Where did your digital transformation go wrong?

By: Shyamal Addanki

Raise your hands if you are a CIO or other senior executive who championed for this new thing called "Digital Transformation", only to find much later (after years and large amounts of capital spent) that - while there was definitely some major benefits - it just did not live up to the hype.

Often, I speak to business leaders at conferences who are looking for the latest technology that will improve their business operations, but many of them have a suspicious look in their eye; the look that tells me they have been burned before my unmet promises. After all, every single garage-founded software startup can quickly spool a SaaS solution and promise major innovative breakthroughs, so a heavy dose of skepticism is well warranted. But does that mean businesses have to stick with the tried-and-true large technology companies (and their large invoices)?


The fact of the matter is that, whether you are looking at specific solutions in RPA, AI, BPM, or broader roadmaps for moving to the cloud and ditching your paper-driven operations, the biggest thing holding you back is not technology. It is your processes.

According to McKinsey, "70 percent of complex, large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals." Granted, they have an interest in presenting this research with this optic as they sell their digital transformation services as a critical requirement to ensure you are a member of the 30 percent club, but many other similar findings have been published in industry journals. And the common thread in all of them is a misguided focus on technology.

In a separate series of blog posts I will dive into the People, Process, and Technology aspects of digital transformation, and I will provide a lot more detail in those posts. What I do want to focus on here is one simple takeaway - don't plan your digital transformation by looking at your application landscape and imagining what the latest and greatest software tools can do.

Rather, look at your operational processes and ask your process specialists how they would imagine a digital future. And involve them in ever step of the way. Without improving the processes to meet the capabilities, requirements, and restrictions of the digital world, you will end up with processes that only fail faster, and more catastrophically.