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The Buzzword Failing 84% of Companies

By jenny
December 12, 2018
Read Time: 6 minutes

84% failure rate.

That’s steep. No matter what you’re measuring, failing 84% of the time is a hard pill to swallow. Believe it or not, though, just two short years ago that was the estimated failure rate for digital transformation.

Digital transformation - it’s a buzzword that executives can’t get out of their heads. It’s often used in conjunction with terms like “innovation,” “automation,” “disruption,” etc. For companies hoping to increase efficiency by streamlining repeatable tasks typically handled by entry-level employees, digital transformation can drive significant improvements for both your capacity and bottom line.

Changes in various industries are forcing many organizations to look for ways to turn to digital before it’s too late. Everywhere we look, another company is unveiling some “innovative” idea and flipping a traditional business model on its head. Honestly, though, what’s too late?

It’s almost as if there is an imaginary timeclock that is pressuring businesses to transform or die. That’s some serious pressure. But - think about it - is every business ready to ramp up digitally? Is every business prepared with the infrastructure and systems to support such quick movement? No. Forbes published an article earlier this year that outlined the key failure points for businesses that rush into digital transformation just because it’s the buzzword of the week. The exact pieces of the business that organizational leaders are hoping to improve upon are lost - money, productivity and time. How this can happen in organizations that are otherwise savvy about business dealings? Lack of proper planning.

Overturning the Buzzword

How do you get past the “buzzword” and plan for a digital transformation project? First of all, there are two important things wrong with that question:

  1. Digital transformation is not merely a project.
  2. You need to have a proper plan. Any old plan won’t do.

Changing your mind on the above two points can shift your mindset from being focused on the trendiness of buzzwords to looking more at digital transformation as a tool for business growth and productivity.

Don’t Think of Digital Transformation as a Project

Digital transformation is a shift in your organization’s mindset. There are no hard start and stop dates. While there will be key initiatives and milestones, this is a culture change for your organization. That said, as you make the move into digital, you can divide the things you want to tackle into mini-projects with key objectives to hit as you go.

The way you handle everything will change, which is why it’s important to think through a proper digital transformation plan for your organization.

Developing a Proper Digital Transformation Plan

We hate to admit it, but you won’t find all of the answers in this article. Ultimately, it’s up to your team (and partners you’re working with) to determine what that plan looks like. Here are a few questions business leaders can use to help guide the discussion:

  • What are the areas of the business where entry-level staff members spend the most time?
    • Important consideration: If we automate/digitize some of those areas, can we train entry-level employees on new skills that will push the business forward and/or take something off a mid- to senior-level employee’s plate?
  • What areas of the business are we outsourcing?
    • Important consideration: Could some of these dollars be re-invested in improved technology, more training for staff, etc.?
  • Are the processes in our area(s) of focus predictable and repeatable?
    • Important consideration: If processes aren’t streamlined, meaning they can be repeated in a predictable way, then they aren’t yet ready to be automated.

Certainly, there are more questions that will come up and need to be addressed, but the above are good conversation starters.

After you’ve figured out what to tackle, you’ll need to determine exactly how you plan to do it. Depending on what’s important to your business, some changes could be as simple as automating data collection and dashboard generation, while other changes could be as complex as launching a new online ordering experience that allows customers to buy groceries and other household goods to pick up without leaving the comfort of their car (Target and Walmart, here’s looking at you).

Of course, a plan is not realized until there is a goal. For anything you plan to change, there needs to be a hard and fast goal by which you measure effectiveness. Our team is a huge fan of SMART goals. You may already know about them, but you can learn more here just in case. Whatever the number is, set something you can measure and timebox it. If you take the data collection automation example above, you could set a goal like this: With the automation, I want to have an extra 16 hours per month that I can dedicate to reviewing TPS reports by the end of January (smile). If you are able to dedicate 16 hours or more (without increasing your work time), that initiative was a success.

Once you’ve determined the area of your business you want to change and set goals/plans, you need to tell everyone. Everyone. Don’t leave anyone out. This evolution will impact everyone in your organization, and everyone needs to be prepared to handle the change. In order to do that, they need to have a clear understanding of what’s changing, why, and how it will impact the company and their role.

Make Sure Senior Leadership is Onboard

If your CEO doesn’t believe in your digital transformation plan, you’re unlikely to get much traction. The same goes for the rest of the C-Suite. There must be buy-in coming from the top down in order to be successful in your digital transformation. You’ll be more focused and with the blessing of leadership, you’re more likely to get approvals on smaller digital transformation initiatives.

How to Get Help

If you’re looking to develop a digital transformation strategy for your organization, Anvil can help. We’re a digital transformation hybrid agency that is led by data. Get in touch today!

About the Author
Jenny Bristow is the CEO and Co-Founder of Anvil, a digital + analytics agency in St. Louis, Missouri. Anvil focuses on creating data-driven digital strategies that help clients develop scalable, measurable digital marketing programs for clients in the healthcare, education and manufacturing space. Prior to starting Anvil, Jenny launched, grew and sold a digital agency in Seattle, Washington and worked at Amazon.com. She was named one of St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 under 30, won a Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 and speaks regularly at industry and local events.
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