Digital transformation didn't go as planned? Find out how to recalibrate and achieve success by learning from past mistakes.

Digital transformation can be a profound driver of value for your business. Successful digital transformation projects can cut costs, improve the customer experience and help you tap into new markets. 

However, not all digital projects succeed. Randstad's research found that 41 percent of CIOs say they've had low success with digital transformation, which means there's always a risk of failure.

what counts as a digital transformation failure?

Even if a digital transformation project is successful on a technical level, it might be classed as a failure if you have any of these issues: 

  • lower return on investment than expected
  • limited cost savings
  • poor customer feedback 
  • low adoption rate among staff

Fortunately, failure can teach us how to improve and deliver a better project next time.

5 ways to learn from digital transformation mistakes

Digital transformation failures often come down to issues such as communication and project scope. Here are some ideas for tackling common problems. 

1. ask if your goals are realistic

Success and failure ultimately come down to one thing: did we meet our goals? That's why setting realistic, attainable goals at the beginning of each project is essential. 

To define realistic goals, you'll need to conduct a lot of up-front research. Make sure you have all data related to costs, potential savings and potential revenue increases from new technology. When investing in software, ask the vendor for case studies with details of other successful transformation projects. 

2. check if you're measuring the right outcomes

How do you know if you've achieved your goals? Usually, you'll look at metrics such as revenue, costs, hours of labor or customer engagement. If the digital transformation project is successful, the needle will move on those metrics.

That's why metrics need to be tied to goals. For example, if your goal is to reduce labor costs, you'll need to measure the time savings associated with the new process. But you will also need to monitor related HR metrics such as employee engagement and staff turnover. You can't measure project success if you don't have the right metrics. 

3. speak to stakeholders

Feedback is a vital metric. You need to gather data from all stakeholders, including staff members, leaders, customers and external partners. If your digital transformation project has failed, these people can tell you why. 

Data analytics can provide some feedback, but it's critical to have conversations. Use surveys, focus groups and interviews to get in-depth, qualitative feedback from all stakeholders. 

4. look at project leadership

Digital transformation is a change project, so it requires skilled change management. The project manager should grasp all aspects of change, including new technology, updated processes and restructured teams. 

One common problem is a breakdown in digital management project leadership. Projects fail when there isn't a clear leader or the leader isn't communicating with the project team. 

5. lean into digital enablement

Digital transformation isn't the end — it's the beginning. After a significant transformation project, running digital enablement initiatives that focus on small, incremental enhancements is a good idea. This can include things like process tweaks, user training and usability improvements. 

Enablement can help turn digital transformation failure into success. This approach allows you to identify problems, gather feedback and make changes that will help deliver the most from your technology.

Want to find out more about partnering with a digital enablement specialist? Get in touch for a personalized consultation.