6 August 2019
Why we shouldn't call it digital transformation

Undergoing wholescale digital transformation can seem like a daunting task, but once you start breaking it down it becomes a much more manageable, achievable prospect.

Why we shouldn't call it digital transformation

It seems like every business is undergoing some kind of digital transformation, with external forces putting pressure on organisations to overhaul their current business structures and processes. But the phrase itself is now so widely-used it risks becoming nothing more than a buzzword. While all businesses need to assess their digital needs, this should be a well considered strategic approach, rather than a scattergun attitude disguised as something all-encompassing. Every journey starts with a single step, as they say, and that’s exactly our point – digital transformation should be a journey, not a destination.   

After all, it’s such a broad subject that a blanket-approach is unlikely to meet the needs of any organisation. The BBC learned this lesson the hard way, after it implemented its Digital Media Initiative. It aimed to bring the organisation fully up-to-speed with an increasingly digital world, overhauling the BBC’s data management and audience content creation.

However, after five years of delays and rising costs, the organisation was forced to write off the plans and in doing so wasted £98.3 million in technology assets. The BBC failed to think about the separate components of their transformation, taking it as a whole rather than individual projects.

By breaking digital transformation down into smaller tasks and projects, it becomes possible to set clear, specific goals. It also makes it easier to understand the skills and experience required to complete the projects. Experts can be hired or placed for certain parts of your transformation, ensuring you get the best outcome for every task – which all build up to a successful digital transformation programme.

Slow and steady change is also easier for employees to get accustomed to – and you will need their buy-in if your project is to be successful. They can learn the required skillsets as the project develops, allowing the business to adjust bit by bit. You can also pivot your digital transformation if external conditions change or an aspect doesn’t have the predicted results, and there’s less risk involved as your resources aren’t completely committed to a lengthy and expensive transformation programme.

When you’re taking a staggered approach, however, it can be difficult to know where to start. We recommended looking at where digital is having the greatest impact on your business, whether this is customer service, sales and marketing, or operations and finance. Start wherever you can expect the highest returns for little initial investment – this will prove the value of a digital transformation programme across your organisation. However you spend your cash, make sure that it links back to your business goals and strategy. Transformation for transformation’s sake should be avoided at all costs.

Taking a task-based approach to your digital transformation will avoid the stumbling blocks of many failed digital transformation initiatives. It will cost you less in the long run and achieve better results because you can appoint experts to oversee every separate aspect of your programme. Don’t be tempted to do it all at once; Rome wasn’t built in a day.