6 Common Digital Transformation Pain Points — and What to Do About Them

Digital transformation can have a real, positive impact on your organization. These pain points don’t have to derail your project if you know how to address them. Here’s how you do it.
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Digital change is a top priority for 87% of senior business leaders, according to a 2019 Gartner survey. This is certainly clear for the wide range of companies in a vast range of sectors that have sought to overhaul their plans and operations, infusing new and emerging technologies into nearly every aspect of their businesses.

The benefits of digital transformation can’t be overstated. From greater profit to increased productivity to convenience, it’s, well, transforming the nature of how organizations operate.

But that doesn’t mean the approach is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a long, painstaking process, and if you’re leading the efforts, you will no doubt encounter problems along the way. To that end, here are 6 common digital transformation pain points and strategies for how to fix them.

1. Lack of Buy-in

If there is confusion about the purpose and need for digital transformation, you will inevitably encounter problems along the way. Employees, fellow leaders, clients, and other stakeholders will all have opinions about which areas need the most attention and work, and there will almost always be disagreement about which avenues to pursue.

As a leader yourself, it’s your job to gain buy-in to facilitate a smoother undertaking. From the get-go, be transparent about the priorities and need for digital transformation at your organization. Use concrete data to back up your points, showing which areas are lacking and how an overhaul will translate into meaningful benefits for the entire business. If you’re working with non-technological professionals, as you most likely are, explain this in non-technical terms.

Ultimately, getting everyone on board will help ensure that the digital transformation goes smoothly.

2. Slow ROI

Many businesses expect to see change quickly. But, unfortunately, seeing an ROI often takes longer than leaders would like. Sometimes, real results require years. 

When you’re innovating at scale, there are numerous factors at play that contribute to transformation, and it’s impossible to realize the effect immediately. There is no real, actionable solution to this — it’s just important to remember that these things take time. In order to curb disappointment, be realistic and forthcoming to stakeholders from the very beginning, informing them about when they should expect to see meaningful change, backing it up with data.

3. Disruption to Company Procedures

Digital transformation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It affects every aspect of the company, and its impact on various operations won’t please everyone. You’ll also need to allocate resources to fuel it — resources that might need to be taken away from other departments or projects.

That disruption can affect morale, not to mention the workflow in general. To ensure that these changes are ultimately positive, demonstrate to your team why they are necessary. This will also require prioritization, recognizing which resources and procedures are the most important and take precedence. 

It also demands a degree of understanding on your part. Recognize that disruption can be disconcerting to your employees. Give them forums to ask questions and make suggestions, so that they see they’re being heard.

4. Unrealistic Goals

Digital transformation will offer real, meaningful benefits to your organization. But it won’t fix everything. It’s important to establish clear goals — realistic goals — for your efforts. Work with your technology team and other key players to determine what these objectives and benchmarks should be, paying attention to your needs, what the data says, and other factors like your timeline.

Get employee input, too. They are “in the trenches” so to speak, so they can provide insight as to what’s most necessary and how you can get there together as a team.

5. Communication Barriers

A lack of communication or poor communication will result in poor planning and avoidable problems. To facilitate such an enormous undertaking, you must be in constant communication with stakeholders and those directly involved in the efforts.

There are plenty of simple ways of keeping everyone in the loop. Project management tools are one way to keep everyone apprised of your efforts. You should also have a plan as to when and how you’ll touch base. Perhaps weekly or daily check-ins are necessary. Maybe you’ll use Slack for informal chats. Whatever it is, hammer out these details early on.

6. Costs

There is no doubt that digital transformation costs money — often a lot of money. The hope is that eventually the investment will pay off, and you’ll see a profit greater than the amount you’ve spent on the project. But, as we’ve discussed, this takes time, and sometimes you just don’t have the means to facilitate the kind of digital overhaul you actually need.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, of course. But there are ways to manage your spending on digital transformation before you’re fully able to reap its rewards. Start by getting a realistic picture of what you need and how much it will all cost. There’s plenty of inexpensive software to help you evaluate the cost of your project and determine which expenditures are necessary.

It can also help to outsource some or all of the work, which is often cheaper than hiring full-time professionals to facilitate this change. Nearshore or offshore development is particularly cost-effective — prices tend to be much lower than those of onshore firms, and the quality of work is high in many areas. Given that this is generally short-term work, you’ll only be paying for the work you need at a given time, rather than paying full-time salaries and benefits.

Digital transformation will bring about real change, as long as you go about it with careful plans and data-backed strategies in place. These pain points don’t have to derail your project — be cognizant of what to expect and how to address problems, and you can make it through technological change and reap the rewards as a business.

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