Digital transformation – why is it so hard?

Digital transformation – why is it so hard?

The rather sobering response to this question is because many leaders are making it more difficult than it should be. We know from countless surveys and studies that a high percentage of digital transformation projects stall or fail. Rialto Consultancy reckons one of the main reasons for this is because there has been too much emphasis placed on the ‘digital’ rather than ‘transformation’.

Most leaders in non-tech companies are probably more familiar with transformation projects than digital ones. This has led many of them to focus on the digital strategy and assume the transformation part will follow. But this approach is never going to result in a successful evolution.

This view is backed up by a study from Capita which reveals the folly of too much emphasis on technology. In The Case for Workforce-led Transformation whitepaper, more than 200 HR leaders at companies employing more than 100 people reported that their organisations have primarily focused on technology within their digital transformation programmes in terms of resource, investment and time. Only one third felt that culture and people had been a key focus.

Time to change

It’s time for leaders to change the narrative on digital transformation and put culture and people ahead of technology. They need to create the right culture for transformation – as they would in any change project – and ensure their people are integrated in the process and understand the mission.

Digital transformation represents one of the biggest and deepest change programmes that some organisations have ever faced and it can’t be under-estimated. In many instances, it touches every part of a every business so, of course, is going to bring a significant number of challenges. Organisations must learn from others and stop repeating the mistake of placing technology before people.

Problems also seem to be rooted in the silo-based mentality that has existed in too many companies for too long. The far-reaching nature that digital transformation brings exposes the risks of departments and a lack of joined-up thinking within firms.

Ultimately, there is only one direction in which to look to address the failings of digital transformation programmes: the top. Leaders need to recognise there is only a limited window of time left and complex, digital transformation should be approached like any other major change programme. They must ensure that skills, culture and talent not only is moved to the top of the corporate agenda, but that they remain there throughout the digital journey and beyond.

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