Pushing a rock uphill is a common metaphor for struggling to complete a task. Of course, to help complete that task you have several options—you can ask somebody to help you push, you can attach a winch from the top of the hill and pull, or pay a team to do it for you.
Major corporate projects (like digital transformation) that have stalled, however, can offer a different type of challenge; like putting a baby to sleep. Asking for help rarely works, reasoning with him works even less, and you can’t really hire somebody else to do that for you.
Your best bet is to be patient and continue your diligent work of walking, cooing, feeding, and generally just trying to maintain your sanity as you try to accomplish your goal.
Apart from the cooing and the feeding, trying to get your organization over the hump of digital transformation (DX) can be similarly frustrating to putting a baby to sleep. Key personnel may leave during the transition, teams can miss deadlines, resources may get pulled from you, and your stakeholders may even question whether this project is worth the effort.
Digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight—it takes time, commitment, and patience. And when things stall, it takes perseverance to push through to the finish line.
If you’re in the middle (or beginning!) of a digital transformation project that isn’t going as smoothly as you’d like, remember what’s at stake:
Simply put, businesses that do not embrace digital technologies in a holistic manner and apply them to all of their operations will soon be out of business.
In this post, we’ll shed some light on how digital transformation projects get stuck and ideas for how to get things rolling again.
Why Digital Transformation Projects Stall
The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicted DX spending to reach $1.7 trillion worldwide, up 42% from 2017. Even with the increase in funding, however 59% of companies are at a “digital impasse” and failing at complete digital transformation.
And if they fail, it’s not pretty. Fujitsu surveyed 1,625 global business leaders and reported that “1 in 4 organizations have experienced a failed digital project in the last two years - at an average cost of $655,000.”
Here are a few of the most common reasons DX projects run into roadblocks.
As we’ve mentioned before, DX will create new tasks and responsibilities that need to be filled. You can train a current employee, but you’ll also need to make sure they have adequate time to fulfill their new role, which may require organizational restructuring. Alternatively, you can hire new employees (or consultants) that already have the skills you need—this adds expense, of course, but may be worth it if you need to overcome the skills gap quickly.
Retraining employees takes time, as does recruiting new talent, yet you need the skills in order to come out of a transformation successfully.
Lack of ‘Digital Native’ Culture
Expanding on the point above, if your staff doesn’t buy into the reasons you’re asking them to change how they work, training the necessary skills can be a nightmare. It’s key to communicate that ‘the way things used to work’ simply doesn’t cut it if you want to stay in business. But DX is not just digitizing an analog process—it’s thinking about how to break things into processes, automating what you can, analyzing your results, and continually optimizing individual parts of the process.
Basically, it’s essential that the entire organization is able to see the big picture in terms of using digital to become customer centric, improve daily workflows, and create synergy for the organization. This helps acknowledge and nurture a digital culture in the workplace.
No Detailed Roadmap
How long will DX take? How will we know when we get there?
Employees who don’t understand the big picture and don’t have tactical direction for how their work will influence the outcome will slow DX. The plan should be clearly mapped from vision > strategy > objectives so that everyone involved knows their role and has the proper motivation. Without a detailed roadmap, you have a lot of people doing digital stuff without a lot of actual movement.
Yes, we did just mention that global spending on DX projects is up, but lack of budget is still a primary reason these types of projects stall. Typically, this means a separate budget with clear expectations of how it will fund specific outcomes.
Facing The Challenges Head On
Nearly every large company is attempting some form of DX, but 84% are failing. The major roadblock to DX is not understanding, and more importantly, planning for the challenges we’ve listed in this post. Without awareness of the challenges, it’s not possible to proactively plan a contingency or strategize how to react when things go sour.
The board of directors can also play a massive role in the success (or failure) of DX. Consider this statistic from HBR: Though 63% of executives say that the partnership of the board is critical to the success of transformation efforts, only 27% report that the board serves as an advocate for current strategies.
Getting started with DX is one thing, but persevering when things get tough is another. Have you encountered any of these challenges? We’d like to hear your stories, ideas, and suggestions about how to overcome obstacles—let us know in the comments section!