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5 common digital transformation myths

EducationSummary: Digital transformation has really picked up steam over the past few years. But, while it’s a growing trend, it’s still surrounded by a lot of myths. Many businesses go into digital transformation projects with false beliefs that can ruin the entire project. In this article, we’ve rounded up some common myths about the topic and explained why they’re false.

photo credit: Marco Bellucci via photopin cc
photo credit: Marco Bellucci via photopin cc

How would you define “Digital Transformation?” It’s not as easy as you’d think. Do a quick search on the topic, and you’ll find a variety of definitions. Different articles and “experts” define the term in different (and complex) ways.

Here’s the interesting part: Despite the confusion, digital transformation has really picked up steam over the last few years. In fact, one recent study finds that 88% of companies report being in some kind of digital transformation right now.

Why is it so popular right now? The world is going digital. Almost everything we do–on a personal and business level–is now digital. This digitalization trend will only increase in the coming years.

To keep up with this new reality, companies must adapt. They must move their processes and technology to the digital realm, or risk falling behind. As Gartner states in their recent 2016 CIO Agenda Report: “As digitalization moves from an innovative trend to a core competency, enterprises need to understand and exploit platform effects throughout all aspects of their businesses. Not doing so will threaten their ability to: deliver; attract and retain talent; and have their products/services perceived as value-adding by customers.”

The good news: As evidenced in the study above, the business world is taking digital transformation seriously. Most are jumping on board.

The bad news: It’s still a topic surrounded with confusion. Many businesses approach digital transformation projects believing common misconceptions. These false beliefs can do everything from delay projects to ruin them altogether.

What are these myths and how can you avoid them? Today, let’s explore this topic. While the list could certainly be longer, here are 5 of the most common digital transformation myths:

Myth: Digital is primarily about customer experience and marketing

When I read about digital transformation, it’s often associated with marketing. How can your business transform your processes to improve the customer experience? How can you better reach your prospects and customers through digital channels?

The truth is, digital transformation is a company-wide project. Sure, it can improve the customer experience. But, it’s about so much more. As explained below, digital transformation can improve your company internally just as much as it will externally.

“When going through a digital transformation there is a great deal of improvement to efficiency, productivity and leverage employee performance,” says Gary Cooke, Social Media Manager at Serious SEM. “Optimizing and moving theses areas to digital can provide as big, if not bigger, return in the long run. If you’re transform how your workers interact and get their jobs done what use to take 20 mins might be able to be cut down to 5 with some automation added to your company’s intranet sites.”

Myth: It’s best to wait and see who does it right, then copy their model

Many businesses take the “wait and see” approach with new trends. They watch others to see if a trend will catch on, and how they can best use it to their advantage. For many trends, this is a great approach.

However, some businesses think they can take that approach with digital transformation. The problem is, digital transformation isn’t a trend. It’s a reality. The world is moving in that direction. It’s not something you can choose to ignore.

Adopting a “wait and see” approach to digital transformation will only put you further and further behind the competition. As explained below, digital transformation takes time. Any time you spend waiting around will only hurt your business in the long run.

“This is a dangerous thought line,” says Cooke. “It makes sense from a management side in you avoid having to invest upfront in something new, and instead wait to see what does work then pay for a sure thing. But digital transformations don’t happen overnight! And in many industries it might be something that is always evolving and building on itself, so their is a very high chance no one has completed the process or found the “best” way to do it yet. Even if they had, what worked in the past may no longer be relevant starting point by the time your organisation is ready to implement it. It is a risk at times, but a risk that if well thought out and planned for can reap a huge reward because the ones who take the risk and succeeded have a huge head start on those who sat on their heels and played the wait and see game.”

Myth: It’s all or nothing

The very idea of digital transformation is overwhelming–especially for those who are already behind. They make the mistake of assuming digital transformation requires a “big bang” approach. They think they must fix everything at the same time.

The result: The project size overwhelms them, to the point that they just put it off.

In reality, digital transformation isn’t an “all or nothing” project. Start small. Find the processes and technology that could provide the most value, and work on that first. This gets the ball rolling, and demonstrates value that will bring the whole business on board.

“Many organizations feel like they need to transform from old-school legacy business to all digital processes, cloud based platforms and paperless offices, all at once,” says Jason Brewer, CEO of Brolik. “Transformation can (and should) be a slow process where there is an overarching 3-5 year plan and many small initiatives that integrate and support each other over time. Break it into smaller pieces.”

Myth: One person or department can own the effort

photo credit: Walter Benson via photopin cc
photo credit: Walter Benson via photopin cc

Some business leaders treat digital transformation like a typical tech project. They give it to the IT Manager or CIO and expect them to implement it throughout the company.

The problem is, digital transformation isn’t like a typical project. Sure, certain pieces will involve new technology. You’ll need to bring your applications to the web. You’ll probably need to replace some systems and processes.

But, it’s an organization-wide change. It needs engagement on all levels of the business. While a single department can implement new technology, digital transformation requires a culture shift as well. That must start from the top, and trickle down across the whole company.

“True digital transformation requires buy in and engagement from c level execs, operations, sales and marketing departments,” says Brewer. “I’ve seen organizations who put the brunt of the work on a siloed marketing department and the rest of the company never catches up or invests themselves in the change. I’ve also seen major technologies designed and built without input from key stakeholders. The project is a failure as soon as it launches because people feel like they were left out of the discovery phase. Any technology or transformation project needs early engagement from all necessary parties across the company.”

Myth: Digital transformation doesn’t apply to my company/industry

Many businesses assume that digital transformation applies to only certain industries or companies, like technology or B2C companies. Others think it’s a trend only for larger companies.

The fact is, digital transformation is for any company that wants to improve efficiency and overall performance. It’s for companies both big and small, across any industry.

For instance, I’ve seen manufacturing companies automate manual data entry, and deliver real-time data to their shop floor via tablet apps. I’ve seen distribution companies build modern features into their existing systems. I’ve seen government IT departments increase their efficiency many times over. All of this through digital technologies.

I could go on, but my point is this: Digital transformation applies to any company, across any industry. No firm is immune from this new reality.


These are just 5 myths businesses commonly believe about digital transformation. Would you add anything to this list? If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.

1 thought on “5 common digital transformation myths”

  1. This indeed will help people like me to get clear most of the myths which I had about digital transformation. Thanks for sharing this information.

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