Avoiding common digital change and transformation mistakes
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Avoiding common digital change and transformation project mistakes

Published 01/02/2019

Avoiding common digital change and transformation project mistakes

Digital change and transformation projects can fail for many reasons. Below are some causes of project failure which can be avoided.

Not appreciating the full scope of what change can offer to the business

Perhaps the most important point about transformation, is the fact that it’s not simply a project and there is no true end state for companies to reach. It is about rebuilding businesses from the ground up, to have the agility to deal, not just with current competitors but to remain resilient in the face of future disruption. 

That can mean taking a page out of the Lean playbook – rapidly iterating; focusing on real customer needs; and gearing the organisation as a whole to be more responsive to change.

Part of this comes through breaking down silos and redefining roles. “Until your company realizes how far and wide technology and digital transformation ultimately reaches within your organization, you will be making [mistakes],” writes Daniel Newman, CEO of Broadsuite Media Group in Forbes. 

Real change means real work on the backend – and not just a superficial redesign.

Lack of planning incorporating all parts of the business

Digital Transformation requires detailed, organisation-wide planning for it to be fully successful.

“A common mistake is that change management and business change activities are often either an after-thought or very last minute,” says Taryn Nixon, Digital Transformation Consultant at Minttulip Limited. “More often than not this can incur additional costs if these details were not originally factored in.”

A clear roadmap is needed in order to guide the way forward, defining the relevant requirements, opportunities and outcomes. “IT can struggle to understand what exactly it is that change management does, why they are on the project and what benefit will come from these activities,” notes Taryn. The strategy, its goals and benefits need to be clearly communicated to all parties and it needs to be flexible enough to meet new challenges as they arise. 

Not getting employee buy-in

“One of the biggest misunderstandings within digital transformation projects is that organisations think or believe that they have enough time to get things done,” she says. “All too often, it’s too late and the people side of transformation isn’t factored in until the last minute. Often a transformation projects are likened to an IT rollout of new software, and the people side of the change is only understood after the software is deployed – with issues including a lack of knowledge of how to use it and a lack of communication and the training requirements needed, and so on.”

For change to be effective the workforce needs to be convinced of its importance and its necessity. If staff are not on board or are disengaged then the process will be far harder and far more likely to fail. Ensure that there is regular communication, leaders to listen to feedback and concerns, and provide ongoing support before, during and, most importantly, after the project has been implemented (including training where needed).

Not working together

Within the framework of transformation projects there should be scope for managers to be empowered to test new ideas. This will boast employee buy in and also promote the opportunities that transformation projects can offer. 

Businesses should accept that some initiatives will fail and that, as long as they can learn from this, then nothing has been lost. 

Just as important is the fact that the team must work together as a cohesive whole. “[Project managers and change managers] sit beside one another and each stream should support each function,” comments Taryn. “What can happen is that one tries to overpower the other. The result is a potential disconnect between the IT function and the people side of the transformation, which can create a feeling of swimming upstream when trying to complete a piece of work.” 

Digital transformation is by no means simple and disruption presents an existential threat to companies in all sectors. If incumbents are able to embrace customer-centricity and innovative working practices, however, then they’re well placed to beat new competitors. 


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