Digital transformation fatigue: 6 ways to fight it now

The pandemic only exacerbated the risk of digital transformation burnout for teams that logged long hours to deliver critical capabilities at warp speed. Fight fatigue using these strategies
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Any transformation is a difficult, complex process. Digital transformation  a seemingly endless journey  is particularly so. Both the architects and recipients of digital transformation initiatives can grow frustrated by the process, particularly when communication is unclear, objectives are misunderstood, and end goals are not clarified.

“Digital transformation often fixates on transforming technology with the people aspect coming in as an afterthought. That can make the process more challenging,” says David Tareen, director of AI and analytics at SAS. “An organization that tries to reimagine several projects at one time without a specific focus on the people aspect will quickly find itself with transformation fatigue.”

During the pandemic, did your staff see itself as part of a bigger whole?

The pandemic has only exacerbated the risk of digital burnout for IT teams that logged even longer hours to deliver critical new digital tools at warp speed. “As the IT staff moved remote, the earlier on-the-job learning and sailing through crises became tougher. IT is used to late nights, stressed working hours,” says Yugal Joshi, vice president of digital, cloud, and application services research for Everest Group. But when everyone is working side by side those difficulties can seem easier to bear. “In a remote model, this became a challenge and the staff couldn’t see itself as part of a bigger whole,” Joshi says. “That impacted their passion and commitment to continue serving their businesses.”

[ Get answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: Download our digital transformation cheat sheet. ]

How to beat digital transformation fatigue: 6 tips

IT leaders who sense signs of dwindling enthusiasm for digital transformation (or those aiming to thwart digital transformation malaise) can take a number of actions to fend off fatigue in their organizations.

1. Assess the impact

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Taking a hard look at symptoms of digital transformation fatigue  productivity levels, employee engagement scores, unplanned absences, behavioral issues  will enable IT leaders to create a baseline understanding of the issues and track progress going forward.

2. Take the temperature of the larger organization

“Digital transformation fatigue can certainly be a thing - especially if [digital transformation] remains a lofty objective rather than a set of concrete steps employees can take to make their own working lives better,” says Khadim Batti, CEO and cofounder of Whatfix.

Instituting anonymous employee surveys, automated pulse checks, and conducting regular digital transformation meetings helps IT leaders better manage the impact on business users, Batti says. “Digital transformation is about people  giving them the tools they need to do their job better and more efficiently,” Batti says. “But too often, the focus is on picking the latest and greatest software or computational technology to the exclusion of the specific needs of the people who will use that technology.”

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

3. Fortify the digital transformation plan

“To avoid digital transformation fatigue, IT leaders should prioritize projects, define clear objectives, and ensure the people aspect is not forgotten,” Tareen says. “Start with a well-understood process and include existing experts to help develop the transformation plan.”

4. Revisit priorities

"An over-focus on enabling remote work made other inflight projects less important."

“An over-focus on enabling remote work made other inflight projects less important,” says Joshi. Teams driving those digital projects that were swept aside were disappointed. Now is a good time to reexamine the digital agenda and reinvigorate those initiatives and project teams that were put on the back burner, Joshi says.

5. Set clear goals and celebrate the wins

Establishing meaningful short- and long-term objectives is critical to give team members mile markers for progress. In fact, incremental improvements can provide better ROI and lead to a successful culmination of the many projects that come together to form digital transformation, Batti says.

“Celebrating the milestones will [also] help accelerate the larger transformation,” Tareen says.

6. Reconnect with your team

Many times, IT leaders are coached to focus on solutions and let their teams complain about work, Joshi says. “However, in this case, everyone, including IT leaders, got personally and professionally impacted (by the pandemic) at the human level,” says Joshi. “Therefore, connecting with team members as a human rather than a ‘manager’ will be crucial.”

Practicing empathy, along with pushing back on business demands when necessary, are both key. “We found that the most important factor in our ability to continue with and accelerate business progress and digital transformation was keeping communication active and open,” Batti says.

An unexpected upside

This period of intensified digital transformation during the pandemic also had a positive impact, revealing to both IT team members and other employees that they are capable of achieving more than they thought. “Going forward it may make organizations bolder and more aggressive in pushing their limits, rather than getting bogged down by challenges they earlier believed were insurmountable,” says Joshi.

This 'mindset change' may be key to your continued digital transformation success beyond the hustle during the pandemic,” Joshi adds.

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

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.

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