Digital transformation progress. Or not…

Digital transformation is a theme we hear all too often. But a recent PointSource study shows existing systems make it difficult for enterprises to innovate.

Digital transformation progress. Or not…
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I go to a lot of conferences, and something I have noticed in the past year or two is that almost every conference will have a keynote speaker talking about digital transformation. Hell, people have even started calling it simply DT, and digital transformation keynoters have the usual suspects to call on for case studies—Uber, Airbnb etc.

But every now and then I worry about how impactful the digital transformation story really is. I spend a reasonable amount of time with large organizations talking to them about their present and their future and helping them rethink what their business will look like in one, three or five years. Part of these conversations, obviously, center around digital transformation, since I am a firm believer that digital technologies will allow the agility and innovation with regards products, services and business models that these organizations need to survive.

So, why do I worry? Well, simply because for every organization that has me or someone like me talking about digital transformation and the broader business context, there are dozens—if not hundreds—who are just keeping on with their status quo and not really looking at the future from a threat/opportunity perspective.

I’ve always had this hunch, but had no empirical data on which to base it. That is why I was interested to read a recent PointSource study—Executing Digital Transformation—that sought to look at how organizations are transforming, as well as what barriers remain in place to their transformation. The company surveyed 300 decision makers across marketing, IT and operations, and the findings are a pretty sorry tale about existing systems.

The survey found that internal processes and IT architectures are a significant barrier to organizational change. But it’s not just technology that is proving difficult—their direction, experience and culture all have a part to play. These are, after all, interlocked aspects of organizational change. Direction establishes a measurable strategy routed in business objectives. Experience ensures organizations make decisions with end users and their journeys in mind. Culture brings internal stakeholders together to gain alignment and drive operational efficiencies. Technology supports and aligns data points and establishes a  scalable architecture. 

The research indicated that while organizations recognize the value that digital solutions can offer in these different areas, existing systems make it difficult to innovate. Key findings from the survey include the following:

  • Organizations are not confident in their visions for the future: Less than half (44 percent) of respondents are extremely confident in their organization’s ability to achieve its vision for growth, and 4 percent are not confident at all. 
  • Unifying cross-channel digital experiences is a weak point for organizations: Only half (51 percent) of respondents say their organization addresses specific user needs across all platforms. 
  • Department leaders compete for resources and budget: Three-fourths (76 percent) of respondents say their department competes with other departments in their organization for resources and/or budget. 
  • Demand for change outpaces technological capabilities: Eighty-four percent of respondents say their organization has disparate legacy systems that impact the speed of development of new digital experiences.

My POV

Change is hard. And simply looking at change from a technology perspective totally misses the point. Organizations need to look across the four different aspects of organizational change to really put in place a platform for change. And across those aspects they need to investigate how newer digital platforms give them the best opportunity to drive change.

This report wasn’t earth shattering. However, it is an important reflection upon the totality of the issues that exist. There’s no silver bullet, but organizations need to have this stuff firmly articulated as a key priority.

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