Avoiding Failure In Digital Transformation Journeys

Our Roundtable Sessions are invite-only events hosted by peers for peers that bring together a select group of senior IT leaders from across industries for topic-driven, intimate, dialog on current trends and topics. We hosted this Session featuring a group of CXOs and other IT executives. The group met remotely to discuss avoiding failures in digital transformation journeys, led by the EVP and CTO for a financial services firm. This Session was sponsored by Virtana.

May 12, 2021

Digitally transforming various aspects of a business has become a need-of-the-hour in the post-pandemic world. From digitizing your customer touchpoints to automating day-to-day workflows, from moving to the cloud to investing in remote collaboration software, there are many digital transformation avenues to explore. But a digital transformation journey isn’t as easy as onboarding a third-party provider and training your workforce. There is a lot that can go wrong, and steps must be taken to prevent that.  

Challenges facing digital transformation efforts

A CIO said that they have a lot of turnover in their leadership, making it hard to get any substantial leadership commitment to a project. Many leaders don’t show interest in a project because it started months before they arrived, so they can’t claim its success. Lacking senior leader support at critical junctures of digital transformation efforts often leads to failure; this was a point that resonated among many other attendees.  

Multiple participants agreed that the disinclination of people to accept change or transformation is a significant inhibitor. People often find it hard to understand what their new roles will look like after existing technologies and/or processes get replaced by newer ones. The burning question shared by many was, “How do I get my organization motivated, aligned, engaged, and empowered around this massive operational shift?”

Various execs also concurred that “IT” is often seen as a cost center in most organizations. It can sometimes be tough to get the required budgeting approvals for even the most critical projects.  

Go for the small wins as opposed to a big-bang

Different attendees echoed the idea of starting small and getting little wins instead of going for a big bang project, which is likelier to fail. Go milestone by milestone, demonstrating tangible benefits of the execution to people within your organization, especially the senior leadership. When people see that digital transformation is actually bringing innovation, optimizing infrastructure, and increasing productivity, across the organization, they become its strong advocates.  

An executive from a financial services company shared that they digitized all their paperwork by investing in robotics, workflow, and imaging software. Previously, all incoming documents had to be manually processed on-site; however, now the imaging software can automatically scan them and make them available to people working from home.  

How to know if digital transformation is going well?

When asked, “what are the metrics that define the success of digital transformation efforts,” a speaker answered that you know it’s going well when everyone speaks the “digital language,” when everyone is coming up with new and innovative ideas to solve problems. Another participant replied that you must ask yourself, “Have our efforts helped the company become more agile and connect to the customers in a better way?” If the answer is yes, then you know that your digital transformation plans have been successful.  

Never waste a crisis

Numerous executives recounted crises which catalyzed their digital transformation efforts. A former CMIO recalled when they were asked to pay $12 million for a critical EMR server upgrade. Failure to pay would mean that they can no longer use the system to process medical records. Without paying the hefty fee, they ended up taking the EMR server to the cloud to tackle the situation. They added that they were among the first to move that particular EMR system to the cloud, but only because they were forced.  

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