In recent years, much has been written about the need to "go digital" if your business is to be competitive and successful. Despite all of the attention, however, many businesses are still struggling with the transformation. Many more believe that they have completed the move to a digital enterprise but are disappointed with the results. Other companies want to make the move, but they are so overwhelmed by the different technologies that they have yet to launch a digital initiative.
Why are so many organizations struggling with their digital transformations? There is no single answer that applies to all situations, but in most cases, the problem is one or more of the following.
- Taking too narrow an approach: A true digital transformation requires more than merely releasing a mobile app, using social marketing tools or leveraging an analytics program. All of these are valuable tools, but they do not provide a complete transformation. What about the Internet of Things, cloud computing, augmented reality and artificial intelligence? What about wearable tech, automated personalized marketing, APIs and responsive websites? Seeing the "big picture" and discovering where there may be technology gaps is one of the first steps in making a digital transformation.
- Forgetting that digital transformation is not a destination: Digital transformation is a journey rather than a fixed destination. Technology is evolving rapidly; many recent developments have innovative uses that would not have been possible even a decade ago. Too often, companies believe that a digital transformation will have a completion date when it is actually an on-going process.
- Making changes for the sake of change: Sometimes, companies become so enamored of the new that they unnecessarily change what they already have that is working well. A company with a reliable legacy system, for example, might benefit more from effective integration than total replacement.
- Refusal to make changes when necessary: Although there are some companies that go overboard with sweeping changes, there are also some organizations that refuse to make changes when they are necessary. Going digital may require changing workflows, revamping processes or adjusting the brand image. Companies must evolve to meet the demands of constantly evolving technologies.
- Lack of a cohesive digital strategy: Organizations need an effective digital strategy that maps out the entire transformation. Markets, services and products all need to be evaluated and analyzed to gain a better understanding of what is needed and how all of the different segments can be integrated.
- Lack of support from upper management: Support for a digital transformation needs to start at the C-suite level. If the CEO, CMO, CIO and other C-suite executives cannot agree on the need to transform or the transformation strategy, progress will be severely hampered. Support includes making sure that resources are provided, such as technical infrastructure and qualified personnel.
- Failing to leverage data: A digital enterprise has the opportunity to collect massive amounts of data. This data can be leveraged to create personalized, engaging experiences for customers, but with the right analytics, data can also provide valuable insights that can be used for making informed decisions that are based on up-to-the-minute, hard data rather than decisions made on out-of-date historical information or "gut instincts." Without sophisticated analytics, however, managers may mistakenly believe that the digital transformation was in vain.
- Focusing on the technology rather than desired outcomes: Having the "latest and greatest" technology is nice. However, it is not always precisely what you need, and if it does not provide the required benefits, the confusion or user disenchantment can be counter-productive. It is also a mistake to assume that just because the competition adopted a particular technology, the same solution is universally ideal. By focusing first on the outcomes, it becomes easier to choose the exact mix of technologies needed to achieve those results.
Properly implemented, a digital transformation can improve a company's agility, competitiveness and profitability. Handled incorrectly, the move can alienate customers, decrease employee productivity and affect the ability to make sound business decisions. In the end, a digital transformation is no different from any other business challenge — it is just a matter of selecting the right tools and the best people to allow the company to evolve.