q Digital transformation – or the Emperor’s New Clothes? - Business Reporter

Digital transformation – or the Emperor’s New Clothes?

Simon Blunn at WalkMe ask: Is your digital transformation (DX) the success you think it is?

The footrace to digitally transform is not letting up any time soon. IDC predicts that global spending on digital transformation will reach $2.8 trillion by 2025 – double the amount recorded in 2020. 

Organisations are flexing an increasing amount of financial muscle, which in turn is ramping up the pressure on CIOs to deliver benefits and ROI as soon as possible. This means that business leaders will be keen to claim their digital transformations successful, but of course this isn’t always the reality. McKinsey reports that less than a third actually succeed.

How do you define success?

So why is there a gap between the huge amount of digital transformation failure reported by McKinsey, and the number of projects you hear about? One potential reason is that success and failure are often not clearly defined, meaning it would be hard to claim a project hasn’t fulfilled the brief until problems emerge – potentially years down the line.

As a result, CIOs run the risk of playing out their own version of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, celebrating something they think has been a great success, yet which actually has serious problems. While they hopefully won’t be literally parading naked in front of the business, there’s a risk they could do so metaphorically if problems start to become apparent. If it comes to light that, for example, new software actually forces employees to spend more time on tasks, rather than making things easier for them, there’s a risk the business as a whole will become less productive, resulting in delayed projects and cost impacts across the whole organisation.

Missing a key step

This is a nightmare situation for a CIO – so how can they be confident a digital transformation is truly successful? One vital step is being very specific with vendors and consultants on the outcomes and capabilities a project needs to produce, and measuring success against clearly defined SLAs. But beyond creating the perfect digital ecosystem, organisations need to remember the saying ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. You could have the best digital setup in the world, but if the workforce is not using it, then it can’t add any value and the spend has been wasted.

This is why onboarding is such an important piece of the puzzle. Almost all software offers tutorials and walk-throughs, but it’s dangerous to assume that staff will complete them – we all know examples of people skipping tutorials as they needed to get going quickly. Even if staff do manage to navigate a path through each individual tutorial – and bear in mind this could mean for multiple applications – it is unlikely they will be tailored to cover organisation-specific use-cases. This is likely to result in a lot of time being invested, whilst leaving employees none the wiser as to how they will be able to use the software as part of everyday operations. Ultimately, this translates to employees simply not using those technological resources to their full extent, if at all. 

Driving digital adoption success

It’s clear that digital adoption needs to be a priority for organisations, to reduce the risk of emerging from a digital transformation with the right tools in place, but with little-to-no positive impact to show for it. With the likes of Gartner beginning to recognise digital adoption’s importance, its time has definitely come, and there are certainly best practices involved. In particular, organisations should focus on three key areas:  

1) Measure the initial rate of adoption. How can you be confident a digital transformation project is successful if you don’t know how much your new digital tools are being used? Any successful adoption programme should include a way to provide an overview of how much software is being used, by which users and for what tasks. Organisations can then use the power of analytics to flag successes and problems. This can give CIOs and other leaders a dashboard that very clearly lays out what needs to be done to increase adoption.

2) Proactively induct users. Each piece of software has its own induction process, meaning there’s a risk of a very disjointed user experience if employees are given a whole range of new tools all at once. To be successful, the right digital adoption platform should take the lead here, providing a central, consistent guidance experience for multiple programmes. This could even be personalised to different employees empowering them to both understand and fully utilize the digital technology resources available to them to do their best job. This personalisation makes staff much more likely to be engaged and fully complete onboarding as it will make contextual sense.

3) Act on user behaviour. If you think onboarding is a one-way street, you’re approaching it in the wrong way: businesses must also learn and adapt in line with the way people use digital tools in practice. The visibility brought to light by  a successful digital adoption program can highlight areas that need addressing, from the need for a company-wide refresher course on a particularly problematic workflow, to opportunities to save money by cancelling licences where capabilities are duplicated across multiple pieces of software. Companies can’t afford to miss the opportunity to harness this data to maximise company-wide optimisation.

Moving forward with confidence

By giving employees the right technology, training, and support they need to embrace new software and applications, CIOs can be confident their own version of the Emperor’s new specially tailored outfit – a new digital enterprise – really is the success they think it is. This reality check will allow them to make any necessary adaptations and move forward confident that the business can enjoy the benefits.

Simon Blunn is VP and General Manager EMEA at WalkMe

Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

© Business Reporter 2021

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