5 misconceptions which ruin digital transformation

Why is digital transformation failing to deliver on its promises?  Simon Kent explains how to break the misconceptions of digital transformation and move ahead in a positive direction.

Digital transformation is exciting and promises so much.  Yet many businesses are failing to capitalise.  The problem is that beyond the pomp and hype, digital transformation is a vaguely defined term which is deeply misunderstood.  Too many people in the business world are pretending they know what it is and this ignorance means little progress is being made.  Digital transformation is in danger of becoming a dud unless knowledge and understanding improve.

Here are the top five misconceptions I’ve noticed while working on digital transformation projects.  I also explain how to change perspective and begin unlocking the potential of digital transformation.     

Digital transformation misconception #1
It’s just about technology

Yes, technology is clearly a critical component in digital transformation.  But it’s not an “IT” problem.  This is why many digital transformation endeavours have failed because it has been handed to the IT department, which inherently can’t change the culture of business on its own.  It’s a company-wide issue and must be treated as such.

Involve more stakeholders.  Encourage honesty and communication.  What does the business need to work more effectively? What can tech do to offer a competitive advantage? Then look at what’s possible given budgets, resources and technological restraints. Technology is an enabler of business capabilities that drive business outcomes and business has opportunities to create competitive advantage through technological innovations, but that requires and affects business – it’s people, processes, relationships, customers, suppliers… it’s entire ecosystem.  

Digital transformation misconception #2
You can buy digital transformation

It isn’t about buying the latest tech and expecting miracles.  In fact, buying more technology can actually stifle the transformation process because it adds layers of complexity.  Most businesses are built on (and heavily reliant) on a legacy of IT assets contracted and configured in an ad-hoc way.  This has created a mess that is expensive and time consuming to manage.  Adding tech won’t eliminate this problem and may actually make it worse.

Prioritise technology that consolidates systems and allows you to replace multiple legacy tools.  Consider that anything new added to the IT estate must be flexible, compatible and be easy to replace if it becomes a barrier to further improvements.

Digital transformation misconception #3
It will ‘fix IT’

If you have siloed IT that works in an elevated position far removed from the realities of the businesses, digital transformation isn’t a cure-all. In fact, it won’t help at all, it will just as likely to add additional pressures, leading to further ill-feeling and separation between business and IT. 

You need to fix those cultural problems first.  The business needs to understand the importance of IT.  IT must accept its role and the need to converge its thinking with the business.  You need to see real evidence of true IT-business convergence before you can take the next step of digital transformation. 

Digital transformation misconception #4
It has an end point

One of the key tenets of digital transformation is that it signals a fresh approach to designing, delivering and supporting business technology and IT services.  Digital transformation isn’t a ‘project’ with a definitive beginning and ending. 

It’s about embedding IT so deeply with the business that one no longer sees the division between technology and business.  It’s about converging our goals and the whole business working as if it’s a technology business.

Digital transformation Misconception #5
It’s a ‘big bang’ issue

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Similarly, you can’t expect to change the culture of business technology overnight.  Digital transformation isn’t a project.  It’s about changing the culture of technology within business. 

Digital transformation happens in small increments.  It happens when IT teams speak to operation leaders and implements a positive change based on the feedback received.  It’s about turning off services no longer needed – a fact gleaned from speaking to people as much as analysing the stats.  It happens when someone in IT no longer has a them/us attitude to others within the business, and when their colleagues in turn feel comfortable enough to have a conversation about their technology needs. It happens when we finally acknowledge that when IT and business work together then competitive advantage is possible and continuous, flexible business transformation is enabled. 

Download our 8-Steps to Achieving Digital Transformation Success: The basics holding organisations back and how to overcome them.

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