5 sure-fire ways to derail a digital transformation strategy

For the CIO, it is simple. Digital transformation is the company’s best hope of staying relevant with their customers. History is littered with companies that let inertia overcome them – companies that thought they were safe against disruption.

IT and developer staff also understand its importance. As ever though, the challenge has been to make the case throughout the organisation. When embarking on a digital transformation initiative, these three things are crucial:

 Be ambitious and honest — a company must know why it is embarking on digital transformation, and be transparent about the motives for the endeavour. Is it just to bring efficiencies, or is this a chance to drive innovation and adopt new working practices? What aspect of digital transformation will they deliver – the term needs defining for their organisation and its vision.

>See also: 5 tips for CIOs leading digital transformation

 Set a timescale — it is essential that these projects have clear milestones and an end-point to avoid drift and needless delay.

 Embrace anxiety — digital transformation is a non-trivial process, and enterprises should recognise that there will be moments when doubt sets in. Every company that has been through the process has faced and overcome difficult challenges. And often this has been done by reconciling the fact that digital transformation can be moveable and continuous.

But once a firm has committed to digital transformation, things can go south pretty quickly. Here are five warning signs that if left unaddressed will almost certainly result in failure.

1. Poorly-defined objectives — CIOs must understand why they are doing this and what they are hoping to achieve. If they do not have a clear vision from the outset, the whole project will be put in jeopardy. Companies should look at what their competitors are doing, and ask how they will make a real difference to the market once the project is complete.

>See also: The digital ecosystem: IT infrastructure now on CEO’s agenda

2. Expecting staff to just “be able to do it” — Existing employees are a company’s greatest asset and its one true competitive advantage. But are they up to the task of executing the digital transformation?

Skills deficiencies cannot be left to go unchecked, so it’s vital technical staff are assessed and investment made to sure-up any gaps in their knowledge. Assuming they can already meet the ambitions of the company is a very risky policy.

3. Lack of communication — Management, sometimes fearing the backlash to change, may choose to shy away from communicating its vision clearly and purposely. For transformation to work, employees must buy into the vision and understand why it’s so vital.

4. Ignoring the talent at their disposal — Companies that fail to champion the experts within their organisation lose key partners and internal advocates in the digital journey. These talented individuals should be encouraged to train up others on the new practices and opportunities that the transformation has opened up.

>See alsoA guide for CIOs: how to drive digital business and mobility

5. Letting challenges bring down the team – Digital transformation is an expensive and risky process with a lot riding on it.

If CIOs do not work to build a community and culture within the organisation that champions those making serious sacrifice and effort, they will find deadlines slip and morale drops. They must try their best to keep up the energy, especially amongst those at the centre making difficult decisions.

All digital transformation projects will face friction, and that’s why it’s important that perspective is maintained, milestones are celebrated and the path to the goal is clear.


Sourced by Julian Wragg, VP EMEA & APAC of Pluralsight


The UK’s largest conference for tech leadershipTechLeaders Summit, returns on 14 September with 40+ top execs signed up to speak about the challenges and opportunities surrounding the most disruptive innovations facing the enterprise today. Secure your place at this prestigious summit by registering here

Avatar photo

Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

Related Topics

Digital Transformation