Technology alone is not a silver bullet when it comes to digital transformation


Ahead of this year’s Digital Transformation EXPO Manchester, James McGough, Managing Director at Imago Techmedia Group – the organisers behind DTX Manchester, discusses how having the right people and company culture plays a huge role in whether technology investments transform business performance. 

Digital transformation has been a buzzword for the last few years, with businesses of all sizes striving to undergo the process in one form or another. 

Whether it’s shifting a whole organisation onto a new interface to accelerate operations, or moving from paper-based record keeping to documents hosted on the cloud for everyone to access, there’s varying degrees of digital transformation which can take place. 

But, 78 per cent of these digital transformation projects do not meet their outlined objectives. Why is this?

Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail

There are many reasons why some digital transformation projects struggle to make it off the ground and have the desired impact. These include underestimating the complexity of the task, lack of road mapping, unreasonable expectations and poor organisational structure/culture. So, there’s a disconnect between the idea of digital transformation and how it works in principle. 

Inevitably, an element of digital transformation has to incorporate technology. But not enough work is being done upfront to understand which technologies will provide the right solution for the desired end goal. This puts business and IT leaders in a difficult position when it comes to planning and implementation.

From what we see, many organisations are trying to implement services which are not fit for purpose. We found, businesses associated the following technologies with digital transformation: cloud services (51%), cyber security (46%), artificial intelligence (49%), modern networks and infrastructure (42%), and data analytics (30%). But, they’re not always relevant to the majority of organisations. This is interesting as many businesses don’t yet have the necessary networks or data to support AI, but even small sole traders could benefit from RPA or intelligent automation. Your business is like no other, so establish the desired outcome and what is financially viable before transformation projects are initiated.  

One of the largest investment areas continue to be cloud. Cloud-based services have formed the backbone of digital transformation because they offer a network for companies to access collectively, at any time, and from anywhere in the world. With the rising number of employees wanting to work flexibly or completely remotely, many organisations are trying to implement these solutions to gain, and retain, the best talent. But these solutions aren’t always one-size-fits-all, especially to SMEs. Cloud-based systems work far better when they are built specifically for the organisation it is servicing. So, when choosing a cloud-based service provider, make sure to choose one which meets your needs. This should make sure that the solution delivers on objectives.

Tech skills shortage strikes again

It’s also key to note that with the implementation of any new technology, there needs to be a skilled operative in the background making sure it’s working correctly. For instance, if the cloud server goes down, not only you, but your whole operation goes down as well. But this isn’t as simple as it sounds. The industry is growing significantly and there is a considerable skills gap, with 90 per cent of organisations reporting a lack of skills in multiple cloud disciplines. Although the jobs are out there, businesses are struggling to recruit for these roles. 

Additionally, the data science and cyber security fields are also seeing a drastic skills shortage, which is only adding to the issue. We’ve seen several reports over the last year of businesses being brought to their knees due to a data hack or security breach. Therefore, in this ever-changing and developing world, it’s essential the team in the organisation has the skills and expertise to effectively manage any solution which is implemented as part of the digital transformation, if not you could end up with more issues than you started with. 

But, it’s not all doom and gloom, with organisations across the UK, like Manchester Digital, on a mission to encourage the younger generations into technology and digital careers in efforts to curb this skills gap. Although we see a shortage now, it’s only a matter of time before we have fully-qualified technology experts joining the workforce. 

Company culture for success 

Research has shown if change management efforts fail it’s because outdated models and change techniques are fundamentally misaligned with the constantly changing business environment. To combat this, businesses must have a robust change management infrastructure in place in order to effectively deliver digital transformation. 

There are several key factors that must be considered when it comes to change management. These include: preparation, definition of requirements, the design phase – including the selection of the right solutions, the building phase, the test phase, and finally the launch. All these involve resources, attention, and awareness from those at the top in order to make the process successful. 

With this in mind, those mobilising the change must remember organisations are made of individuals each with their own agendas, interests, and end-goals. Instead of forcing a culture where you are trying to persuade people why they should change as a collective, look at what appeals to each department individually and why digital transformation should resonate with them. This personalisation will not only build an effective company culture but will also ensure holistic buy-in from all parties. 

The new era of digital transformation 

Recently, we’ve seen several successful digital transformation schemes that have put people and the business’ culture at the heart of the process, in turn reaping the rewards. One key example from last year is when the NHS introduced NHSX to have oversight of NHS Digital

NHSX’s key responsibilities were to: create coordination and consistency – establishing best practice across the whole NHS technology, digital, and data policies; support the use of emerging and technologies; establish cyber security standards to protect valuable data; champion and develop digital training, skills and culture; and deliver an efficient process for technology spend, domain name management, and website security. 

As a result, the NHS has created a solution that is fit for all purposes, while ensuring each and every member of the organisation is trained sufficiently in order to implement this transformation, no matter what their business role is. By taking this approach and building a clear structure and culture where all parties are involved and informed, it means the NHS has successfully delivered one of the largest digital transformation initiatives to date. 

As part of the DTX agenda, we’ll have Iain O’Neil, Digital Transformation Director at NHSX, discussing the implementation of NHSX, the pain points of the digital transformation project, and ultimately its success. Iain will be on the Digital Culture Stage on 25 March at 2pm.

Planning for the future

It’s clear that when digital transformation works well but it’s clear there needs to be investment in the people and culture behind this transformation to make it a success. We can’t rely on technology to solve all the problems; businesses must work collectively as an organisation to ensure the success of the company’s future. 

We’ll be discussing this and a whole host of other ways to effectively implement digital transformation in your business, no matter what your size, at this year’s Digital Transformation EXPO Manchester, 25-26 March, at Manchester Central. Find out more about the event, here 

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