Common transformation blockers and what to do about them

The old proverb ‘give a dog a bad name’ can, sadly, be applied to digital transformation - the primary business pursuit of the past decade. The problem is there are so many ways to get transformation projects wrong, waste valuable time and pour resources down the drain. In fact, the worldwide failure rate is estimated at between 70 and 85%.

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But take heart, transformation remains a worthy goal when tackled correctly. The rewards of successful transformation initiatives remain the same. Efficiency. Innovation. Agility. Speed. Cost savings. Customer experience.

So, let’s give that dog a good name for a change by making sure we avoid the common transformation blockers that rear their ugly heads when organisations courageously pursue digital change. And once you’ve heard our take on what these blockers are, we’ll tell you how to make your transformation a success.

How we got here

First, let’s look at how we got to where we are, and why digital transformation makes some business leaders twitchy.

The reality is transformation is complex. It requires careful planning and a flexible approach. It needs buy-in from the whole business from the top down. There must be collaboration between your IT and business teams. And it takes the right technology expertise and understanding from an experienced partner that knows what it’s doing.

However, for many businesses their transformation projects have lacked these elements. As a result, even big-name global brands have faced transformation failures that have cost them hundreds of millions of pounds and led to financial loss, share price damage and aggrieved customers.

Transformation can fail for a whole host of reasons including mis-sold solutions; technical hitches; business benefits that never materialise; project delays; inexperienced or inefficient IT partners, and usability problems.

To make matters worse, organisations have their own transformation blockers acting as the enemy within. But ‘forewarned is forearmed’ as they say. Look out for the following transformation killjoys and you’ll stand a better chance of making your next transformation project a success.

Clearing the transformation blockers

The Feudalist

These are business departments that engage in transformation-hindering trench warfare. They mark out their territory with barriers and build opposing castles to retain their power. A line of business department might say: “We need better systems.” IT replies, “Not in our budget.” And operations chimes in: “It’s not my responsibility.” The result is stalemate. Transformation flounders.

The Controller

This is where endless planning and meetings about meetings kill the transformation baby. Prep and strategy are vital, of course. But they can eat time, add layers of bureaucracy, and demotivate teams. So, be sure to avoid holding endless steering group meetings; having long discussions about new project ideas; needing to produce reports about implementing new project ideas; and wasting time productising new ideas before they’re even off the ground.

The Soloist

The next transformation blocker is the ‘solo’ silo: an excited individual with the big idea, perhaps from the IT department, brainstorming alone. But they’re unable to engage the other departments - HR, marketing, operations, customer service - because there’s no interest or collaboration. So, transformation stays in the soloist’s head. It’s a big shame.

The Nostalgic

This person - or team mentality - will hold you back from enjoying the promises of transformation. Bound up in risk-averse tried-and-tested processes, methodologies and technologies which are, in truth, outdated and inflexible. DevSecOps? Never heard of you.

The False Prophet

Many businesses have been caught out by this one, often in the guise of a large consultancy casting vision. The false prophet will overpromise an Edenic state you will reach in X number of years but fail to explain the journey.

The Clone

Lastly, the clone, either someone inside your organisation or an IT partner, will tell you digital transformation is a standardised cookie-cutting exercise. Use the old tools, but just add Agile! The problem is, we know from experience that no two transformations are alike. The clone will just waste your time and money.

Healthy transformation

Once you’ve cleared away the transformation blockers, it’s time to experiment and have fun. At WORTH, our team of expert software engineers, testers and UX designers recognise that every transformation situation is unique. Successful projects require creativity and flexibility, a willingness to start the journey, discover and test what works and what doesn’t, and iterate from there. It means that innovation rises to the top and gets amplified.

Having led transformation projects for leading businesses across the world, we have learned that transformation should be iterative, not Big Bang. Failure is good when it’s contained and corrected so it doesn’t shipwreck the whole programme. Indeed, there is no shame in failure, so long as you learn from it, reorientate, then keep going.

Big transformations are yesterday’s news. It’s important to think big but start small. That way, you can quickly gain success from small builds, and scale them rapidly to turn them into big gains.

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