In late 2015, the Harvard Business Review put out a fascinating report on the role of the CIO in digital transformation. Most interesting to me was a survey question about the primary challenges holding back organizations on their journey to digital.
Respondents were asked to name the “key barriers to digital business development.” Here are the top 5 responses – and the one way I think they can all be overcome.
1 Organizational silos
We often talk about data being “siloed” in old applications. But the silo referenced here is a workforce issue – when employees fail to “play nice” with other departments or stretch out of their comfort zones to enable new ways of doing business.
Enterprises have long been susceptible to silo mentality – it’s definitely not new to the digital age. In fact, we have encouraged an entire generation to specialize, to maximize the efficient completion of their task in the business value chain without caring about the end product. But it’s more limiting now that technology has broken down cubicle walls and allowed collaboration in more ways than ever before.
2 Legacy processes
Large companies are often saddled with complex legacy IT environments. At CSC, we talk about how enterprises can innovate while continuing to “keep the lights on.” But even with the adoption of new technologies, a workplace can be held back by processes that are out of date and out of touch with new capabilities. One of my favorite observations is that automating a bad/old process just makes the same result happen faster.
3 Cultural resistance to change
We’ve all worked in a place or with people who resist change at all costs. Another really interesting piece of research by Harvard Business Review ranked industries by their level of digital adoption. Not surprisingly, IT ranked at the top, followed by media, professional services, finance and insurance. The bottom four (in descending order) were healthcare, hospitality, construction and agriculture and hunting.
While some industries seem to accept change better than others, even companies in leading digital industries may face pockets of internal resistance.
4 Lack of innovative thinking throughout the business
Innovative thinking embodies the agile approach to business – one that lauds outside-the-box ideas and a fail-fast, fail-friendly method for implementing them. Some argue this mindset comes naturally to certain people, while others say it can be developed as part of company culture. It can be painfully difficult for even the most enlightened leaders to suppress the urge to be critical and instead celebrate the knowledge gained from a failure – but it’s the best way to inspire innovative changes.
5 Lack of digital leadership
The Harvard report cites a clear link between “strong digital leadership and high digital acumen,” and, conversely, a lack of digital leadership is named as a key barrier to transformation.
For me, digital leadership is the key factor for breaking down all of the barriers on this list
Strong digital leadership – at all levels of the organization – enables digital success. Leaders need to create and communicate a unified vision; build and train teams focused on common goals; motivate and reward employees who embrace change and bring new ideas to the table. In short, they need to build a digital culture.
In my view, this work goes hand-in-hand with adopting new technologies and, as the survey shows, can be even more important to overall success.
In true digital spirit, I encourage you to engage and collaborate with me in this space. Leave a comment about a new way to think about a topic I’ve addressed. Share my post via social media and interact with me on Twitter. I look forward to getting your feedback and using it to guide my blogging.