Digital transformation: 3 IT culture traps that can hold you back

Struggling to implement your digital transformation strategy? Consider these often-overlooked roadblocks and how to overcome them
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A successful digital transformation strategy involves more than just technology. It also requires empowering IT teams to move digital transformation forward. This means not only replacing on-premises servers with Internet services but adopting models that free up more space for technical professionals to work creatively.

This adoption doesn’t always go smoothly. To avoid additional challenges, organizations should prioritize an approach that puts IT and technologists at the heart of the business, while empowering business leaders to understand how IT works.

3 digital transformation pitfalls and how to avoid them

Here are three IT culture traps that can hold back digital transformation – and how to address them effectively.

1. Lack of synergy between IT and business teams

When it comes to digital transformation, there is often a mismatch between overall business objectives and what business teams can ask of IT teams to achieve those objectives. This lack of synergy is typically a result of one of three things:

  • Business teams dictating a solution that they want
  • IT teams building a solution for a problem that they do not really understand
  • Business and IT teams speaking different languages in terms of describing a problem

These issues make any move toward digital transformation more burdensome. To close the gap, employees on the business side need to educate themselves on the limits of tech, while IT teams need to become more familiar with the business problems, strategy, and objectives.

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

To accelerate your organization’s digital transformation, first ensure that your business and IT teams have open conversations about business issues and how IT can solve them. If an IT team feels that it’s being dumped on rather than treated as a strategic partner, an “us vs. them” culture can easily develop.

The inverse is also true: IT teams cannot simply drop new technology solutions on unsuspecting business teams, believing they’re solving issues that the latter may not even realize exist.

Teams should also have clearly defined roles, and they need to align on a common language. For instance, terms such as “production” and “test” mean different things for each team. When both teams try to understand each other, they can find synergy – which is the first step toward success (and creating robust lines of communication should be priority one).

Achieving synergy shows that digital transformation is not merely a process of bringing in new technology to create change; it’s about redefining how the organization operates and communicates.

2. Failing to learn from DevOps

DevOps holds vital lessons for businesses engaged in digital transformation. The integration of software development and IT operations illustrates how business and IT teams can come together to create new systems, new ways of working, and new ideas to attract and retain customers.

[Also read: Digital transformation: 3 roadblocks and how to overcome them.]

Despite these advantages, DevOps can be slow to take off, especially in sectors where many processes are managed manually. While manual operations may provide a sense of security, they also carry the cost of potential human error and lost time. Technology specialists like data admins, network admins, and application architects are essential, but it’s equally important to have generalists who understand multiple disciplines and can communicate technical issues clearly with business leaders. This helps business leaders and DevOps teams align on goals and processes.

Tech companies have long understood that you can’t just have sysadmins firefighting and developers uncovering and fixing problems. The most successful businesses enable IT departments to be proactive rather than only reactive.

3. Lack of empowered stakeholders

Once business and IT teams are aligned, ensuring you have empowered stakeholders at every level throughout your business is a surefire way to make digital transformation easier. Therefore, it’s imperative that leadership teams support the solutions that business and IT teams align on.

Whether they’re making a bold shift toward new SaaS offerings, bolstering existing cloud platforms, or building out a new on-premise system, stakeholders and leadership alike must be on board. Champions of change aren’t just executives; they can and should come from all parts of the organization, helping leaders convert the company from old school to innovative. Such a collective implementation brings more than a successful digital transformation; it also boosts the chance of long-term collaboration between teams and fosters a sense of camaraderie.

The move toward digital transformation doesn’t have to be daunting. The benefits, such as greater creative freedom across an organization, make it both valuable and worthwhile for all stakeholders.

At the heart of digital transformation is the need for excellent communication, an ability to learn from previous experiences, and an understanding of the latest solutions that can help facilitate change. Nail these, and your business can look forward to a bright and transformative future.

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

David Torgerson is the VP of Infrastructure and IT at Lucid, the leading visual collaboration suite that helps teams see and build the future. He joined Lucid in 2013 as the first DevOps professional and now oversees all IT and infrastructure activities, ensuring internal technology and security exceed Lucid’s high-growth needs.