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April 27, 2021

The Biggest Challenges in Digital Transformation ... And how to overcome them

Digital transformation has been a priority in business since the onset of the pandemic, although it was gaining momentum prior to this. The shift to remote working and ‘everything online’ accelerated things considerably, and even reluctant transformers were forced to adopt new technological solutions to stay current and competitive.

McKinsey research has found that success rates for digital transformation processes are consistently low – sitting at around 30%. The biggest problem isn’t implementing the new digital solution; it’s achieving and maintaining the necessary cultural and behavioural changes within an organisation to make the transformation a success in the long term.

Let’s take a look at the five biggest challenges that businesses need to overcome to avoid failing in their transformation.

1.    Having the right type of leaders in place

One of the leadership skills needed for digital transformation is a growth focused mindset – looking at both long and short term benefits of a transformational programme. Leaders need to be innovative and curious, as well as agile enough to adapt to and remain relevant in a constantly shifting digital landscape.

Crucially though, successful digital leaders need to be able to communicate and collaborate, and to make sure everyone in the company is fully in the loop, and on board with the transformation.

2.    Having the right talent to execute the change

Although a digital transformation may look simple ‘on paper’, the reality is likely to be quite different, as it can involve significant changes that will require a ‘buy-in’ throughout an organisation.

Your team will need to take any complex, technical terms and explain them in ways the rest of your company can understand, whether this is communicated verbally or in writing. They will also require the ability to be persuasive and influential, reiterating to employees that this is a transformation for the better, and pre-empting any worries or queries employees may have.

3.    Empowering employees to embrace change

Any type of change will produce a reaction, whether this is positive (optimism, excitement) or negative (fear, scepticism).

Of course, those employees who have a positive reaction will be easier to get on board with an upcoming transformation, but you need to be aware of the issues change aversion can raise and have a change management strategy in place – focusing on what training and resources will be needed to help ease the transition.

The key here is communication and transparency: being honest with employees about all aspects of the transformation and keeping communication open at all times.

4.    Making use of digital tools the new organisational ‘norm’

Lead by example and make it clear that the use of the newly implemented digital tools will be expected going forward.

Once the initial bumps have been ironed out with employees getting used to these new processes, systems and tools, the use of digital technology in the workplace can really start to show its benefits.

If the right strategies and steps are in place (as covered in the previous challenges), then you are likely to see increased productivity, motivation and engagement with company values and vision.

5.    Having the right type of organisation

Obviously an already digitally native company is going to take new transformations in their stride, compared to an organisation with limited digital technology and outdated legacy systems.

However, the most important trait of organisations that enjoy success in digital transformation is that they give their technology teams autonomy for the transformation, allowing them to identify how the transformation should be strategised and executed, in order to serve company and customer needs. This is how to ultimately meet company goals: by giving them the freedom to be agile as and when needed.


Digital transformation has become a business imperative if companies want to thrive, perform at their best, and retain a competitive edge in the post-pandemic ‘new normal’. But this success and the longevity of the transformation will depend on the leaders, teams and talent within an organisation.


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