Did you know that digital transformation is considered a high-risk working activity by senior leaders? And with good reason – data shows that 70% of digital transformation initiatives fall short of their goals. In the UK, this means up to 10 billion pounds spent last year on these initiatives was wasted.

Undertaking digital transformation doesn’t mean customer experience improves automatically. The technology involved only offers opportunity for organisational improvement when research, planning, and all other aspects of the transformation are given thorough consideration.

Although not an exhaustive list, the following are five key factors to keep in mind before commencing any successful digital transformation journey.


1) You already have internal experts – use them!

New technologies can fail to improve organisational productivity because intimate insider knowledge has been overlooked.

Organisations are often compelled to bring in external consultants who are keen to apply their transformational tools in the name of “best practice”. Instead of defaulting to external experts entirely, you should be leveraging the skills, knowledge and expertise of your key staff who already have a wealth of knowledge about your organisation.

External consultants unquestionably do bring value, tools, and techniques to accelerate and focus delivery, but you can’t beat motivated insiders who have an intimate knowledge of what your customers want.


2) Decide exactly what you want before you buy something

To deliver successful digital transformation, your purchasing of technology should align with your medium to long term organisational strategy, not with what your neighbour did last year. Only after evaluating this should consideration be given for what technology to adopt. The best combination of tools will vary depending on your vision for the future.

There isn’t one singular digital tool that will deliver speed or innovation if that’s the desired goal. The best combination of tools for a given organisation will vary from one vision to another.


3) Want to improve customer experience? Ask them!

Improving customer satisfaction and organisation efficiency are common digital transformation goals. Narrowing down how to best achieve this is simple: ask.

Gathering in-depth input from customers and staff enables you to build direct feedback into the transformation from those most affected by it. For example, ask customers to identify strengths and weaknesses of a department, and have relevant stakeholders establish needs and priorities. You then build this input into your transformation, breaking the project down into deliverable phases depending on improvement urgency and risk.

What’s the best way to know what needs altering and how it should be improved? Obtain extensive feedback from customers and stakeholders!


4) Remember, your employees are scared of being replaced

If employees believe something new threatens their job security or prospects, they will resist any change. After all, if the change fails, management will abandon the effort and their jobs will be saved!

It’s critical that leaders recognise and address replacement fears by encouraging mindset shift. Instead of panicking about being replaced, your employees should be focused on upgrading their skillsets to keep up with technological advancement. Digital transformation is an opportunity to do just that, training your workforce to meet future working practices and customer expectations.

However, while organisations may communicate digital transformation changes to staff, they often fail to actually train their employees appropriately. This isn’t much of a problem for tech-savvy staff, but not everyone is tech-savvy!

To mitigate this, ask your employees to reflect on their unique contributions to the organisation. They can then connect those strengths to the digital transformation process and ideally take charge of these aspects. This gives employees control over how digital transformation unfolds, framing new technology as a means for employees to become even better at their jobs.


5) Learn from start-up culture – cut out the middle man!

All successful technology start-ups adopt similar habits: quick decision-making, rapid deployment, and minimal bottlenecks between the core workforce and leadership.

Successful digital transformation projects follow similar principles. Changes need to be quickly developed, implemented, and adjusted in response to feedback. Everyone in the organisation needs to get involved. Naturally, traditional hierarchies can get in the way, leading to friction and delays.

Experimentation is unavoidable when undergoing digital transformation. You can imagine the frustration with every decision having to trickle through multiple management bottlenecks, even for small changes and fixes that can be done in minutes. Now imagine payoffs only occurring after a large part of the organisation switches to the new technology. With so much bureaucracy, it’s no wonder a lot of digital transformation projects fail to deliver!

When delivering transformation, it’s best to keep a direct line of communication between frontline staff and executives. As so many technology solutions can be customised, there is a more urgent need for agility and ongoing development between all layers of the organisation. Let the project team get to work!