If you’ve been following my work in recent years, you know I’m a big believer in digital transformation. The companies that fail to adapt and evolve to meet the needs of today’s digital consumers and marketplace are quickly falling to the wayside. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, digital transformation is no longer an option—it’s a necessity. The problem is, saying you’re going to do a “digital transformation” isn’t enough—it’s a lot harder than it looks. What we’ve found is that many companies aren’t doing digital transformation wisely. In the Futurum Digital Transformation Index we found that many companies face roadblocks and don’t know how to overcome them. As we observe them, we find many digital transformation mistakes that need to be avoided to ensure success in the modern marketplace.
Below are a few of the biggest digital transformation mistakes I’ve seen, and how to avoid them.
“We don’t know what we’re doing.” By far, one of the largest digital transformation mistakes today is an overall lack of consensus of what digital transformation is, and what’s it’s trying to achieve for the company. Digital transformation is meant to improve customer experience and efficiency. But it can’t do that without being strategically incorporated into a company’s business goals. Adopting technology for the sake of adopting technology is not digital transformation. Adopting technology to achieve specific goals is.
Strategy needs to start at the top and then needs to be sold to the entire company. Every employee needs to understand what they are doing, why it’s important how it fits into the overall goals. Too often, leaders develop strategy, but that doesn’t get passed down. Which leads me to the next digital transformation mistake.
We silo the transformation. Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all time thing.” And I know what you’re thinking, we aren’t talking about football here. You’re right, but I think we can tweak this quote to say digital transformation is not a one time thing, it’s an all time thing. The point is, digital transformation is not a technology issue, it’s a company issue. It’s a brand issue. It’s a marketing issue, a sales issue, and an HR issue. Until your company realizes how far and wide technology and digital transformation ultimately reaches within your organization, you will be making digital transformation mistakes.
We fail to redefine roles and create new ones. Digital transformation is changing everything in our companies, and we need to change along with it. That means taking a look at old roles and redefining what our employees need to do to efficiency and effectively serve in today’s marketplace. We see this especially with roles like CMO and CIO, who are dealing with a huge identity crisis right now. They’re seeing everything they went to school for being tossed out the window, and they’re being charged with creating digital strategy for technologies they or may not even understand. Failing to acknowledge this skill/knowledge gap is a digital transformation mistake. We need to redefine positions and look at them through a digitally transformed lense. You will not succeed in today’s marketplace with yesterday’s job descriptions.
We get too excited. Technology is cool! It does so many amazing things! But that doesn’t mean we need to adopt it within our company. One of the biggest digital transformation mistakes I see today is companies adopting popular technologies because they think they’re supposed to, when in actuality those technologies have no strategic for their company at all. During digital transformation it is possible to get disrupted by the wrong things. Start small. Be strategic. Don’t blow it.
We fail to listen to the data. Another digital transformation mistake I see almost daily is companies collecting vast amounts of data and failing to use it. Either upper management isn’t ready to make data-backed decisions, or someone doesn’t agree with the direction the data is telling them to go. Listen: I am a big believer in common sense. I would never promote mindlessly adopting business strategies because “AI said so.” But I do think companies miss a huge opportunity for success when they fail to use the data they’re collecting in meaningful ways. The data is valuable. Use it–that’s what it’s there for!
We get overwhelmed. Digital transformation is not as simple as installing new software on your team’s computers. It’s not something that can be done in a day—or a year. In fact, it’s not something that will ever be done at all considering how quickly technology is changing. Trying to bite off too much too soon will lead to overwhelm and discouragement. The most important part of the process is to create a firm digital transformation strategy that guides you intelligently through the digital transformation process. Every technology you adopt will impact every department in your enterprise in some way. It will change processes, priorities, positions—you name it. I can’t stress this enough: think these things through before you even start the digital transformation process.
As I said above, digital transformation is no longer an option. It’s a necessity. But doing digital transformation right is also essential. A majority of companies today aren’t seeing their goals met through digital transformation. That means either they don’t understand what technology is here to do, or they aren’t planning strategically to incorporate it. Yes, there are digital transformation mistakes to avoid. But the good news is you can avoid them by planning well, being smart, and investing into strategic digital transformation initiatives.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.