The 10 pitfalls of digital transformation – #1: The wrong view


The concept of moving to a ‘digital’ world can be compared to the proverb of the ‘four blind men and an elephant’, which sees each of the four touch the animal to learn what it is like. But as each feels only a single different part, such as the ear or a tusk, before comparing notes, they find that they are in complete disagreement about the nature of an elephant. In the same way, if you were to ask a group of people individually what ‘digital’ means to them, you would probably get unique and perhaps disparate answers from each one of them. But if you brought this same group together they would most likely wholeheartedly agree with each other’s view of ‘digital’. Digital transformation is this paradox of being so all-encompassing and yet unique.

Let’s start by being very clear that the idea of digital transformation is not a fad, or an IT industry catch phrase – but a reality. It is extremely disruptive, for sure, but there is increasingly evidence that the pain is worth the gain. We’ve seen confirmed recently in a report by Gartner that more and more CEOs are personally choosing to lead their companies through this period of change. And the change can be far-reaching – we have seen digital change all aspects of business, from the way that companies engage with their customers, to how they function effectively and even changes in their entire business models.

Since joining Fujitsu six months ago, I have been inspired by the extensive discussions I have held with customers. I want to share what I have learned in a series of blog posts. My goal is to discuss some of the biggest roadblocks that I have identified that are standing in the way of successful digital transformations.

Let me start by highlighting a fundamental error that will doom your digital transformation project to failure unless you recognize and address it early in the process. That mistake is to take the wrong view of what digital transformation actually is and what it could be. Many of the ‘digital transformations’ that I am seeing today are in fact just a set of discrete programs designed to automate certain processes, or merely the creation of a flashy website or mobile app. There are just a few companies that have truly grasped the meaning and potential of digital – and it is these companies that are embracing its power and becoming leaders in their respective fields.

This clearly highlights the fact that digital is something that should be planned as an enterprise-wide phenomenon, rather than as an unconnected set of programs. In addition, it is clear that digital transformations need to be initiated with the right mindset, that is by thinking of digital in terms of something that can lead to ‘tangible business success’ rather than as just another technology project. I strongly believe that digital should always be measured in terms of business outcomes and not by way of milestones.

I’d just like to reiterate this important fact: A digital transformation project should NOT be an attempt to introduce new technology simply for the sake of new technology. This is the wrong view. You need a business reason, a relevance – and you need company-wide recognition.

With corporate leadership on digital transformation increasingly coming from the top, it is even more important for organizations to confirm that they are taking the right approach and understand what they want to achieve. As organizations prepare to embrace new, faster ways of doing business thanks to the digitalization of their established business processes, and the adoption of new ways of running their company – so they should also recognize that there is little value in moving faster than ever if you’re going in the wrong direction.

16148_FTS_Blog-Infographics_Mountain_featThere’s probably going to be an element of resistance within an organization – which is quite normal, actually. Businesses that fail to overcome this resistance will find that their projects come unstuck and end up simply focused on updating some underlying technology. Of course the resulting outcome is not the positively disruptive influence that was first promised, proving futurologist HG Wells right when he said: “The path of least resistance is the path of the loser.”

Despite the terrible trio of fear, uncertainty and doubt, a winning project is one that has a clear goal of driving change within your organization – whether this is opening new channels to market, or overhauling existing business practices to ensure they benefit from digitalization and the accelerated speed of doing business that it brings. In my next post, I’ll be outlining why, when it comes to digital transformation, it’s more important than ever to know what success looks like.

Have you missed some of my blog series on avoiding the 10 pitfalls of digital transformation? If so please read the full series here:

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