How to Undergo a Digital Transformation at Your Workplace

It may be difficult to pull off, but a digital transformation is a critical component to any business’s future. Here’s how to inspire digital business.

John McGrath and Philip Martin Leave a Comment
How to Undergo a Digital Transformation at Your Workplace

Despite the fact that social, mobile, cloud and data analytics technology is part of the fabric of our personal and professional lives, organizations have largely failed to integrate a digital transformation into their analog operating model.

All organizations know they must act, but the possibilities of digital are so vast it is often hard to know what to focus on or even where to begin. This has created a growing sense of urgency spreading across industries as many are unsure how to embrace the Promised Land pledged by digital transformation.

The unspoken truth is there is a great deal of exaggeration and misunderstanding about digital transformation initiatives. The term Digital Transformation has many inconsistent definitions. It can mean anything from ‘the paperless office’ to ‘the application of digital technology in all aspects of social, economic, and political life.’

Many organizations bang the digital drum, loudly sharing how they are embracing the digital world, but the reality is that there are twice as many organizations who have yet to develop a clearly defined digital strategy.

Digital Business: The Only Risk is Failing to Embrace It

The essence of any problem is to accept where you are not where you would like to be. Digital initiatives will be more successful if organizations are honest and share their confusion and struggles on how best to incorporate cloud, mobile, social, and big data — the pillars of digital transformation into core digital business operations.

For many organizations, the digital journey initially presents more risks that opportunities. The body of research indicates that only 30% of digital business transformation efforts are successful. It is unlikely that any traditional organization will accept that seven out of ten digital initiatives will be a failure, but a similar failure rate is common across all technology projects.

Digital transformation as a source of competitive advantage and risk-taking must become a cultural norm if transformation is to take place. The chances of success increase dramatically when organizations merge technology with strategy. This requires a clearly defined digital strategy not focusing on individual technologies and recognizing that technology on its own is not a source of competitive advantage.

What to DO to Embrace a Digital Transformation

Organizations that are successful in embracing digital transformation know spending money on technology and hiring digitally-savvy graduates is not a silver bullet and recognize success comes from an enterprise approach to ecosystem integration.

A more strategic approach is to adopt sound project management principles where digital initiatives are prioritized on the basis of strategic alignment, benefits realization, risk and continued business justification as the project evolves. This could be further supported by an Agile or adaptable project management methodology and a resource-driven schedule indicating key milestones and indicators of project success.

Organizations that have transformed are consistent in understanding that there can be no distinction between business strategy and digital strategy. There is only one strategy: developing and maintaining a sustained competitive advantage and the efficient and effective engagement with customers or service users.

Digital is simply a tool to assist. It is easy to get distracted with the ever changing and evolving hype of digital but the focus should always be on the enhancement and extension of your core services. In many ways, it is not about becoming digital, but more so about incorporating and integrating digital into your ecosystem and operating model.

Digital Business: Avoid Ad-Hoc

An ad-hoc approach focusing on a list of individual initiatives is not enough. Digital transformation does not happen in the edges or in a silo. If you want real digital transformation, the focus must be on digital integration and strategic alignment with the enhancement of existing services with clearly identified and resource-driven project plans associated with each deliverable.

You will have individual business leaders proposing technology toys and pet projects. Organizations need to filter and minimize these white elephants on the digital journey. A robust project selection approach objectively analyzing how the initiative will serve service users, citizens, staff and the organization will assist in addressing this issue.

Organizations that have transformed are consistent in understanding that there can be no distinction between business strategy and digital strategy.

Digital transformation is challenging, and your people need absolute clarity as to the benefits for them as individuals, not just the organization. Enhanced service and less staff may not motivate all stakeholders equally.

You should start on the assumption that the individual assumes the initiative will make their role redundant. Leadership teams must develop trust by honest and open communication and acknowledge the initial resistor to change will be the fear of how the initiative will impact on headcount and current roles and responsibilities.

Responsibility for creating a culture conducive to digital transformation is the job of your top people.

The real transition is to transform from digital resistors to digital champions. If we are to unlock the value, there must be incentive structures and assurances for all stakeholders. If they are not crystal clear, you will not develop trust. And without trust, there is no change, let alone transformation.

It’s Not All About the Tech

Digital transformation is about technology, but it is more about how we use technology as a means to an end. Digital transformation does not work when it’s technology-led. Success lies in the integration of technology with people and the development of integrated holistic solutions.

We don’t need business leaders to master the technologies, but we do need them to define the value of digital technologies and articulate the vision and roadmap. Organizations may also need to accept that their current operating model is no longer fit for purpose.

A significant element of a digital transformation is changing the way we think about and embrace a broad range of issues ranging from risk management to service level agreements and the execution of corporate strategy.

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Digital transformation favors the bold and the brave. Failure on a small scale is part of the process before organizations get it right on a large scale. Management teams need to communicate the digital vision and ensure the right people are on the bus, empowered and engaged to drive real transformational change.

There is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution to digital transformation. Digital transformation will look different for every organization. Successful digital business transformation is about remaining competitive and relevant and requires a culture that embraces change and develops organizational agility to meet societal demands in the fast-moving digital future.

There is no transformation – digital or otherwise – without organizational change. Change is never easy, and the natural reaction to change initiatives is resistance.

The full article premiered on our sister publication, TechDecisions.

About the Author


Philip Martin, CEO, founded Cora Systems in 1999. Prior to Cora, Philip worked for a decade in engineering and management roles, primarily for the telecommunications industry.

John McGrath is a project management professor at Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland). John also designs and delivers executive education programs for industry.

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  • Erica Fernandes says:

    Awesome content. As you mentioned digital transformation is all about how we leverage the technology and not how much we use technology in our business processes. So it is a must to embrace digital transformation in our business to survive in this digitalized world. There are some companies which are providing digital transformation solutions for customers to improve their business process and take their business to the next level. One such company is Impiger which provides apt digital transformation strategies.

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