Overcoming Digital Transformation Barriers

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Navigating the Digital Transformation of Business

Simon Michie, CTO at Pulsant explains how you can overcome common barriers and concerns on your journey within the digital transformation of business to ensure success.

Digital transformation has accelerated at an astonishing pace over the last 12 months. The pandemic has acted as a wake-up call for those businesses that were previously slow to modernise or that were unaware of the importance of digital in remaining competitive. 

According to our latest research, 75% of IT decision-makers say COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation, with 62% advancing by more than six months. But digital transformation is not just a short-term fix in response to the challenges the pandemic has posed; it is critical to ensuring operational agility moving forwards. 

The problem is, by moving so quickly, many organisations miss out on laying out a clear technology strategy and, as a result, critical transformation barriers can emerge. And with findings from Everest Group suggesting that seven in ten transformation projects fail, these need to be addressed before organisations can reach their digital potential.

Understanding the barriers

It's not uncommon to come across challenges on your journey to digital. Our research reveals that 88% of UK organisations are facing barriers to transformation, with common challenges including integrating with legacy infrastructure, a lack of skills and the complexity of technology choices available.

Many IT teams also have concerns about digital transformation including the complexity of transformation, security of business-critical applications and the ability to keep the business running 24/7. Anything that may impact digital transformation success needs to be identified from the outset and steps taken to mitigate where possible. So where should you start?

1. Define your end goal

One of the most common barriers to success is a lack of digital strategy. But if you don't set a digital vision at the outset, transformation can become a costly ineffective project. Identify your transformation goals, ensure they are aligned to the business objectives and put in place clear lines of accountability at each stage.

Also nominate someone to lead the digital transformation ensure key stakeholders are engaged and aligned on your objectives. Whether your goal is to drive operational efficiency or improve user experience, you need C-level support to help drive digital change throughout the organisation.

2. Remove siloes

You need to make sure your culture and structure supports change. Many organisations choose to set up innovation units that work separately from the rest of the business and focus solely on developing and executing the transformation strategy. While this may seem logical, it can actually create a significant barrier as integration with the rest of the business can become complex.

Remove any silos by encouraging cross-collaboration between stakeholders across the organisation. Without buy-in and engagement from across the whole business, you may find your culture and structure can slow your digital transformation or halt it entirely.

3. Identify any skills gaps

Another area where businesses can often struggle is accessing the technical skills required to support transformation. Having access to the right skills is essential for success, so make sure you assess the current capabilities in your organisation and identify any holes early on. If talent is not readily available, identify a strategic partner that can provide additional resource and bridge the gaps.

4. Understand limitations of legacy infrastructure

As mentioned earlier, another common challenge is integration with legacy infrastructure. But with the right approach, this can be far less daunting than it initially seems.

Cloud is an essential component of digital transformation and key to achieving true digital agility, but it's not always easy to “lift and shift” existing data an infrastructure to the cloud. And in some cases, it may not even be appropriate. You need to identify what data you need to support your transformation and evaluate which IT infrastructure needs to be moved to the cloud and in which order.

You may also want to consider a workload assessment to help map out how each component will connect in your transformation strategy. This can then be used to design the right cloud configuration for your needs. For example, it may be that you need a hybrid cloud solution the works around existing infrastructure to meet your requirements.

5. Mitigate cost and complexity concerns

If decision-making for your digital transformation includes board members, business owners or investors, you will need to demonstrate costs and return on investment or risks delays. Make sure you communicate the business case for any new technologies as clearly as possible, including why the investment is necessary and how it will help to meet business objectives.

The sheer complexity of a transformation project can be overwhelming for senior decision makers, especially if they don't have a good understanding of digital technology. In this case, it may be beneficial to enlist a consulting partner that has expertise in digital transformation projects to help validate decisions and remove the complexity of technology choices.

6. Factor in security from the outset

In an age where cyber security threats are continually escalating, any infrastructure changes can be a cause for concern and runs the risk of widening the attack surface if not done correctly. Ensure you embrace a secure-by-design approach to guarantee security is a core focus at every stage of your transformation.

Where necessary, provide cyber security training or work with a partner with cyber security expertise to ensure this is instilled across teams and any potential risks are identified and mitigated. This will improve your security posture significantly in comparison to traditional reactive approaches where security issues are fixed only after they a breach or attack has occurred.

Reaching your digital potential

The pandemic has placed a higher premium on organisational agility over the last 12 months and the deployment of digital technologies and cloud to achieve this. However, while digital agility has undoubtedly become a universal goal for businesses everywhere, successful transformation is not always as straightforward as it may initially seem. 

Transformation over the past twelve months will not have been planned for many, with companies forced to revisit their infrastructure strategy for reasons including security, cloud migration and better access to infrastructure. And while great progress may have been made, various barriers can put  transformation efforts at risk.

The focus now needs to be on navigating any barriers and identifying where external skills, support and expertise are required to help you future-proof your infrastructure and reach your digital potential.

Interested in learning more about the digital transformation of business? Check out our picks for the Top 5 Innovations in Digital Transformation.