Digital transformation has become one of the biggest buzzwords in the past few years, with every company rushing to make supposed “digital changes” without having an airtight strategy and execution plan.

It has been seen that most companies struggle with this process, and in fact, only about 10% of the companies get it right. Why do the others fail?

Let’s dive into these reasons...

Primary reasons why digital transformations fail

Digital strategies fail for a number of reasons. We discuss a few of these below:

Company executives don’t understand what its all about: Don’t let this come as a surprise. Most executives are not aware as to what digital transformation is about.

They don’t realise that it’s about transforming the business, its operations, its customer experience, employee engagement, sales process, and other business processes rather than hiring mobile app developers or a web development company  to implement new technologies. 

A good digital strategy is essentially looking at these traditional problems, and coming up with innovative and creative ways to use digital to solve them. 

Companies think of a digital transformation as a one-time event: Digital transformation is an ongoing journey, with pieces of data and feedback being collected from employees and customers, using that data to continue optimising the new processes that are in place. 

If you consider this a one time event of implementing new technologies, you’re more likely to end up with platforms and tools that no one uses or cares about.

Companies aren’t always prepared for the degree of change that it can affect: Companies are not always prepared to slowly integrate these new changes into their existing processes. 
The frustration from the stakeholders involved i.e users and implementers just sinks the whole ship.

Companies fail to set the right ROI expecations: Since companies tend to think of a digital transformation as a one-day event, they fail to budget for it properly. In failing to budget for it as they should, they hamper the transformation process.
They aren’t focused enough: When a company lacks a proactive CEO who can proceed over the transformations required as part of the digital strategy, the transformation effort gets waylaid. If the management fails to focus on their goal, it’s obvious that any efforts made towards achieving it will inevitably fail.
Not demarcating between short and long-term goals: A successful digital strategy distinguishes clearly what its short-term goals and long-term objectives are. Goal setting is only profitable when one has a clear vision of the goals that have been set.
Talent gap: Digital transformation needs the input of a host of people from various job profiles to join hands together in making the change successful. Not having enough talent on board to effect such a change is detrimental.
Abandoning it midway: Many companies take up transformation efforts only to abandon it midway when they realize they don’t have the necessary resources for it. Such measures do the company more harm than good.

It is crucial for any company willing to succeed to come up with their own digital strategy. Heads should be put together to figure out what are the challenges cropping up in planning and implementing this strategy. When all this is done, the companies have a much better probability of tackling any issues that may be preventing them from reaping the best results from their digital strategy. The failure to observe the following and act to mitigate them accordingly will inevitably lead to the collapse of the company’s digital strategy.

How to build a digital strategy that works

There’s very little tech involved in the process of digitally transforming a company. It’s really more about the strategy and how you translate that into success than technology pushing that strategy. So, how do you go about successfully digitally transforming a company? Here’s how:

Have a clear objective: You cannot achieve a goal if you don’t have a clear vision of it. You can’t have vague ideas of what you want and then work towards it. You need to be well aware of what you wish for and only then can you strive to realize it. Precise and objective quantifiable goals – that’s what you should be looking for. 
Don’t shy away from difficult choices: Most people think that using the latest technology will yield them success. It’s most often untrue. You can use low-end tech solutions to satisfy your incremental changes far better than cutting-edge technology as long as it’s supported by organizational change management. Also, it mitigates risks to a great extent of using new technology that hasn’t been tested before. Easy decisions don’t always give you the results you desire. Sometimes, you have to make those hard choices. Only then will you grow. Only then will you learn.
Outline a probable number of targets: Don’t try to go overboard with goal-setting and establish too many goals that you will eventually find impossible to achieve. Understand that the more changes you want to bring in, the more your risk of failure. You need everyone working in your organization to be on the same page regarding your goals and how to go about achieving these goals. When you set too many goals, it is not only difficult to concentrate on them but also equally challenging to communicate them to every employee. When your number of goals is limited, you can easily acquaint everyone with these goals and motivate them towards working to achieve them.
Know how to tackle critical vulnerabilities: Implementing a digital strategy is no easy task. You are subject to a complex landscape, and you need to know which elements stand to fail and which stand to succeed. These elements are referred to as critical vulnerabilities. You’ll get a good head-start if you can identify them from the very beginning. That’s really the only way to go. You need to recognize their existence and then work towards methods that you can use to mitigate them. Critical vulnerabilities can be triggered by external as well as internal factors. An external factor could be the lack of stability in new technology, while internal factors may include a struggle to align existing competencies to a new process.
Be future-oriented: Don’t stick to the tried and tested methods on every account. Doing so can be detrimental for your digital transformation endeavor. Try to establish a mindset where you tell yourself that just because a process has worked so far need not be why it should stay the same. The motive should be to improve the process so as to make it more sustainable for the long-term. Don’t incorporate new technology into an existing process. Instead, change the process. You’ll see that the technology will adapt itself to the process to yield you the best results.


So, what do you need to effect a digital transformation that will take your company forward? A solid digital strategy. Nothing else. No amount of technology can stand in for having a well-defined digital strategy. Technology is the enabler. It will enable your operational transformation if you have a vision. If you lack this vision, technology can do very little for you. 

Goal-setting is important. You need to know what your goals are and then chart a path to achieving these goals. However, be careful not to set too many goals. They will confuse the members of your organization and disperse their focus. Your goals are less likely to be met in such a situation. 

So many companies try to jump into the digitization bandwagon, only to misunderstand what it really means. It’s better to leave your company’s processes alone than mess them up needlessly just because you failed to comprehend what the digitization process consists of. A digital transformation need not mean switching to the latest technology and introducing these to your existing business processes. Maybe all you need is a little change-up in these processes that you can achieve with inexpensive technology. In order to act on something, it is important to first understand it fully. That’s what your primary goal should be shall you wish to come up with a digital strategy that works for your company.