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Why digital transformations are so difficult?

At any of the Summits one goes to these days there are innumerable presentations on digital transformations and how successfully they are being accomplished and the speed at which they are accomplished. However, the reality is very different from the claims. Over $4.7 trillion has already been invested in currently live digital transformation initiatives around the world. And shockingly, only 19% of consumers could report any significant improvement in the experiences that their banking, retail, utilities, or healthcare provider offered them! If this is not a wake-up call to business leaders, I don’t know what is. Digital disruption is close to the top of the agenda in many boardrooms today, but who should lead the charge? The problem does not lie with the idea it lies in the execution. Most large organisations believe that acquiring a start-up, setting up a digital transformation team made up of a bunch of people who are from digital, analytics, data and technology teams or just appointing a Chief Digital Officer are mantras for success. None of these work. The secret sauce to success is the organisations’ ability to collaborate, have a vision, have measurable KPIs and most importantly the project needs to be led from the top.

The average tenure of CDO is a low 2.5 years across the world. A telling figure which exposes the fact that these so-called digital transformations are not unfolding the way they were expected to. The issue is that the territory comes with high ambiguity and the ability to deal with it is very low. Most of the people thrust into these jobs have prior experience of executing well defined and relatively simple digital tasks. With sky high expectations of solving complex business problems, the rubber never meets the road!

COLLABORATOR_table

The biggest need from a people point of view is organisational fits and not superheroes. It could be from inside or outside the organisation but people with a collaborative, insightful and solution-oriented mindset.

In my experience at different points of time I have met one of the above four and never seen all four qualities in the same person!  It is very difficult to put a team together for digital transformation and maybe organisations have all along got it wrong. Digital adaption is a more accurate term because this is a never-ending process and digital is not some strange animal with horns that will need to be addressed separately. Digital is part of business and in many cases the business. The sooner leaders realise this the better.

 

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