as unfinished, or worse, cutting corners to try to get it done and ending up with an inefficient, incomplete program. Businesses that do not have a clear and complete strategy cannot and will not have a complete picture of costs. Whether it is the cost of new hardware, integrating data sources, acquiring new software, training business users, or any other aspect of Dx, the business runs the risk of falling short if they do not plan appropriately. For those enterprises that try to do things ‘on the cheap’, the answer is simply, don’t bother. That is not to say that it has to be outrageously expensive to tackle Dx, but if your managers talk you into the idea that they can get there without cost, you would be wise to set them straight.
The Solution – The best way to control costs and ensure that you have considered everything is to engage an expert. Those who have been down this path before can lead you to a successful conclusion. If you are engaging an IT consultant, ask them to detail the costs and to provide Service Level Agreements (SLA) with specific metrics and timelines so you can confidently tell your executive team that your costs and schedule will be controlled. Look for a realistic project plan and be sure you have the resources to do the work. As with any other technology project or initiative, scope creep is a real issue when it comes to overruns. So, be sure you understand what you are getting for the price they give you.
There are many other details and factors that affect the success of a Digital Transformation initiative. When you are ready to take on Digital Transformation and enjoy its many benefits, you are well advised to contact the experts. Whether you plan to use some or all of your own IT team to perform some tasks or you need skills and experience to take on the project as a whole, you can find resources here.For more information and guidance on the Digital Transformation Process, download these White Papers, ‘Preparing Your Business for Digital Transformation (Dx) and Data Literacy’ and ‘Integrate Augmented Analytics and Digital Transformation to Achieve Continuous Business Improvement.’
About Kartik Patel
Kartik is the founder and CEO of Elegant MicroWeb, specializing in software services and products, outsourcing services and Digital Transformation Services. For more than two decades, Elegant MicroWeb has provided a full suite of innovative technology services and sustained partnerships with clients around the world. Its flagship augmented analytics Smarten solution includes Assisted Predictive Modeling, Self-Serve Data Preparation, Smart Data Visualization and a Clickless Analytics, a Natural Language Processing (NLP) approach to Augmented Analytics. The Smarten solution is included in numerous Gartner reports including Self-Service Data Preparation, Modern BI and Analytics, and Enterprise-Reporting-Based Platforms.