Digital Content

Democratizing Digital Transformation: A new D for Digital Transformation

By: Nidal Abou-Ltaif, President Europe, Middle East & Africa and Asia Pacific, Avaya

We are entering the digital business era: by 2020, every business will be either a digital predator or digital prey, according to Forrester Research. We’ve already seen examples of companies that became the latter, with the likes of Borders bookstores, the Blockbuster video chain and photography company Kodak having fallen by the wayside. Likewise, we’ve also seen other companies drive digital disruption in their markets – Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix are among the most commonly cited names in this category.

A digital divide is clearly emerging: those companies that are driving digital strategies to innovate and transform their operations are winning out over their less successful competitors. The question is not why the digital disruptors are succeeding, as just why so many companies are failing to achieve their own digital transformation objectives? According to a recent Forbes article, as many as 84% of digital transformation projects fail, with half the Forbes Global 2000 companies having struggled. Other studies have shown similar results.

In boardrooms everywhere, executives are debating how they can ensure their companies make it to the right side of this digital divide. My advice? Get out of the boardroom.

For a start, far too many management teams fail to engage one of their most important stakeholder groups in transformation projects – their own workers. The problem that too many companies fail to address when they start on transformation journeys is that when people don’t understand change, they are often fearful of it. While a company’s management may see digital transformation as a new business opportunity, their workforce may regard it as extra work and hassle that is unlikely to bring them any reward.  Middle managers who are praised for running a “steady ship” in times of stability may also balk at losing responsibility and authority.

If your internal customers – your staff – aren’t convinced of the merits of a digital transformation plan, they are unlikely to in turn be convincing advocates of that plan to external customers. And unmotivated staff dealing with customers is a recipe for disaster.

Any transformation project is only going to succeed if you obtain buy-in at all levels – the leadership team has to be committed to driving it, workers need to be convinced to get on board, and customers and partners have to see benefit.

And most companies are going to be unable to achieve their goals on their own: since transformation is something that companies almost by default tend to do only infrequently, many organizations simply don’t have the specialist skills available in-house to handle digital transformation on their own.

Therefore companies need to find trusted partners, build an ecosystem around them that can help them achieve their objectives. For many traditional companies, this also requires a significant shift in mindset – companies that are used to operating by their own rules may be reluctant to open their doors to others. But you just need to look at the success Apple has had with the App Store to see the benefits of openness – today, it has numerous partners committed to the success of the iPhone to make their own products successful.

So driving success in digital transformation is not about a top-down, dictatorial approach, it is about being open and working with your internal teams. In short, companies need to democratize digital transformation.

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