Busting five myths of digital transformation

It’s hard to deny the increasing uptake of digital transformation projects across businesses. A recent IDG study reports that 89% have, or plan to, invest in digital initiatives this year. Yet, despite the hype around digital transformation, the path to implementing it isn’t always smooth. Taking on such wide scale initiatives can be a daunting prospect for businesses, with myths and misinformation around digital projects leading many to be hesitant.

If a company cannot embrace the changing digital landscape, they risk being overtaken by the competition. In a 2018 survey, the majority of CIOs believed those who do not keep up with digital innovation would last less than four years before going out of business or being bought by a competitor – caused by a downward spiral of declining customer experience, loss of customers and a fall in revenue and resources. As the recent news about HMV and House of Fraser going into administration shows, companies of all sizes will pay the price if they cannot keep up with the times.

With so much at stake, it’s no surprise that navigating the digital revolution can seem a formidable task. Rather than fear it, however, businesses big and small should realise that adopting digital initiatives is the only way forward in an increasingly digital world. When putting a plan in place, decision makers can put their mind at rest with the following busted myths about digital transformation:

Myth #1: “Digital transformation means spending big”

According to an IDC estimate, enterprises will spend more than $2 trillion on digital transformation projects in 2022. It’s unrealistic to expect smaller businesses to compete with this sort of spending, but the key is realising that money doesn’t always equal success. In fact, 88% of CIOs in a recent survey have admitted that a digital transformation project has failed, been delayed or reduced in scope. Aimlessly investing money into digital projects is clearly not the answer – it’s not the amount of money spent that businesses should focus on, but how it’s spent.

The past ten years or so have actually seen something of a democratisation when it comes to digital innovation. Thanks to an increase in open source, cloud-based technologies and subscription pricing models, it’s now easier for businesses of every size to implement innovative tools and technologies.

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Myth #2: “We can’t digitise because we don’t have the resources needed to do so”

In the 2018 survey of digital decision makers mentioned above, 95% believed digital transformation can seem “an insurmountable task”, and a lack of resources is often quoted as one of the factors affecting a company’s ability to digitally transform. Interestingly however, those that feel ‘resource-constrained’ are usually quite agile, as they’re perhaps not so constrained by internal processes or large legacy technology estates. Such businesses can actually implement new technologies, or replace old ones, easier than they think, making use of the wide variety of accessible learning materials, examples and information out there today.

Myth #3: “Customers don’t see digital as a priority”

This may have been the case a few years ago, but not today. Customers – whether consumers or other businesses – now expect a reliable, personalised service from each company they interact with. Thanks to innovation in digital marketing and an increase in internet giants offering multi-channel engagement, customers want to be able to interact with businesses via their most convenient platform. More often than not, if a customer can’t communicate with you on their terms, they’ll take their business elsewhere. Regardless of who you’re selling to, seamless customer engagement is the way to beat the competition, and in today’s market, digital is the only realistic means of achieving it.

Myth #4: “We can’t justify a digital overhaul as we don’t have enough customers”

This is a common belief holding businesses back. The important thing to remember is that it can only take a small amount of time for customer interactions to skyrocket. If you look at some of the biggest players in the digital game today, many were founded in the last decade or two. This is not to say that every business will become an overnight sensation, but it’s important to factor in scalability and reliability. Businesses must invest in tools that can quickly meet unexpected increases in demand, as well as unforeseen circumstances, such as employees unexpectedly working remotely or a ransomware attack on company files. Preparing for such instances is essential – regardless of how many customers a business has.

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Myth #5: “We can’t innovate because we’d have to retrain our workforce”

It’s not unreasonable for businesses to associate digital transformation with the need to reskill employees. Gartner’s prediction that nearly 80% of organisational skills will have to be revisited due to digital transformation by 2022 is worrying, to say the least. However, the answer to adapting your workforce to the new digital landscape is to innovate from the ‘bottom up’. Rather than focusing on technological advancements and waiting for their workforces to catch up, businesses should deploy technologies that suit the skills employees already have. There are already a wealth of tools and systems that make implementing new technology easier – from programming languages to cloud-based technologies or security systems. By investing in new technology that suits the skills and tools readily available, businesses are not faced with the possibility of making major technology changes – then wondering why their employees aren’t equipped to deal with them.

Forging a digital path? It’s time to change perspective

It’s understandable to approach digital transformation with caution – after all, it’s an important process that requires patience, time and serious thought. Ultimately, however, the obstacles along the way are not as big or as scary as they seem. Rather than viewing digital transformation as a costly, time-consuming project destined to fail, many businesses will benefit from taking a step back and seeing technology as an enabler, not something to fear. Regardless of size, any business can implement a successful digital transformation initiative – one that will see a seamless employee and end-user experience follow in its wake.

Written by Perry Krug, Architect, Office of the CTO, at Couchbase

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