21 Jan 2019

In a recent article, Gartner shared insights on how companies can fight digital transformation fatigue. For many enterprise leaders, transforming their organization has been an experience that has left teams, from the top down, hesitant to pursue the rest of the journey.

Digital transformation is a concept that has been around since the late 1990s. Almost two decades later, new technological advances have spawned disruption throughout enterprises causing companies to act fast and catch up two the digital wave (or wash out). The mounting pressure to transform is not just a trend, but a warning call of necessity and the message is loud and clear: Failure to act will have an extreme impact on the organization's bottom line future.

This rapid pace of change has allowed some organizations to succeed in the current technological revolution while others have struggled to make inroads. So much so, the term "digital transformation fatigue" has started to take an unfortunate shape. It's necessary to grasp the look an feel of a tried-and-true digital transformation to understand the significance of the fatigue.

Digital transformation is the successful integration of digitization into the areas of a business, or process, that intrinsically changes many or all areas of a corporation and its markets that may affect their customer base. In many cases, this shift changes how an organization operates and can increase the value delivered to clients, constituents, and stakeholders. Aside from the "technical aspect," effective digital transformations can alter company culture and requires employees, team, and organizations to continually shift in the direction of change by experimenting, failing, and trying again.

Unfortunately, the cyclical process of trial and error on the road to digital success can often give birth to frustration and organizational exhaustion for all involved. I've found that many organizations make three critical mistakes when starting the process which often leads to digital transformation fatigue.

They don't establish an Appropriate Strategic Focus

For many leaders, a poorly calibrated strategic focus almost always begins with one goal in mind: profitability. Of course, a primary business goal for all organizations is making a profit. However, this mindset is highly traditional in scope. If businesses are looking for digital maturation, they cannot deploy conventional methods to only increase return on investment by a few extra thousand dollars. Leaders must think beyond the bottom line and ideate on the value digital technology will bring to their company’s overall goals.

They Are Driven by Fear

Regrettably, fear is often the catalyst for many organizations as they start to unravel the true inner workings of their organization and navigate how a digital strategy can amplify their product offerings and solutions. “Will we fail?” “We will lose customers?” “Will our competitors beat us to the punch?” “What’s our expected profit and loss by taking this risk?” In truth, their apprehension is warranted.

A recent study by McKinsey & Company disclosed that large investments in new technologies could often be viewed as a change that impacts an organization negatively. Some teams even revealed that their digital efforts dismantled the company's core products and services. While their trepidation in this respect is normal, the reasons the implementation of a new technology does not go deeper than profit and loss. The process fails because often, organizations are unaware of the changes needed to take place for the transition to occur. This lack of clarity can cause uncertainty and fear. That fear has the potential to ruin the process before it begins.

By analyzing trends in their respective industries, companies can reduce fear by forecasting which technologies will eventually permeate their business and assessing how their competitors are performing. Additionally, creating a proof of concept is always a good idea.

They Implement the Wrong Technology

One of the impediments on the road to innovation occurs when the wrong technology is targeted for the change. In many cases, missing this target is where transformations go awry, making it increasingly important for leaders to lay the foundational groundwork for their team.

Leaders must make a concerted effort to educate their team on the challenges in digital transformation they are currently experiencing. The effort focuses on detailing why new technology is needed; appropriating research correctly, testing and ensuring company buy-in (from the ground up). Otherwise, the processes undertaken can turn into a mistake. Failing to take the right steps at the beginning of the process will lead to over-investment and organizational "burn out" before value is created.

While Gartner has offered their resolutions to digital fatigue, there are a few observations I’ve made over the years that may prove helpful, no matter where a company is on their journey:

  • The hard truth about digital transformation is that it's happening every day. Staying abreast of the changes happening within your industry allows you to see what companies are getting it right and wrong. Their blueprint can provide direction what action to take and helps make the tasks more feasible
  • When left unchecked, digital fatigue can embed itself within your company culture and create a sentiment that leaves your team less engaged with each project. Make sure your team is educated on why the change is necessary, understand why they are needed for the change to occur and are equipped with the tools and resources they need to make the change happen.
  • Digital transformation is not a sprint - it's a marathon. If companies want to get the most from a digital transformation, they must constantly reassess their ever-changing market and adjust their approach accordingly.

Remember this, whether ready or not, your industry and competitors are finding a way to digitize their business and the transform its delivery.

How will you embrace change in the year ahead?

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