A recent Deloitte report found that up to 70% of change initiatives fail, with outcomes falling short of expectations and ROI proving difficult to demonstrate.

The Couchbase CIO survey had similar findings: “While 80% of IT leaders are under pressure to be constantly improving their organization’s customer experience through digital innovation, 90% of digital projects fail to meet expectations and only deliver incremental improvements.”

The stakes are just as high for internal digital transformation. Without the systems to support effective working processes, your organisation faces obsolescence and disruption. On the other hand, with highly engaged, innovative teams, the opportunities are almost limitless.

In over 23 years in the technology sector, I have seen technology initiatives failing to meet expectations more times than I can remember. Often, however, it isn’t because of the technology itself. It takes a lot more than technology to create digital transformation.

How many times do you yourself resist change? A Microsoft employee told me recently that he resisted moving from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams – and only did so because Microsoft disabled Skype for Business for him. He now finds Teams much better, but if this kind of resistance is happening at Microsoft, we need to ensure we are proactive about implementing such change.

Here are 8 pillars of digital transformation that I have found essential:

  1. Executive support:

    Support from the C-suite is essential. This type of project has high visibility and high impact on people’s day-to-day work. Without clear direction and consistent reinforcement from the senior staff, the digital transformation team can face significant challenges both during and after the project.

  2. The right team:

    Would you ask a boat mechanic to fix your car? Many digital transformation teams lack the right skills and experience. The right team needs a strong project manager, technical lead and developer, as well as a technology consultant with a mix of business analysis and technical skill sets.

    This is the person who can communicate effectively with executives, as well as with the business and technical teams. This type of person is rare but essential.

  3. Information architecture:

    Information architecture is the way information is organised to ensure people can find what they need easily. If your audience is not engaged in the process of designing how they are going to engage with information, you may miss out on input that will impact its success.

    Make sure users are engaged in this critical stage. Ideally, a digital workplace with information that is tailored for the user accessing it is the best solution. For example, on a digital workplace homepage, an HR team member sees the onboarding status for new hires whereas an executive sees a sales dashboard.

  4. Usability and design:

    First impressions count. If design and usability are not prioritised, people will not engage with digital transformation. They are accustomed to using smartphones and tablets that are so intuitive that a two-year-old could use them. Give people something they can easily understand.

  5. Search strategy:

    Search strategy cannot be an afterthought, but should be a central consideration for your digital transformation journey. The more help you can give users to find information, the better. You need a search strategy from the outset.

  6. Document management:

    Like it or not, document management is a huge task for any organisation. Encouraging users to apply consistent policies to create, persist and expire documents within an organisation is difficult to achieve and the chaos tends to escalate.

    Look beyond documents to wiki pages, videos, infographics, dashboards and images. Present content in an optimal way and you will reduce the number of documents, making it a better experience for everyone. AI also presents alternative ways to retrieve and store information, making the whole documentation process seem out of date.

  7. Social technology strategy:

    Social technology apps can be a tremendous vehicle for collaboration and productivity in the workplace. Succeeding with social is not easy, and many a social enterprise channel has died from lack of participation. Don’t create too many groups straight away.

    The idea is to concentrate the activity, so people feel invited and encouraged to post. Ensure there are clear outcomes with strategies to achieve them, and that your senior colleagues are actively participating. Don’t just set and forget.

  8. Governance:

    Not the most thrilling topic but it’s governance that keeps your digital transformation in line with its objectives. Governance prevents your digital workplace from becoming a chaotic sprawl of subsites and libraries with a poor search experience.

    Define a balanced team of members responsible for particular areas, agree how they will work together and establish a common framework for governance.

Digital transformation is not a destination, it’s not even a journey, it is an essential focus for every organisation – forever. Support your team and guide them through these essential areas and your organisation’s evolution will have a much greater chance of success.