Why does digital transformation fail?
Back in 2018, digital transformation was on everyone’s to do list.
Every board and executive team had identified that digital transformation was in their top 5 things for the next 3 years.
What went wrong with your digital transformation?
Why is it that very few organisations have been able to make the leap and action their digital transformation dreams?
We’ve met a lot of organisations that have an aspiration for digital transformation. There are myriad reasons why their digital transformation program didn’t get delivered.
When you distil the cause, the most common barrier in them not achieving their goals is communication.
It is very hard for businesses to articulate exactly what digital transformation means for them.
Digital transformation starts in the Boardroom, not the IT department
The core of the issue comes from the deep seated perception that digital transformation is fundamentally an IT issue.
On top of this, it is very clear that not everyone speaks the same language when it comes to data. Everyone sees data in a slightly different way and therefore they talk about it differently. Ask 100 executives to give you a definition of a data structure and you’ll likely get 100 answers.
It’s very common then for there to be a mismatch in what value lies within the data.
But why does digital transformation fail?
An architectural metaphor
If you think about understanding data in the same way an architect understands architectural drawings.
Everyone knows that you have plans drawn up when you are constructing a building. These are typically done by a draughtsman or an architect. All the construction professionals and builders can understand the drawings and know how to interpret them. There is a common method on how to interpret them.
Even non-technical people can understand some of the drawings, like the elevations or plans. But within a complete set of architectural plans, there are a lot of drawings that are hard to understand for the layperson.
Are you the Data Whisperer?
I think the same is the case for data.
We all know we collect lots of data within our organisations. We have customer data, finance data, HR data, sales data, marketing data and lots more. Most executives know this and they would understand the data within each category.
What’s really difficult for a lot of people to truly comprehend is how all that data can be blended together in a particular way to become more valuable and informative than it is on its own. The sum of the parts, if you will.
We all know that it can be done because we’ve seen and heard the amazing success stories. But there is a barrier in being able to visualise how it could happen in our own firm.
That’s what I believe is the biggest single barrier in organisations achieving digital transformation.
No one knows why it won’t work, because no one owns it
Organisations we work with come to us with this very challenge.
Exacerbated why they can’t reach their digital transformation goals. Everything else seems to be going to plan, yet this project keeps on coming off the rails.
Worst of all is they simply can’t put their finger on why it’s failing. There’s nothing obvious, rather it’s a death by a thousand cuts. There’s a technical hiccup, a resource issue there, a data connectivity problem that slows down productionisation, and so on
After spending many years helping organisations get over these hurdles, I can boil it down to a communication problem.
Every organisation collectively knows what they want to achieve with digital transformation.
They also have the majority of the skills to make it happen. Unfortunately, they are each talking in a language the others don’t understand.
We need a Babel Fish for the data world
For example, the board want to achieve interactive live KPI dashboards and they believe that consolidating their key operations data sources into a single platform and providing an organisation wide analytics platform to help operational and managerial teams be more efficient or effective.
But this is where the barrier comes up. A lot of people don’t understand what is possible with data analytics and data visualisation. They are limited by what they know. Also, many are not aware of what data is available to access or even if the data exists.
Perhaps the most obvious thing is that most organisations don’t have a dedicated team to create a data analytics platform. There is typically an IT team and an executive team but there is no single group of people with the right mix of technical skills to create what the organisation so desperately need.
Why does digital transformation fail?
We let communication get in the way!
Sadly, many firms that do have a dedicated analytics team often struggle to know what to use them for! Poor communication raises its ugly head, even in an established data analytics environment.
That shouldn’t mean you abandon your digital transformation goals because you don’t have everyone on the same page.
In the last three or four years, we have seen a really keen desire for many organisations to step up and embrace digital transformation only to be tripped over repeatedly as they fair in their quest to achieve, what I believe was a poorly articulated objective.
The solution? Perhaps the key to success is a well articulated objective.