Most businesses across all industries have undergone, or are undergoing, some sort of digital transformation. This could be as simple as replacing certain offline tools with their online equivalents. It might mean large scale changes aimed at digitising all workflows, strategies, products and services. Or it could refer to implementing agile ways of working in an increasingly digital world.
Whilst the nature of digital transformation may differ from one business to the next, there are some similarities across the board when it comes to the hurdles you may face along the way. Here we’ll explore the main challenges of digital transformation.
1. Fear and resistance
Forget fancy equipment and whizzy online tools, the success of any digital transformation project relies on your people.
If your employees don’t understand what digital transformation is and how it can benefit them, they may be reluctant to embrace the change. In some cases, this can even lead to a high churn rate or a negative impact on team morale. That’s because education is key to the success of digital transformation. Before any changes are made, invest in digital courses for staff, run workshops to impart knowledge, increase understanding and address any concerns.
Digital transformation should also open an ongoing dialogue with employees. What’s working? What’s not working? How can digital tools make their lives easier or streamline existing processes? What opportunities can the team explore for working in smarter, better and more enjoyable ways?
Encouraging your staff to buy into the change and embrace it willingly will ensure that your digital transformation measures are successful and effective. It’ll also lead to happier employees!
2. Lack of digital leadership
Some companies make the mistake of outsourcing their entire digital transformation project to a third party, with little involvement from senior leaders in-house. Whilst it can be hugely beneficial to work with an external agency or digital transformation specialist, your in-house involvement is critical too.
Senior leaders need a good understanding of digital approaches, ways of working, cultural changes and expectations before you begin your transformation project. Without even a basic knowledge of cloud computing, agile ways of working and the benefits of a digital-first approach, your senior leaders may not have realistic expectations of how digital transformation will impact the business.
In fact, this applies to management at all levels of seniority. It’s not enough for the technology team to manage your digital transformation project alone. Every department needs to be involved and will be impacted in some way by a digitisation of your services. Managers need to be equipped with the answers to their teams’ questions and will also need ongoing training and skills support as your digital transformation projects take effect.
3. Too much, too soon
When it comes to digital transformation, it can be difficult to know where to start. Our advice is to start small. Don’t try to change everything at once. This creates a great deal of risk to your company and can unsettle existing projects and workflows, as well as the output of your workforce.
Focus on a couple of small key areas to begin with and test out the impact of digitising those services. This could be as simple as replacing the use of offline spreadsheets with an online collaborative tool like Google Sheets. For project management, you may encourage teams to use an open source tool like Trello or Jira in addition to their offline counterparts.
Using digital tools alongside traditional systems is a great way to bring employees up to speed without a negative impact on any projects in progress. Of course, you don’t want to duplicate any work, so think about which bits will be easy to move into an online space and which are safest left as they are.
As staff begin to use these tools day to day, their ability and confidence will grow organically. This can be a far more successful way of implementing digital transformation than forcing a large scale change to all systems and tools at once.
4. Legacy systems
For large, established companies in particular, a big challenge of digital transformation is your technology stack. If your online offering was built on a closed source proprietary platform, it’s going to be a bigger challenge to modernise it.
Many legacy systems can only be updated by the company who built them. This is great news for your provider as it means you’re effectively tied in to their service but it’s not ideal for you. The first step is to check your contract and understand the rules around exiting your existing agreement. It could be costly in the short-term but it’s a fundamental requirement for successful digital transformation.
Sometimes, the best option is to rebuild your entire platform from scratch. This may sound daunting but with the right technology expertise and an agile approach, it’s less risky and arduous as you may think!
Speak to a few open source technology providers and full stack development companies to get a sense of how they would approach digital transformation for legacy systems (and the cost involved). This will help you work out the best starting place for your business.
Digital Detox and digital transformation
At Digital Detox, we apply a human-centered approach to digital design. This means, we work around what people need and then use technology to enable solutions to their problems. If you have an idea, challenge or opportunity to discuss, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch and we can take you through some examples of our work and learn more about what you need.