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Overcoming Roadblocks to Digital Transformation

While companies must now move at light speed when it comes to innovation, these strategies will help leaders grab the proverbial wheel to drive their workforce into the future.

Like a driver dropping a lead brick on the gas pedal, the pandemic accelerated every industry’s need to automate and digitize its processes. A combination of supply chain disruptions, an increasingly disparate workforce, and the pressure to integrate emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning are pushing companies to ramp up digital transformation efforts to maintain competitiveness.

However, as I’ve spoken with businesses owners and CFOs across industries from manufacturing to food technology, they’re repeatedly noting that they face major roadblocks to implementing digital transformation projects, both in mounting internal efforts and procuring external resources. These challenges are reflected in alliantgroup’s latest C-suite trends report, which shows that while nearly half (46%) of C-suite executives understood digital transformation was a necessity for their company to survive in the long-term, close to 1 in 3 said the pandemic has actually hampered their organization’s capacity for it.

Companies know innovation can no longer be sidelined -- the time is now to seek out the technical infrastructure, resources, and personnel to leap past digital limitations. Diving deeper into the report to determine the major roadblocks to digital transformation can help companies overcome them.

Lack of Technical Talent

One of the most persistent problems companies face is not finding the right people to see digital transformation efforts through. Our data shows that close to a third of C-suite executives said that not hiring the right talent was one of the biggest mistakes they made when undergoing a digital transformation project. However, it’s no longer an employer’s market, and technical candidates can now be even choosier as more companies require their expertise to rapidly digitize.

With 42% of C-suite executives we surveyed saying access to more talent was the top action their organization will take to innovate, it’s no surprise that many companies are left high and dry; there are simply not enough workers with the skills needed to fill every IT and technical role. In response, C-suite executives are investing in community and/or STEM education programs to fill their technical talent pipeline, but cultivating this talent is a long-term investment that still leaves companies short-handed in the interim.

With demand for tech talent at an all-time high, employers should embrace the paradigm shifts that have occurred to spur technical talent hiring. One major shift has been IT workers leaving big cities for mid-tier cities like Seattle and Charlotte as remote work makes these locations more accessible. In response, employers should expand talent recruiting to outside of typical high-tech areas and even open offices in these new tech hubs to support their initiatives. Many of the C-suite executives we surveyed said they were already engaging in these practices.

Employers can also offer more flexibility in both the interview process and hybrid work arrangements to attract talent and tap into the global freelance economy and mount reskilling and upskilling initiatives to bridge the technical skills gap. Retaining top talent is also key, so executives would be wise to continually invest in their staff by consistently making themselves available to individual staff members and challenging their top performers to get out of their comfort zones by taking ownership of initiatives and thinking big picture.

Pushback from the Inside

What might be more surprising than the external talent roadblock is that a third of C-suite executives say their organizations have too much red tape to successfully innovate. Even if digital transformation projects are proposed, efforts to execute them hit a dead end when internal bureaucracies are too cumbersome to react. In addition to reforming company structures to boost innovation, C-suite executives note an internal cultural shift is needed, with a large proportion (41%) citing employee resistance as one of the biggest obstacles to digital transformation.

Choosing the proper team to see jobs through is also critical, and the C-suite executives we surveyed noted that, often, placing the wrong team/department in charge of initiatives hampered digital transformation success. Even with the right group tackling an initiative, all employees must be on board to execute a successful company-wide digitization or automation effort. To that end, employing talented IT and change management consultants can help ease the process of digital transformation that can so often be met with resistance. In fact, we’re starting to see many executives embracing this strategy, with over a third prioritizing investment in vendors/third parties to adopt new technologies over the next two years.

Opening the Road to Success

The pandemic not only shone a light on the merits of digital transformation, but also made it a necessity for companies looking to succeed as we emerge into a new technology-driven landscape. Factors from technical talent wars to employee and company resistance threaten to stop innovation dead in its tracks, so changing up hiring methods, reinvesting in top performers, and looking toward third-party IT consultants will help companies stay ahead of the curve. While companies must now move at light speed when it comes to innovation, these strategies will help leaders grab the proverbial wheel to drive their workforce into the future.