Avoid these 9 corporate digital transformation mistakes says Gartner

Digital technology has unleashed many trends that will fundamentally transform enterprises, industries and even society as a whole. An enterprise digital transformation program demands that business and top leaders harness the efforts of all, continually aligning them with the journey’s objective and driving them toward that objective.

“Eighty-two percent of CEOs responding to our annual CEO Survey said they have a digital transformation program underway to make their companies more digital,” said Mark Raskino, Distinguished VP Analyst, at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo™ in Barcelona, Spain. “However, the survey also showed a lack of business model change penetration and other indicators, which causes us to think that many of these digital transformation initiatives may not be sufficiently deep corporate transformations.”

Digital transformation success needs to operate at three levels — corporate governance, management and execution — but we have seen companies make mistakes at all three levels that will frustrate transformation. Knowing where those mistakes may happen can help enterprises avoid falling into these traps.

Misread the true scope of digital change. Sometimes an enterprise may misread the situation front he outset. For example, failing to examine how digital forces will change an industry or having an insufficient corporate mission to see and seize product and business model innovation. Not having a strong understanding of what is going on in your industry can lead to a superficial or narrow scope of change for any digital transformation. Raskino says organisations should think in terms of using digital to reinvent what their industry does.

Too much inward thinking. Too often organisations focus on themselves and what they want to do rather than analysing customer needs, the opportunities those present and a full competitive market view for examples and learnings. Raskino said this type of thinking is presuming that digital change is just another operating model change and that is not the case. “An operating model focus does not consider the overall market. It focuses primarily on efficiency and effectiveness. A business model focus considers the market and how it is monetised. An outside-in perspective is what most successful digital transformation projects hinge on,” he said.

“It’s not my job.” Some boards of directors treat digital transformation as a management issue and not part of their role, while at the same time, some executive team members avoid the subject and treat it as something owned by IT. This cascading disassociation behaviour prevents real change. Digital transformation must be part of the mission of the organisation and in the core of its leaders. If it is not, incremental progress will be made but transformational progress will elude the company.

Digital is undefined. Goals are vague. The organisation has a hazy and confused vision for digital transformation because digital has not been defined. There are no associated specifics or a coherent plan in place. There is aspiration, and a collection of cool projects, there is will, but there just isn’t specificity in what the digital journey is really about. Organisations must do the upfront hard work to define their goals, set specific targets and metrics, and then measure those to ensure the transformation project is on track.

Incrementalism. When digital is undefined, initiatives may only be focused on improving today and not putting the funding, systems and specific plans in place to do the real transformation. Management should ask: Is it really transformational? Digital business works at the level of revenue and business model change and product reinvention. Look for the structural investment. If it is not there, your very unlikely going to transform.

Fixed minds. A fixed mindset is one of constrained capabilities. People with a fixed mindset are not in learning mode. Organisations must learn how to develop a growth mindset to build an innovative culture that will thrive in the era of digital business. A growth mindset embraces the idea that new capabilities can be developed through smart learning, good strategies and input from others. Those who embrace this mindset see challenges as opportunities to grow and evolve, and they are resilient, even when faced with failure.

Over planning. Transforming to digital is more about doing than planning. Organisations can get caught up in endless rounds of debate which slows the transformation project. To combat this, organisations should institutionalise lean startup thinking at every level. Lean startup thinking favours experimentation over planning. This process aims to quickly and iteratively build an innovation to become a “minimum viable product” that can be released to the customer, and then through feedback it continues to evolve the innovation.

Technology-centric. Organisations should watch out for buying into the hype of the “next big thing.” Organisations should instead focus on reinventing their industry with a collection of technological tools. Transformation is never just doing the next big thing. “Aim at unmet needs – the needs of the market and customers that our industry has never served before,” Raskino said. “Use the technological tools collectively to invent solutions to do things nobody could do before.”

Culture blindness. Culture is one of the biggest barriers to scaling digital transformation. Culture is perceived to be big, unwieldy and hard to change. Attributes that may be culture barriers for some are, in fact, enablers for others. Organisations should focus on resetting purpose and beliefs to drive culture change. Determine the purpose of the company, what it yields for the world and what the beliefs are of the people coming to work each day. Use culture hacks, some of which can be implemented in less than 48 hours, to move culture from a barrier to an accelerator.

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