Successful Digital Transformation: The Barriers & Overcoming Them

The goal is not digital. The goal is simplicity, which digital can provide.

Russell Davies, Director of Strategy (GDS)

Recently, I read a study from infoMentum on the challenges CEOs face with digital transformation in organisations. Whilst the study talks specifically about transformation from the very top, a lot of modern organisations aren't necessarily lucky enough to have a digitally savvy CEO that recognises the value in digital.

I should at this point caveat that, thankfully, we don't face this challenge at the LTA, but I have experienced it at almost every other company I've engaged with over the last few years.

For those not fortunate enough to have a digitally savvy CEO, what can you do to address some of the common barriers to transformation? In order to address the barriers, we need to understand what some of the more common barriers presented are:

Corporate Culture

Culture within an organisation can be a huge hurdle for anyone looking to change behaviour and drive innovation. To be able to really innovate, buy in needs to be sought from your executive team and digital thinking ingrained throughout the organisation at all levels. With an increasingly digitally savvy consumer (even forgetting the millennial for the moment), consumer expectation of an organisation or brand to be digitally aware has never been higher. 

The most effective way I have found of securing executive buy in has been to highlight areas of success within digital and present the audience demographic to help your executive better understand how the consumer mindset is changing. Knowledge is power as they say, and we are well equipped with the statistics to prove our case.

Secure buy in at the top level and prove the value of digital and that trickles down into the organisation. Speak to other departments; some of the best innovations and suggestions will come from those teams that interact with a different customer segment and highlight even greater opportunities to engage. By involving the wider business, digital becomes ingrained in everyone's thinking.

Nirvana in this case becomes the willingness of the organisation to try new things and not fear failure. I spoke with the VP of UFC's EMEA Region David Allen a few weeks ago, and he highlighted that because the UFC is a relatively 'new' sport (14 years old), they have little fear of failure; they have the buy in from their CEO Dana White (himself having a following of 3m+ on Twitter - it doesn't get much more digitally savvy than that) and recognise that they can innovate in ways other organisations can't.

Fast Moving Change

The nature of digital is change-driven; whether technology or consumer led. Such fast-paced change can often disturb employees as they struggle to keep up with the ongoing innovations.

Not necessarily the right type of innovation... 

One of our biggest wins at the LTA has been to highlight a process of agile development to the organisation. When we had completed a 14 month project to redevelop and relaunch our consumer facing site, we made it abundantly clear throughout the process that it was an ongoing project; it doesn't just stop with the relaunch. 

We have a feature stack that is prioritised in hand with our web team, ensuring we feed in requirements driven by our customers so we don't just develop functionality for functionalitys sake. We have implemented a number of content processes alongside this to ensure that content is not only updated regularly, but that business teams have become accustomed to regular change.

This has produced a more thoughtful, less reactive process for content creation and ensured that teams think twice before generating content that wouldn't be suitable.

Lack Of Expertise 

Digital is still a relatively new skill set within the business world; whilst technology has been around for a while, the tools and best practice evolve at an alarming rate; ensuring that those in digital spend as much time monitoring change within digital as activating around their own organisations strategies.

Educating the rest of the business to digital change and doing so on an ongoing basis can be challenging, especially if the organisation are yet to buy into the culture of change and shifting sands digital is built on.

The organisation needs to trust those responsible for digital; but those in digital need to earn that trust through careful articulation of a structured digital strategy that is given as much prominence as any other business strategy. 

Those in digital need to educate the rest of the organisation, but in a constructive manner..

Cost Of Innovation

The constant change in technology and consumer behaviour can make digital innovation costly.
Sure, there are plenty of ways of activating on your own channels and driving engagement through unique content, but to truly drive innovation and an experience that delights the consumer there needs to be investment.

With Digital Transformation, the Consumer, rather than the technology, is in the drivers seat.

The traditional challenge with the finance team and CFO is that of a 'liquid' budget within digital. In much the same way as a technology budget, there needs to be flexibility to react to innovation trends. Some organisations I've worked with have worked on a project by project basis, reviewing a feature stack on a quarterly basis and highlighting large scale expensive projects well in advance where possible (data warehouse restructures, marketing automation etc)

Red Tape

A common challenge for digital teams, and arguably the smallest obstacle (generally speaking, I have seen some horrendous contradictions) centres around data protection; fast-moving innovations and new technology mean the modern digital team need to be best friends with their legal department to ensure they are complying with common restrictions.

Involving the legal team (and often commercial teams) from the outset and being clear around your objectives and data usage allows digital teams to avoid the legal minefield data protection so often throws up.

These are just a few of the key barriers to successfully transforming an organisation into a digitally-driven one. A few more might include:

  • Proving ROI from digital
  • What metrics are relevant?
  • Fear of trying new things, instead reverting to a 'we did that last year, let's just do that again' approach

Many of you will experience these and you're own unique ones depending on organisational structure and the intricacies of your industry. I'll leave you with a particularly poignant quote around digital transformation (pro tip: these are great for executive presentations): 

The only wrong move when it comes to Digital Transformation is not to make any move at all.
Didier Bonnet

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