Digital transformation: 3 do's and 2 don'ts

The path to successful digital transformation is perilous. Consider these best practices – and potential roadblocks
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Digital transformation has been the buzzword du jour for the last several years, and for good reason. With benefits from automation, improved workforce management, and better business insights, its value is clear. And whether it was expedited by the sudden need for remote work or building on initiatives already in place, the discussion around digitizing modern business won’t end anytime soon.

But digital transformation can become problematic when it’s viewed as a fix-all for the enterprise. In fact, when not implemented properly it can cause problems from day-to-day frustrations to costly system errors and downtime.

So how do businesses take advantage of the gains while avoiding the potential mishaps of digital transformation? Start by taking a hard look at some best practices – the do’s – along with common missteps – the don’ts.

Do: Approach digital transformation from the top down

A comprehensive digital transformation strategy affects the entire organization, so direction should come from the top. Strong executive support is vital to getting the entire business on the same page and overcoming subsequent points of friction and problems that arise.

[Where is your team's digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What's slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask.]

C-level communication about the value of digital transformation and why new processes and tools are coming into play will help employees understand the importance of these changes. New tech implementations inevitably involve a learning curve, so make sure all employees are properly trained on new applications.

Do: Consider organizational silos

Think of all the departments and employees with different day-to-day duties – what access or permission will each one need to do their jobs while working under different management styles?

There’s plenty of room for error when trying to mobilize an entire company, and digital transformation efforts can exacerbate business siloes or bridge them. Implement clear, easy-to-follow processes from the start. One easy way to do this is to consider solutions that integrate with your current tech stack. For example, if security and access control are built into the platform your business operates on, you won’t need to worry about the wrong employees having access to sensitive information.

Do: Test, measure, test again

When you release new software, you test it, tweak it, and repeat. It’s an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and tuning to yield optimal results for users. You do this for customers without question, so why should the process be any different for your employees?

You might integrate the best software on the market to facilitate your digital transformation aspirations, but if the user experience isn’t compatible or is hard to use with other business-critical applications, your initiative is in trouble. Something as simple as an employee survey or compiling feedback from managers can help leaders understand the shortcomings of their tech implementations and identify areas for improvement.

You might integrate the best software on the market to facilitate your digital transformation aspirations, but if the user experience isn’t compatible or is hard to use with other business-critical applications, your initiative is in trouble.

Don't: Sideline security

Digital transformation enables us to work faster and smarter by enabling greater access to the information we need. But it also makes us more vulnerable than ever to hackers.

Securing the remote workforce has added another layer to an already complex problem all modern businesses face. According to Gartner, more than half of CIOs planned to increase full-time employees in IT to accelerate digital initiatives in 2021, with top initiatives including security operations.

This is certainly a step in the right direction, but rather than relying solely on IT security talent, enterprises should also focus on practicing good security hygiene and look for solutions that bake security into their offerings. Far too often security and compliance are afterthoughts, but with the increasingly digital nature of work and data storage, businesses simply can’t afford a data breach.

[ Read also: Digital transformation: 4 ways to build in security ]

Don't: Bite off more than you can chew

The last two years have been defined by businesses racing to get ahead when in reality, most are struggling just to keep up. Increasingly, remote and hybrid work environments have made it necessary to accelerate some areas of digital transformation, but smart organizations will take stock in how these changes affect day-to-day business operations.

With the current job market – what economists are calling The Great Resignation – and a very real IT skills gap, businesses need to retain talent. That means ensuring that employees feel empowered to do their job and provide value. They can’t do this if they’re burnt out or struggling to overcome technical hurdles. The last thing you want is to invest in new digital transformation solutions that nobody uses.

Digital transformation is the future of business, but it’s not an all-or-nothing effort. Gradual progress is still progress, and a slower approach may actually benefit your organization in the long run. By considering these tips, you can cut through some of the noise that may be preventing you from realizing the true benefits of digital transformation.

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

Jackson Shaw is Chief Strategy Officer at Clear Skye, an Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) software company focused on enterprise identity access and risk management.