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Digital transformation has been the most prominent and pervasive business trend across industries and regions for a bigger part of the last decade. By now, most industries and organisations of all sizes, from global corporates to local grocery stores and cafes, in all corners of the world have engaged, directly or indirectly, into a process of technological transformation of how they business and create value for customers. Aside for the most obvious reason, 2020 will also go down in business history books as probably the last year anybody anywhere had to persuade companies & management of the importance and necessity of digital transformation initiatives and argue for an increased share of digital technologies and budgets. The unprecedented market disruption caused by Covid-19 global pandemic propelled the importance and necessity of digital capabilities as matter of business continuity and organisational resilience. Digital transformation, finally, was taken for what it is - not a matter of choice, but matter of survival. Here and now.
Covid-19 global pandemic propelled the importance and necessity of digital capabilities as matter of business continuity and organisational resilience.
The fallout of the 2020 pandemic will be a digital acceleration - fast forwarding of digital transformation initiatives and projects. Once set in medium to distant future, digital transformation projects are increasingly finding their ways into 2020-2023 budgets and organisational plans. From normalisation of flexible and remote working, to closure of physical retail stores in favour of digital only presence, companies are using the crisis to accelerate inevitable organisational changes. What once seemed too bold, now seems only logical.
However, even as a crisis response, the accelerated agenda of digital transformation shouldn't be approached through 'carte blanche' or blank cheque approach
However, even as a crisis response, the accelerated agenda of digital transformation shouldn't be approached through 'carte blanche' or blank cheque approach. On the contrary, as they become mission critical, digital transformation projects should be scrutinised more than ever. One part of this scrutinisation is to have an honest conversation about digital transformation projects, their success and failure rates, functional bias as well to bring forward one of its most well kept dirty little secrets - ghost platform users.
An honest conversation about digital transformation
Digital transformation projects can fail for many reasons, both on the strategy and executional level. With such complex undertaking many things can go wrong, so it is not surprising that some reports talk about 'digital transformation churn' (aka. failure rate) as high as 84%. A failed digital transformation project in usual circumstances doesn’t spell the ultimate end of a company, but it can be incredibly costly in lost money, resources, time and credibility. Aside of famous digital transformation failures like those undertaken by GE, Ford and P&G, which make headlines and drag the stock price down, majority of those happen quietly, within individual departments, business units and most don't even get reported or acknowledged as such.
Majority of failed digital transformation initiatives happen quietly, within individual departments, business units and most don't even get reported or acknowledged as such
Un)surprising as it may sound, most failed digital transformation projects are reported as successes. But, this misreporting or misrepresentation of failure for a success usually isn't part of some elaborate cover-up plan or conspiracy, but rather a combination of innate human aversion to failure acknowledgment and an improper definition of a successful digital transformation project. Is it the latter one - definition of success, which holds the key to digital transformation success & failure redefinition.
(Un)surprising as it may sound, most failed digital transformation projects are reported as successes.
Implemented technology platforms which nobody really uses
Far too often digital transformation initiatives focus on and are measured by a single dimension - the technology. Sure, finding the right technology, integrating it with existing ones and/or (re)designing a completely new digital ecosystem within an organisation is a complex undertaking which, if done right, can create sustainable and long lasting competitive advantage. Fact is that new technology platforms are most visible element of digital transformation projects. Once bought and implemented they do serve as the most visible testament of company's digital transformation efforts much like their costs in organisational budget positions. But fact that technology platforms are visible and implemented in the organisation does not necessarily mean people actually use these new technologies in they daily workflow nor does it guarantee the transition from 'old' to 'new' ways of doing things will be successful nor sustainable. Quite the contrary. Most often, at least in short to medium term, majority of implemented platforms are not widely used by its targeted users - the employees. So even though 'on paper' it may seem a digital transformation initiative is a success, as platforms have been bought, integrated and implemented, if nobody is really using them, and in a purposeful way, truth is technology has been rejected by its targeted users - thus it can only be classified as a failure.
If technology has been rejected by its targeted users - project can only be classified as a failure.
The hardest part of digital transformation isn't the technology, its the people change and change in human behaviour. If your digital transformation projects don't take into account user adoption you will end up with ghost platforms - platforms which are bought and implemented, but which nobody in your organisation actually uses and in fact keeps avoiding to use. You may have listed and registered users, but if they don't adopt platforms into their daily work habits and work flows, to produce new or better business outcomes truth is your platform is like a ghost town - architecture is there, but nobody lives there.
You may have listed and registered users, but if they don't adopt platforms into their daily work habits and workflows, to produce new or better business outcomes, truth is your platform is like a ghost town - everything people need is present, but nobody lives there
Digital transformation's dirty little secret - ghost platform users
Digital transformation involves technologies AND humans. Unfortunately, we tend to ignore the latter (humans) when leading change. It’s perhaps the most critical — and most overlooked — success factor in digital transformation today. Overlooking people side of digital transformation and forgetting to include digital adoption programs with your technology implementation efforts results in ghost platform users. Users which are nominally registered and they may even log in once or twice but who continue doing their work 'the old' way, avoiding the newly implemented technology platforms.
Overlooking people side of digital transformation and forgetting to include digital adoption programs with your technology implementation efforts results in ghost platform users.
Whether it is your salesforce which keeps avoiding to use their new iPad app, preferring to use paper orders or your HR staff who continues to keep excel based data-sheets, fact remains that people's behaviour, and within it psychological resistance to change, is at the source of the technology rejection problem. Beyond the platform users lists, sits an individual, with its own value system, beliefs, fears and anxieties about implications which this technology or platform change will mean for him or her. Overcoming this, very natural, if not innate, resistance to change is only possible with tailored digital / user adoption programs.
Whether it is your salesforce which keeps avoiding to use their new iPad app, preferring to use paper orders, or your HR staff who continues to keep excel based data-sheets, psychological resistance to change is at the source of the technology rejection problem.
Digital Adoption - Key to Overcoming Resistance to Change and Successful Implementation of Digital Transformation Projects
When facing resistance to change to planned or undergoing digital transformation projects it's important to realise emotional background to it. In these instances, tailored digital adoption or user adoption programs become crucial enablers of successful implementation of digital transformation projects. Namely, digital adoption is defined as achieving a state in which digital tools are being used as intended, and to the fullest extent. Digital adoption, quite simply, refers to achieving a state within your company where all of your digital tools and assets are leveraged to the fullest extent. Adopting technology to its fullest extent will essentially allow you to get a return on investment (ROI) on your digital assets; in other words, you’re not just spending money on the latest tools and technologies but you’re actually taking full advantage of them and getting all the benefits you can get. Consider the computer in your pocket — your smartphone. While your grandmother might only use hers to make and receive calls, for the average user it is an extension of the self. For example, if you only use your iPhone as a portable calculator. You use this digital device, but you're not utilising anything near its full capabilities.
For example, if you only use your iPhone as a portable calculator - you use this digital device, but you're not utilising anything near its full capabilities.
User adoption or digital adoption strategies represent a plan of action, designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim within an organisation and are crucial to the new technology’s success. Without a good strategy, you will not get the seamless transition you are hoping for. There will be dissatisfaction, frustration, technical problems, and general chaos.
If you are planning or currently undergoing digital transformation projects, and need help with digital adoption, contact us today. for a commitment FREE consultation.