By Adrian Selley

Business transformation can be a two to five-year journey.

It normally starts with a clear future vision for the business and the compelling reasons for change. It is important to define the likely benefits the transformation will deliver for your business, your customers, and your teams. With this future state clearly in your sights, opportunities can then be explored for ways to redesign your business with digital technologies and methods, opening up new markets, products, and channels.

An element of the transformation solution will be using digital solutions to transform the business across marketing, sales, services, and revenue operations – all filtered through the experience of your customer, of course. 

If you want to redesign and uplift your sales and marketing processes, systems, and culture, there are certain traps to steer clear of. So, with that in mind, let’s look at the top 10 mistakes that can tank a transformation and, most importantly, tips on how to avoid them.

1. Lack of leadership and vision

In the push for digital transformation, many programs commence without a clear vision for the future and a compelling set of reasons to get there. With knowledge that transformation is required, to stay competitive or match customer demands, some programs do not spend enough time defining a compelling vision for the future. Transformation success also requires continued and focused support and leadership from the top. If leaders aren’t clear on where the business is going, and what new ways of working are required, how will the team get there?

Tip: Some leaders rush the Business Visioning step, but successful leaders know the value of having a clear achievable vision, for teams to rally around. There needs to be a clear vision, compelling reason for change, metrics to measure benefits and a clear understanding of what is required to make the vision a reality.

The new business model will require leaders to drive the change and walk the talk. If business transformation is not supported from the top and the leaders are not actively driving the change and exhibiting the required new behaviours, the transformation is at greater risk of faltering.

2. No clear business case

When transformation objectives are not backed up by a compelling business case the transformation program can soon suffer from a lack of buy-in and sponsorship – a potential spiral of doom. Transformation projects are rarely cheap, and usually involve significant resources, time, and effort to get right. Being clear on the transformation business goals, expected benefits and costs, can help the business stay focused on supporting the important transformation.

Tip: There is no greater way to make sure the business leadership supports your project than to illustrate how it will help them to achieve their goals. This can then be backed up by a business case, outlining the expected benefits and transformation costs. This can articulate how the transformation will improve customer service and satisfaction, improve revenues, drive efficiencies and reduce costs.

3. No way to measure your success

To measure is to know, rather than guess. To measure is to focus on what is important. Without it, the program may not achieve the benefits expected. When transformation project teams fail to define metrics for success, they remove the power from their future story of achievement. Strong metrics help guarantee further support from business leadership. The transformation program can then be set up for success by being able to report on the realisation of benefits, show early wins and apply any learnings going forward.

Tip: Make sure you’re measuring what’s important instead of just what is easiest to measure. Use your metrics to measure progress, record quick wins and gather lessons to refine your delivery approach.

4. Business units operating in silos

In many cases, teams within the business have goals and KPIs aligned to their department or division. Teams are not incentivised to support initiatives outside their department. If the different departments are not aligned and lack incentives for supporting each other, there is a real risk of delays, costly double-ups and future rework.

Tip: Digital transformation should help break down those silos and require the business units to collaborate and align for a better view across the business – all in service to the customer.

When you’re looking at the business from the customer perspective, there is no separation between business functions. So digital business transformation requires alignment across all parts of the business. Especially when delivering a new customer experience or change to a business model. Think about how the teams are incentivised to support each other during the transformation, including shared KPIs and early collaboration.

5. Not having the right culture

A digital transformation can be a daunting journey. It will require teams and staff to operate in new ways and potentially adopt different mindsets. True cultural change takes time. 

Resistance within an organisation and teams can hamper delivery and adoption, potentially delaying or limiting your transformation’s ROI.

Tip: Spend time on defining the culture required to ensure the business transformation is successful.  There are going to be behaviours and new ways of working required. Leaders are going to have to exhibit these new behaviours and ways of working first.

Then get Change Management expertise to define the change strategies and plans and execute them. People are more likely to adopt change if they understand the impact and are taken along the journey. Once employees understand the need for the change and how it will benefit them, they will become advocates for the program and will champion adoption.

6. Not having the right implementation partner

Sometimes a partner with all the right jargon and all the right appearances can make all the wrong moves with your digital transformation. If you haven’t done due diligence on project partners, then don’t be surprised if a project falls over from issues rising from a weak partnership. A good partner should function more like an extension of your own team and have a mutual set of success goals.

If you’ve picked the cheapest partner and it turns out your ways of working and values do not align, or they don’t have the necessary skill sets or experience, then your delivery is likely to suffer.

Tip: Choose an implementation partner that you feel is aligned on values and will be a long term partner. Look for a partner who is willing to explore innovative solutions to define a shared digital transformation vision and roadmap. 

Look for certified partners with strong frameworks that align projects to  business goals, who can help manage internal culture change and who have relevant industry experience. Check for a good level of commitment from the partner senior leaders throughout the entire project timeline, and check for an experienced account team with the right collaborative attitude. 

Check out our infographic and arm yourself with the questions that will help you find the right implementation partner.

7. Not hiring the right talent 

Your Digital Transformation Program will demand certain skill sets and expertise, but right now there’s a battle to find the right tech talent. So you are going to have to get creative and focused to secure the right talent. 

Tip: To create the best environment to succeed, you want the right team on your project. Bring in the best talent to shift the culture of your team, and find ways to bring different teams together to reinvigorate your organisation.

Consider also what will attract top talent. What assets do you have? Consider culture, the program objectives, the technology or the team environment.

Again, this is where the right implementation partner can help, too. As a flexible extension of your team, a capable partner can help you pull in specialist skills as needed and support your internal talent to focus on higher-value tasks.

8. Not focusing on the customer experience

Transformations can become internally focused, and it’s easy to lose sight of the impacts and benefits to customers – at the peril of customer engagement and sales. A digital transformation can sometimes have everyone focused on what the business needs to do to achieve, rather than what it will do for your customers. Keeping customer experiences as a top priority during planning helps ensure your project is truly transformative.

Tip: Shift your view to assess everything from the customer perspective. Consider the customer journey and experience that your planned transformation is likely to provide. Are there opportunities to streamline these further in the design and implementation phases? 

Consider, plan and track the metrics to measure how the customer experience will be improved. For example customer satisfaction / NPS, conversion rates, support calls, journey elapsed times, moments of friction, etc.

9. Not prioritising data 

Any digital transformation is underpinned by data – data being an incredibly important asset. A sure-fire way for your program to be derailed is to push out considering data until later. 

Tip: to unlock the power of data, : 

  • Develop a data strategy (how it will be collected, stored, used, managed, what responsibilities will need to be put in place, what tools are required?)
  • Have a data plan (how will data be migrated, transformed, cleansed)
  • Engage people involved in data management. Articulate responsibilities and the benefits of effective data management and usage

Find out more about why data readiness can make or break your transformation project, and what you can do to ensure your data is capable of supporting change.

10. Trying to do too much

Ambition is good. Success is better. One of the mistakes of transformation is  to have a big bang approach, which is high risk and high reward. This could delay a program’s ability to test, learn and pivot. This will also hamper a program’s ability to put quick wins on the board.

Tip: Play the long game and be sure to phase the implementation, and learn along the way. You can then provide the business with valuable feedback and insights. An added bonus is to show incremental wins, to increase support for the transformation and boost your team’s morale.

Wrapping up

Perhaps you had a chuckle as you read through our list or maybe even winced if one or two points hit a little too close to home. Just remember that, even if something does go wrong, a good partner can help you address many of the challenges that come up during a digital transformation. 

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