Digital transformation: 3 post-pandemic challenges to address

These three issues could be undermining your digital transformation strategy. Here's how to recognize and deal with them
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Crack in ground, employees falling into crack

Clearly, digital transformation is essential for business survival in a connected world. According to 2020 statistics from Gartner, 91 percent of businesses are engaged in some form of digital initiative, while 87 percent of senior business leaders say digitalization is a priority.

But transitioning to digital technologies and services looks different for every enterprise, and not every deployment will bring the same level of success. A McKinsey survey found that just under half of C-suite executives reported less profit than expected from their digital transformation efforts.

3 digital transformation obstacles to understand

So, what makes the difference when businesses implement new digital solutions? Despite the nuances of each individual implementation, many digital transformations are hampered by the same obstacles. Here are three of the biggest challenges that impede the success of digital transformations in 2021:

1. On-site or remote work?

The global workforce’s response to COVID-19 was immediate and overwhelming. For the vast majority of enterprises, this meant a fast and unplanned-for transition to remote work. And while plenty has been written about how the world facilitated widespread work-from-home programs seemingly overnight, it remains to be seen how – and even if – businesses and their employees will make the transition back into the office.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

The uncertainty surrounding the future of work can be a major hurdle for companies planning new aspects of their digital transformation. What kind of solutions will be necessary for a hybrid workforce with some employees in the office and others on home networks? For many enterprises, employees could pursue a hybrid model on an individual level, working one or two days per week on-premises and the remaining time remotely. 

What kind of solutions will be necessary for a hybrid workforce with some employees in the office and others on home networks?

For enterprises plagued by COVID uncertainty, waiting for answers isn’t an option. In today’s hypercompetitive global economy, pressing pause and delaying necessary upgrades for a year or more could prove fatal. You can effectively split the difference by vetting new technologies and microservices to ensure that they will function properly in the office, at home, and anywhere in between.

2. Long-term planning with short-term migrations

For many enterprises, digital transformation is a step-by-step transition involving several strategies, tools, and services. The problem with this mindset is assuming a completed state at the end of each migration – that the tech stack will be a “finished product” for months or years after the implementation of the next digital solution.

Today’s business technologies move too fast for there to ever be a perfect and complete tech stack. Enterprises are better served by focusing on individual deployments and considering how new tools will play together within the company’s long-term plans. By accepting that the digital transformation is actually a steady, evolving migration, you’ll have a better chance of riding the waves of new services and ensuring a reliable environment for your employees.

3. Employee buy-in

While today’s digital transformations of 2021 certainly look different than those of a decade ago, one significant challenge remains consistent: getting employees to buy in and adapt to new digital solutions. Humans are naturally conditioned to want to fall into routines and rely on tried-and-true solutions.

The key to successfully overcoming employee pushback is consistent, effective communication. Any deployment of new technology should be accompanied by thoughtful messaging. Explain the need and anticipated benefit of the new solution, solicit feedback from employees during and after implementation, and assuage any concerns regarding potential challenges or lost work.

For all three challenges, preparation and strategy will make the difference between success and failure. Digital transformation often requires substantial reorganization of work and roles; enterprise leaders can communicate these changes to employees only if everyone understands them in advance.

As the world emerges from the pandemic, 2021 may be the most consequential year yet for digital transformations. Take a bird’s-eye view of your enterprise and tech needs, plan for both the short-term and long-term, and communicate with your employees at every step of the way.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

Rajan Sethuraman is CEO of LatentView Analytics. His vision for the company is to maximize the value of AI and success for clients with a human understanding of their business needs, guided by expertise in CPG, financial services, technology, healthcare, retail and other core sectors.