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In this article, Siva Balu reviews the five digital transformation mistakes to avoid during your digital journey.

Digital transformation is defined as utilizing modern digital tools and technologies to transform your business for a better customer experience. In this digital transformation series, we previously covered the 5 steps to start your digital transformation journey.

In this article, we will review the five digital transformation mistakes to avoid.

It is important to understand that your digital transformation, like any other transformation or change management initiative, is going to run into issues. You are going to be faced with unknowns and surprises. Several organizations have started their digital transformation or are in between their transformation. These five mistakes are a recurring theme while pondering on the initiatives that have run into issues. These are mistakes that impact the transformation initiative, thereby impacting the scope, budget, schedule or outcome.

Awareness of the frequently encountered issues and having mitigation plans in place will lead to a successful digital transformation.

1. Digital transformation is not a project. 

A project by definition has a start and an end. Digital transformation is a continuum. It is a journey. When you start your digital transformation initiative with a strategy, you can define workstreams and various milestones. You can have projects within your digital transformation initiative. But not to think of digital transformation as a project.

For example, if you are trying to modernize your customer facing website as part of your digital transformation to increase customer engagement, it would be key to keep thinking about what comes after the website is modernized.

Since digital transformation is usually tied to your customer experience and customer expectations are vastly increasing, thinking of digital as a continuum would be a great way to increase customer engagement.

2. Not being agile and only seeing the end goal. 

Agile methodology started in software development. Agile methodology puts the outcome ahead of the process, brings the business and technology teams together, focuses on close collaboration and the product outcome.

Over the years, organizations have seen the value in the success of agile software development and adopted agile as an organizational transformation principle. Agile is being iterative and continuously improving. Instead of defining a lofty goal and looking at the end result, agile advocates to look at results in small chunks and make iterative adjustments to achieve the larger goal.

Digital transformation, when rightly done, will take a lot of your company’s resources. It is important to define short term milestones and measure progress. If there are roadblocks and unknowns, adjust your strategy accordingly.

3. Not getting stakeholders buy-in.

I like the term stakeholders, which encompasses various constituents including your board of directors, executive leadership, management, staff, and most importantly, your customers.

Many organizations have a top-down approach for digital transformation. While many of the strategic decisions are made by the board and the executive leadership, many companies fail to ensure all parties know and understand the digital transformation strategy.

One of the common digital transformation mistakes includes not getting the buy-in from the employees. Your employees are the ones who are going to make your transformation successful by investing their talent, skill sets and effort. Another commonly seen mistake is your digital transformation being led by one or two departments within an organization. Unintentionally, silos can be created. It will be important to ensure all departments have the awareness of the strategy, key milestones, successes, failures or lessons learned.

Many companies engage their customers to help shape the scope of their digital transformation. It will be a great idea to create a customer advisory board to help shape your digital transformation. No one knows better than your customers. This will also help get buy-in from both internal and external stakeholders when the voice of the customer is listened to.

4. Not having a communication strategy.

A good communication strategy is frequently underrated. Companies sometimes do not invest in a robust communication strategy. It is sometimes identified after the fact.

Your digital transformation should have an internal and external communication strategy.

An internal communication strategy is to keep your internal stakeholders engaged. This is easier if you are a smaller organization. If you have more than a handful of employees, it is even more important to ensure all your employees know and understand the digital transformation strategy.

One of the techniques is to ensure each of your employees have a 1-pager available to them to understand your digital transformation. If each of your employees can give an elevator speech on your digital transformation, then you are moving in the right direction.

External communication can be different for different organizations. In the age of social media, blogs and instant news, it is key to understand what your business needs are and have a digital communication strategy.

You may want to:

  • Have a periodic press release
  • Post on your company website
  • Publish a blog from your leadership
  • Create case studies
  • Publish white papers on progress
  • Engage your customers and staff in social media

5. Not measuring progress in your digital transformation.

Companies define and measure digital transformation from a customer perspective. While defining your strategy and roadmap, document what success means to your organization.

The industry uses Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to help measure progress in digital transformation. You should have Service Level Agreements (SLAs) if you use vendor partners. This is to ensure your vendor partners are delivering as committed.

KPIs can be:

  • Customer engagement
  • Growth in sales
  • Customer experience
  • Site visits

The SLAs can include availability, uptime, performance, etc.

In addition to measuring progress, you should share it with your executive leadership and board through dashboards to get their feedback and continuously improve.

In Conclusion:

The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging there is one. Leaders should encourage transparency and openness in your digital transformation. Issues identified early can be rectified early.

A good question to ask is, “What can go wrong?”

It would be prudent to be aware of what digital transformation mistakes can occur. You are going to identify your own mistakes, roadblocks and omissions during this journey. Several organizations keep a running list of open items and risks. Mitigation planning and contingency planning would be an ongoing effort for small and big issues and risks that can come up.

The key to your digital transformation success is to anticipate issues and plan proactively to mitigate risks. Encouraging your teams to learn lessons from the mistakes and continuously make forward progress is the best way to serve your customers.

Siva Balu

Siva Balu is the vice president and chief information officer at YMCA of the USA. In this role, he is working to rethink the work of Y-USA’s information technology strategy to meet the changing needs of Y-USA and YMCAs throughout the country. Siva is the creator of the new Y Cloud digital platform to deliver digital, virtual and mobile products to members across the nation. Y Cloud is the world's first digital platform built for non-profits by non-profit. Read Siva's full bio.  

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