Successful digital transformation demands universal buy-in

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Successful digital transformation demands universal buy-in

Clear goals help avoid the six most common obstacles to successful transformation.

Digital transformation was already the catch-cry of contemporary businesses long before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the process into fast-forward. Yet its worth to businesses will ultimately depend not on whether a company is transforming, but whether it can do so better than its competitors – while avoiding the six most common mistakes that cause transforming companies to struggle.

Most of those mistakes come just not from technology risk, but from the lingering drag created by pre-transformation organisational structures and executive mindsets that are set against the kind of flexibility and agility that digital transformation demands.

For organisations investing many millions of dollars in extensive transformation programs – for example, Bank of Queensland’s $440MM core banking replacement, the federal government’s $800MM digital-government package, CSIRO’s whole-of-organisation transformation, and broader digital overhauls by the likes of Bunnings, Nestlé, and Endeavour Energy – it may be hard to argue a lack of commitment at the top.

Yet ambiguous goals for transformation efforts can linger, buried within critical organisational structures only to rear their heads at the least promising time.

For example, if there are different expectations for transformation in different parts of the business – or different leaders in the same business – these mismatched expectations can not only muddy the smooth completion of the project but may have flow-on effects by causing conflicts around issues such as resourcing.

To avoid disruption when that happens, company leaders need to work together to answer simple questions such as “what business impact do you and your team want to make?” and “what makes your business grow?” – and then draw up clear 90-day work plans that will guide your collaborative work toward the ideal state customer journey.

“Always thinking about continuous growth and transformation is the key for any organisation,” says Kentaro Okada, senior business growth manager with 3,500-strong digital consultancy CI&T.

“Because there is no ‘correct’ answer in this current situation, organisations that are willing to try continuously, learn and improve until you make an impact will be the ones that will succeed.”

Walking the transformation walk

As a leading enabler of digital transformation for its clientele, CI&T went through its own transformation years ago – in which adopting lean-agile project methodologies led it to overhaul its established framework, decreasing from 450 work processes to just 32.

The Lean Digital Transformation model that it followed “facilitated the routine of the teams and profoundly changed the company’s culture,” Okada said. “We became more agile and achieved the speed we were looking for.”

It has also guided CI&T’s subsequent work with clients, and has been instrumental in helping clients identify their exposure to all of the potential blockers that can cause their transformation to struggle.

These include a belief that transformation is a magic pill that can solve the company’s problems in a day – it is anything but – as well as culture clashes due to persisting functional silos.

Other common showstoppers include a belief that Agile only works in startups and small companies – but CI&T’s success is proof positive that Agile works at scale as well.

Also potentially problematic is a failure to learn from failure: while some companies recoil from failure and punish those responsible, proactive and transformational organisations recognise the importance of treating failures as learning opportunities.

The disruption of the pandemic has shown that “there’s no longer space for multi-year projects running on top of linear sequential phases, where each phase depends entirely on the deliverables of the previous one” says Felipe Rubim, vice president of CI&T Asia Pacific. “Quicker and constant results are a must.”

Rather than getting caught up in problems that can hinder those results, CI&T’s Lean Digital Transformation model is about forming collaborative leadership, capable of orchestrating cross-functional teams that improve the experience of their customers, solving complex problems and generating business impacts through fast delivery and learning cycles.

This end-state reflects change that may be quite dramatic in many organisations, but can nonetheless be achieved by addressing transformation on three key pillars: business impact, process and people.

By addressing each of these areas with a holistic view of the business’s current and aspirational states, digitally transforming companies can match change activity with real-time feedback loops providing actionable data to ensure the appetite for transformation is both ubiquitous and unquestioned.

“Whether in Brazil, Australia or anywhere else,” says CI&T Digital Transformation Director Leo Abdala, “companies have realised the key to meaningful change is getting on top of the data, and helping it permeate each and every part of the organisation.”

To learn more about why many companies struggle with transformation – and how you can avoid their mistakes – click here to download CI&T’s free e-book.

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