Why Only 26% of Digital Transformation Projects Succeed

By Scott Mackey | December 15, 2020

Why do 84 percent of digital transformation projects fail?

According to McKinsey, “…companies often experiment at a pace that fails to match the rate of change around them, slowing their ability to learn fast enough to keep up.”

According to Forbes, a lack of clear strategy, uninspiring leadership, an unwillingness to adapt, and focusing on the launch versus development and delivery are obstacles too steep to surmount.

In my opinion, digital transformation projects can look and sound deceptively simple on the surface, and some are. There are a few easy wins available and those can contribute to a set of false or misaligned expectations about what’s required to truly transform the business.

Just like personal fitness, the time, effort, and complexity of achieving an ideal digital transformation outcome is often quite far from the reality of what's required.

Given these limitations, how can organizations set themselves up for success? If you’re embarking on a digital transformation initiative, here are five things you can do to give your project the best chance of success.

Set Clear, Realistic Expectations

why only 26 percent of DT projects succeed (call out stat with source)
Digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. You’re overhauling everything about how you used to do business and implementing new technologies. The technology you choose is only one piece of the overall project—and it will have downstream implications on the rest of your business.

Before you even start your project, your digital transformation strategy should align on expectations across the board, both internally and with your vendors.

Everyone on your team should be able to describe the intended outcomes in clear, plain English.

Create a Cross-Functional Team to Manage the Project 

While digital transformation technology may start with an IT team, a successful project requires input from stakeholders in every part of the business.

Don’t underestimate the amount of work that a project of this scale requires—you need more than one department or one individual to succeed.

You’ll need an empowered cross-functional team with dedicated subject matter experts and other essential resources like project managers to ensure timely progress against your goals.

Understand How Technology Fits into the Entire Workflow

It’s tempting to go after the low-hanging fruit and use technology to automate a manual process without evaluating why that process exists in the first place. 

AI or machine learning can make your organization more efficient, but it often masks an underlying workflow that needs to be fixed.

Be wary of fossilizing a given process or system—what’s the real opportunity for efficiency? Use the power of your cross-functional team to outline existing processes, so you understand what’s working and what’s not. That way, technology fixes the root cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.

Start Small & Then Expand

Complex projects must start somewhere. Early digital transformation wins build momentum and support across the organization—as long as you don’t take your foot off the gas. 

When it comes to organizing unstructured data in complex documents, start with the business outcome you want to achieve. Whether it’s reducing overall turnaround time for claims or ensuring compliance with a particular SEC regulation, find easy automation wins—that you can quickly implement—before changing everything at once.

Enjoy the easy, early wins where you can, but don’t become complacent. Digital transformation is a huge undertaking, and you shouldn’t rest on your laurels before your project has truly begun.

Use a Trusted Partner

As the old saying goes: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Digital transformation sounds easy on the surface, but it’s a journey.

That’s why engaging with trusted partners proven to operate at scale can be the difference between success and failure. 

Look for a partner with a proven history of operating at the enterprise level in terms of technology, expertise, and ongoing support capabilities.

The Final Verdict

Organizations embarking on digital transformation efforts face an uphill battle that requires coordinating many moving parts and stakeholders to succeed. But by setting clear expectations, creating a cross-functional team, using technology with your workflow, focusing on outcomes, and using a trusted partner like Adlib, you can keep your project on track.

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Sources & Credits
Forbes: Where Businesses Go Wrong With Digital Transformation
McKinsey Digital: Digital strategy in a time of crisis

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