Joanne Sweeney

Author: Jo Ann Sweeney

Help! Our digital transformation team is good at delivering technology. But not so good at bringing significant improvements for the business and for customers. Where are we going wrong?

We’ve all heard the statistic that 80 per cent of transformation programmes fail. How true is it? No one knows! Like me you will have experienced a few. Failures.

Firstly, we need to quantify what success and failure look like, feel like. Transformation teams are usually focused on delivering technology and typically measure success as being on time and within budget.

But likely this is not how your executives evaluate success. Business leaders don’t care about technology per se; they are much more interested in how your team is helping the business respond to changes in its market place and in customer expectations.

Commercial Reasons

In starting digital transformation programmes, executives are committing their organisations to significant capital expenditure and diverting experienced employees from other revenue-earning activities. They only do this because they believe there are clear commercial benefits.

Typically, they expect success along between one and three of the following criteria: revenues, profits, costs, share price, market share, brand and reputation, effective employees, efficient assets.

Which do you believe are the commercial reasons senior executives chose to invest in your transformation? Choose between one and three then check out your choices with your sponsor and other executives.

The commercial criteria you have chosen are the purpose for your transformation. How can you prove your programme is improving the business in these areas?

Some are easier to prove than others. Likely your organisation has sales volumes, revenues, profits, costs, market share, share price and employee satisfaction data you can use for benchmarking and return on investment.

Customer satisfaction data will reveal reputation; perhaps your brand is ranked annually by Interbrand or other indices.

What if the data reveals your transformation is not delivering these commercial benefits? Go back to the point when your objectives and activities diverged from commercial purpose and work out what to do differently to get you back in line with purpose.

Mindsets & Behaviours

The other mistake we make is evaluating success as delivering the technology. We forget technology is an enabler, nothing changes until employees change the way they work.

They won’t do this just because we give them new technologies – even when the existing systems drive them crazy – or because we tell them they have to change.

It is impossible to coerce people to change, they have to choose, make the choice to work in different ways. My experience is that the majority of people are open to change, they just don’t like the way change is imposed on them by people unconnected with them and who don’t involve them in the process – or ask for their experiences and ideas.

Ultimately, we need to change their mindsets so they believe the new ways of working are good for them, their colleagues and customers, before they will change the way they work.

Too many transformation programmes ignore this people side. It should have equal resource and expertise as the technology delivery side. Focus initially will be explaining what is happening in the marketplace and with customers that means the organisation needs to change, how new ways of working address this, who is impacted, rollout when and where.

Later, as rollout approaches, focus moves to getting people involved, taking ownership and playing an active part in making the technology effective in the medium to long term.

Jo Ann Sweeney is an expert in the people side of digital transformation. She is internationally known for taking stakeholders on the journey from knowing little and resisting, to willingly committing to sticky change. Then her clients deliver the revenue and reputation benefits executives expect of transformation. Connect with Jo Ann on LinkedIn. Read more about Strategic Digital Transformation – A Results Driven Approach.

Categories: People