The problems with digital transformation and IT transformation programs are primarily in their names, as the name tends to define the agenda on what’s in focus for the project; digital or IT. While it holds true that the purpose of these projects is to transform the IT or digital capabilities of a company from one digital maturity state to another state, it’s easy to oversee or even forget the most important part of what makes these programs a success

People. And even more so the ability of people and teams to work together to make the transformation happen. I’ve been in too many meetings discussing digital aspects of the future without paying attention to how to make it happen. Sometimes I feel like the managers are thinking “if we just get the right hardware and software, it’ll all work out”. Which of course it won’t because the last word of the project is forgotten or ignored:

Transformation. As in ‘transformation of a company to perform new tasks in new ways and working together with the customer and business in the center’. While many companies (and especially top management far away from the ground) claim that they indeed are customer and business oriented, they’re not. Think about your own company and companies you know of and I’m sure you’ll agree

Think about how much time you spend on internal matters and how much time is actually spent on customer and business facing activities. It won’t be a lot, I’m sure. Companies are still so tied up in turf wars, power struggles, individual goals and targets that the overarching success criteria of the transformation project simply cannot be met – and this is why we read about so many transformation projects are failing

I believe if you have the right team and organizational setup, you don’t need much IT or digital to make a transition to reaching a higher level of digital maturity a success. I believe if you invest money and dedicated, true management time up front to pave the organizational way for a transformation project, then the project will more or less implement itself. Yes, I believe that much in having the right people in the right places with the right organizational authorities. I’ve been part of it before and made it happen

Back to reality. It’s many times more difficult to change an organization and the people than it is to get approval to spend millions on ‘IT or digital transformation projects’ with a promising return on investment. It’s just a shame that so many really ignore that the return on investment only comes when people are regarded as the key critical success factor

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