Customer expectations and the sophistication of technology are constantly shifting, so it should be no surprise that digital transformation isn’t just a one-off project – that’s one of the biggest reasons why digital transformation fails. It’s an ongoing initiative that helps you stay ahead of the competition, not periodically catch up.

However, making ongoing progress requires hard work to keep progress moving steadily, which can be tricky. If you move too quickly, you risk failing. If you move too slowly, you’ll likely stall. And if that happens, it can be incredibly tough to regain your momentum.

Fortunately, there are common culprits of stalling digital transformations, and you’ll benefit from being aware of them whether you’re stuck in a rut midway through your initiative or you’re just starting out and wondering what pitfalls to avoid.

Here are 6 reasons digital transformations stall and strategies that’ll help you overcome or outright avoid them:

6 Reasons Digital Transformations Stall (Plus, How to Avoid it)

1. Focusing on Technology Over Process Improvement and People

When organizations mistake digital transformation for a simple tech upgrade, they don’t take full advantage of the opportunity to rethink and improve their business processes. Focusing on the tech side of digital transformation also often leads to neglecting the people side. As a result, organizations may not put enough time and care into introducing their employees to change and communicating with them throughout the journey, causing employee buy-in and adoption to suffer.

The Fix: To ensure your strategy is process-first, begin with a goal assessment and prioritize process improvement before choosing any technology. Conduct a comprehensive analysis of your existing systems and processes, identify pain points and bottlenecks, and consult with staff members who interact with these processes daily. You might even consider bringing in tools like process mining to use data to get a comprehensive view of your business processes, far beyond what any human could observe or document manually. To learn more about how process mining can uncover process optimization opportunities, check out this article.

On the people side, take a smaller group approach to introducing digital transformation to your staff and communicating throughout the journey. Many organizations present this information to their employees simultaneously, such as during a company-wide meeting, or they speak to massive groups, like entire departments. Speaking to smaller groups lets the digital transformation feel more personal, which increases the likelihood that individual team members will take ownership of the change and understand that it’s meant to personally benefit them, boosting user adoption.

It’s also worth being transparent with your employees about what will happen to them and the broader organization if your change initiative fails. In your research developing your transformation strategy, you’ve likely seen that you’re falling behind competitors, that your customer reviews are glaringly expressing that you’re falling behind in certain areas, or any other harsh realities. Lay those truths out for your employees. It might just help them see the urgency of the situation.

2. You Lost Sight of Your “Why”

The ‘why’ is the driving force behind your transformation efforts. Without your goal being top of mind at every stage, it’s easy to get off track and eventually, it becomes hard to know how to even measure success at all.

The Fix: Establish a clear vision by mapping out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats to success, and the current state if you’ve already started your digital transformation and things have gone awry. Your clearly stated “why” should be an unbiased analysis of current business practices and technologies and paint a picture of what you want the initiative’s outcome to look like.

Then, be sure to keep your core mission and objectives at the forefront of all digital transformation efforts. Communicate these clearly and frequently to ensure every initiative supports and enhances your foundational goals.

3. You Tried to Do Too Much Too Fast OR Too Little Too Slowly

The pace of digital transformation is critical. Too much change too soon leads to frustration, poorly constructed processes, and more expenses than necessary. On the other hand, however, it can also sabotage your efforts by doing too little too slowly, leading to you becoming irrelevant in the eyes of your customers. This is where “too much talk, not enough action” comes into play.

The Fix: To avoid moving too quickly or too slowly, adopt a phased approach that allows for manageable, incremental changes. Start with your most impactful, important business areas, then gradually move to the more widespread, bigger-picture initiatives. If you can achieve a relatively “quick win” early on, that will fuel your momentum and give you a clearer roadmap and buy-in for long-term projects.

4. Your Transformation Team is in an Echo Chamber

Although it’s a fantastic idea to create a digital transformation center of excellence and appoint specific responsibilities to specific people, you can risk finding yourself on an island. A team that doesn’t seek or listen to external input can become isolated and miss out on innovative ideas.

The Fix: Get routine feedback from employees representing departments across your organization, including individuals from different levels (don’t limit yourself to management) and with different areas of expertise. They’ll be able to tell you whether the changes you’re planning to make are realistic and optimal, and involving them throughout the process can help increase their user adoption down the line. Additionally, encourage team members to seek customer feedback and be open to constructive criticism. This will help challenge assumptions and lead to better decision-making.

Remember that both sides are important: your employees are the changemakers, but your customers are ultimately the reason you’re making a change in the first place. Hearing their thoughts and desires will help your transformation make the biggest impact it can.

5. Your Executives Have Lost Interest

Let’s be real. As critical as it genuinely is, “digital transformation” is a buzzword surrounded by even more buzzwords. So, when your C-suite hears about your digital transformation plan and all the impressive results it will produce for efficiency, productivity, security, and more, it might be easy to get them on board. But getting them to stay on board when the novelty wears off is another story. Without active and engaged leadership, digital transformation initiatives can flounder due to a lack of direction and support.

The Fix: First, get an executive sponsor on your team. They will oversee the implementation, rollout, and impact measurement of a digital initiative. Digital transformation will become the center of their world, and they will remain focused on your initiative throughout. This way, when the next shiny new proposal makes its way into the board room, they will be able to hold leadership accountable for their commitment to your digital transformation.

Then, be sure to regularly update your leadership team with the progress and successes of digital initiatives. Highlight how these efforts actively contribute to the business’s strategic goals to keep them invested and supportive.

6. Your Team Lacks the Necessary Skills

A successful digital transformation requires a team with the right mix of skills. Still, it can be easy to provide insufficient training, leaving your employees unsure of how to carry out their new skills. Cue the resistance and low user adoption.

The Fix: Assess your team’s current capabilities against the skills that will be required to carry out each change you’re making and identify any skill gaps. Then, plan to provide extensive training and development opportunities to upskill your employees so they’re ready and confident when it’s time to put your new plans into action. Remember that it’s impossible to know just how much training your staff will need to grasp new concepts fully. As a result, it’s vital to seek feedback throughout and remain flexible regarding your training plans. You might need to devote more time than expected to a specific module, or you might need to pivot to a new training format for others.

Lastly, plan for things to slow down dramatically while your team gets the hang of your new tools and processes. In the meantime, you may want to consider bringing in a managed services partnership to keep business as usual during the learning curve period or even help with the training process.

Don’t Make These Progress Stallers a Part of Your Digital Transformation Story

By addressing these six digital transformation stallers with the detailed strategies provided, you can help your organization continue making progress without disruption. Remember, digital transformation is an ongoing process that requires continuous improvement.

Above all, stay on course, be open to change, and never stop learning. That’s how you’ll propel your organization toward a digitally empowered future.

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About Kara

As a Naviant Content Writer since 2019, Kara is passionate about helping organizations unleash the power of technology to solve their business challenges. In her weekly articles, Kara breaks down the latest research, trends, and tips in the digital transformation world, specializing in intelligent automation, the cloud, AP & HR automation, artificial intelligence, change management, and more. She is also a Copywriter for the American Marketing Association-Madison, where she contributes bimonthly articles that interview industry experts and highlight the latest marketing trends. When she’s not writing, Kara is working on her latest art project, scoping out new music, or out for a run.