Workgrop around an office meeting table


How NOT to digitally transform

Micaela Longo & Deepa Parbhoo
Micaela Longo & Deepa Parbhoo

EMEA Product Marketing Specialists, Document Solutions

The relevance of “digital transformation” has never been higher than it is today and with that comes a lot of pressure. Arresting headlines and worrying stats tell business leaders that time is running out – transform or die. With so much being promised to those who transform, there’s a fever of change happening.

But, even with this pressure, we have to remember that transformation projects are no mean feat. Businesses tend to make the same mistakes time and again. Following these classic models, here’s how you can make yours a sure-fire disaster!

Cover your ears and press delete!

  1. People complain whatever you do, so better to enforce change and then deal with the backlash later: Start with ripping and replacing existing infrastructure. Employees might be dependent on the previous systems, but who cares what they think - out with the old, in with the new. Chaos might ensue for a while, but it’ll be worth it in the end!

  2. It’s time to go paperless! And doing it overnight without warning is the best way to make it happen. Simply ban workers from using paper and abracadabra, instant modernisation!

Have all the gear but no idea!

  1. The aim of digital transformation is to introduce new technology, right? Set out a plan outlining the new, shiny technology you’re going to buy. Once it’s installed it’s time to pop the champagne corks, your digital transformation is complete!

  2. Always make sure to choose tech based on spec. Dazzling product features are the best way to bring change to your organisation. Too often businesses are held back by worrying about employees, but they aren’t the tech experts, so try not to let their concerns impact your decision.

  3. The best way to get workers up to speed once the changes are in place is to organise a quick training session, no more than an hour long, preferably in an overly-warm room, with a particularly dry PowerPoint deck. Make sure to discourage participation, otherwise these drag on. Once all employees have attended one of these, that’s the box ticked!

Put one person in charge!

  1. ‘Too many cooks in the kitchen’ is a saying for a reason. Involving a lot of people in a project means considering too many, contradictory points of view. So, make sure to assign as few individuals as possible to be in charge of digital transformation. If you see any invitations to discuss plans, just delete them – better everyone gets on with it.

  2. It’s important to have leaders who drive forward change for your department, regardless of what everybody else is doing. Siloed transformation projects are common in large businesses and that’s because they work! It doesn’t really matter what others are doing if you aren’t planning on talking to them anyway, right? After all, nobody really understands what the social team does. If you haven’t worked with them yet, why start now?!

Sounding familiar? While all of us have probably experienced some of the above during company transformation projects, not surprisingly, they are not how you get good results. But there’s no need to despair quite yet, here are three ways to ensure your project stays on track.

"However dazzling the product features, there’s no point investing in new tech if none of the employees will use it."

Transformation, Done Properly

Transition smoothly

The issue with the word ‘transformation’ is that is implies speed. When we hear that word, we think caterpillar to butterfly - and that’s where it tends to go wrong. The reality of transformation is typically less glamorous, involving step by step change, rather than the ‘grand reveal’ which is typically touted by consultancies.

Rolling out new technology is important, but so is keeping the lights on. Legacy infrastructure, while onerous, is often the backbone of the company, keeping daily activity afloat.

For transitions to be successful, they need to take into account the reality of today’s office where every department balances paper and digital processes and legacy infrastructure still plays a role. The road to digitisation should be a smooth integration not a rip and replace job.

Onboard properly

However dazzling the product features, there’s no point investing in new tech if none of the employees will use it. Spec and capabilities remain very important, but should not come at the cost of practicality. What’s more, the most successful transformation projects involve consulting the workforce throughout, making sure new technology addresses current pain points and offers benefits above current solutions.

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate

Given that most businesses ultimately want to move their entire organisation towards digitisation, it’s important to approach transformation as a company-wide strategy. Siloed projects can result in each department running separate software and systems which do not work together. Ultimately, this can lead to deeper problems with harnessing data across functions, for example, a single customer journey can often be managed by multiple departments.

There is huge pressure on companies to digitally transform. But doing so at the expense of strategy will ultimately lead to frustration and wasted budget. There is no such thing as an off-the-shelf package when it comes to digital change. What works for another organisation, won’t necessarily be right for yours. That’s why transformation needs time and planning, it needs to be goal-orientated, it needs collaboration from top to bottom, and it needs to happen step by step to avoid company-wide chaos. While everybody is looking to capitalise on digital opportunities, it really is a case that failing to prepare means preparing to fail.

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