6 Keys to Digital Transformation Success

Nearly every enterprise is undergoing a digital transformation. Some are more successful than others. Here are 6 factors shared by the successful ones.

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor

February 14, 2020

3 Min Read
Image: Robert Kneschke - stock.adobe.com

Digital transformation has truly arrived, with nearly all enterprise organizations are engaging in some form of transformation or else planning one. That’s according to a new survey conducted by Hanover Research and commissioned by AHEAD, an enterprise cloud provider.

But how are these transformations going? That’s another question entirely. A full 36% of organizations are behind schedule, according to the survey that analyzed 293 responses to the poll of key IT decision makers at US-based companies. Yet still more were on target to hit their planned schedules at 44%. Another 14% reported being ahead of schedule. Still, 6% reported being stalled.

Like any initiative, there are plenty of obstacles in the way of success and hitting those milestones on time. If you are among the many in the midst of a digital transformation, these may sound familiar to you. Among those surveyed, the most common challenges to digital transformation were legacy systems (36%), regulatory hurdles (30%), employee skill sets (29%), cultural resistance to change (28%), internal politics (27%), lack of funding commitment (25%), underlying IT infrastructure (24%), poorly performing vendors (21%), and lack of digital strategy (20%).

That’s a whole host of headaches for anyone who works in an enterprise organization. Considering the funding for these projects, 65% of those surveyed said they believed that their budgets will increase in the future to facilitate digital transformation, while 34% said they expected their budgets to remain the same. Only 1% were predicting a budget decrease.

However, an interesting note is that more of those who are ahead of schedule expect a budget increase (70%), while a smaller percentage, 58%, expect a budget increase among those whose transformations are behind schedule or stalled. It’s unclear whether the more generous budgets are driving success, or the success is driving the more generous budgets.

Aside from the most common challenges to digital transformation, survey respondents also identified the most difficult challenges, too. Legacy system complexity/technical debt topped the list with 24%, and lack of funding commitment was second at 13%. Internal politics came in third at 12%.

What are the factors that are more likely to lead to digital transformation success? After analyzing the survey results, AHEAD compiled the following six to help organizations put their best foot forward when it comes to digital transformation:

1. Dedicated leadership. If you want your digital transformation to succeed, make sure it’s led by someone in the c-suite. The survey found that 83% of digital transformations that are on track or ahead of schedule are led by a CIO, CEO, CDO, or CTO.

2. All-in approach. Transformations that are on track are 30% more likely to be full-scale change initiatives. That’s because piecemeal and partial transformations don’t yield as much impact, according to AHEAD. Digital operations are most often interconnected.

3. Defined digital roadmap. A full 92% of transformations that are on target or ahead of schedule have a defined strategy and roadmap that includes IT infrastructure and operations.

4. Alignment between infrastructure and apps. If your enterprise follows an integrated DevOps approach, you will be more likely to see success with your initiatives. The survey showed that those with such an approach were 43% more likely to see success in digital transformation efforts. Here’s one more tip: to avoid bottlenecks, enterprises should audit DevOps functions before undergoing digital transformation.

5. Platform mindset. Businesses that include IT infrastructure as a big part of their digital transformation are 36% more likely to have a successful transformation, according to the survey. Infrastructure is the backbone of a digital change initiative.

6. Commitment to intelligent operations. Companies that monitor IT performance in real time and remediate issues quickly are 24% more likely to experience a successful digital transformation. The survey also found that enterprises are more likely to succeed with digital transformation if they have confidence to perform well with automation, monitoring, hybrid cloud models, and integrated security.

For more on digital transformation, check out these articles:

Enterprise Guide to Digital Transformation

What Digital Transformation Is (And Isn't)

Strategies You Need to Make Digital Transformation Work

How to Fail: Digital Transformation Mistakes

About the Author(s)

Jessica Davis

Senior Editor

Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: @jessicadavis.

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