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5 (more) digital transformation mistakes to avoid

EducationSummary: Digital transformation–the reinvention of an organization through the use of digital technology to improve performance–is a priority for many businesses these days. However, it’s a complex task. Many businesses dive in without truly understanding the process and make key mistakes along the way. In the second part of this two-part article, we explore 5 more common digital transformation mistakes to avoid.

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Over the last few years, digital transformation moved from a trendy topic to a competitive necessity. According to Gartner, “Two-thirds of all business leaders believe that their companies must pick up the pace of digitalization to remain competitive.” Organizations realize they need to jump on board or get left behind.

The problem: Digital Transformation is uncharted territory for many businesses. While they recognize its importance, they aren’t aware of potential pitfalls along the way. As a result, they make key mistakes that can derail the entire process.

What are the most common mistakes? In the first part of this article, we explored these five common mistakes:

  • Starting without a clearly defined goal
  • Using legacy thinking with digital tools
  • Failing to include everyone in the company
  • Thinking that digital transformation is just a technology change
  • Assuming old development efforts fit a digital business

Today, let’s finish up the list. Here are 5 more common mistakes to avoid in your digital transformation journey.

Mistake #6: Assuming you have the necessary skills/resources

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in any digital transformation journey: Resources. After all, most IT departments are already understaffed and overworked. Additionally, a recent study found that only 17% of companies had enough employees with the right skills to embark on a smooth digital transformation.

Yet, many make the mistake of assuming their existing team can handle the change.

“They assume that the same IT resources can take on the transformation,” says Ron Wince, CEO of Myndshft. “Most companies we work with are spending 80% or more of their time keeping the current plumbing working. It’s a real stretch for the current IT teams to absorb more transformational work in their current workflows and capacity.”

How can you bridge that gap? You really have two options: Either bring in more resources or get more value out of your existing resources. How can you get more value out of your existing team? It’s a topic we covered in a past article, which you can find here.

Mistake #7: Biting off more than you can chew

Many make the mistake of assuming digital transformation requires a “big bang” approach. They think they must tackle everything at once.

The result: The project size overwhelms them, to the point that they just put it off. Or, they run into unexpected issues that make the project more complex.

“Because of budget cycles or pushes from the C-suite, companies will commit to these huge transformative undertakings,” says Chris Boulanger, Digital Marketer & PM, “But then they discover a large number of dependencies that have to be addressed before they can do any transforming. Common issues are realizing you’ll need to recode legacy software integrations, merge/manage data from more sources than you knew existed, or needing to bring in a 3rd-party to handle key integration tasks because you lack either the staff or the knowledge to do it properly.”

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.

Mistake #8: Thinking you can delay the process

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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 make the mistake of taking this 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, we’re living in an age where speed is the name of the game. Any time you spend waiting around will only hurt your business in the long run.

“There is harm in being slow and risk averse in the age of digital transformation,” says Leslie Swanson , the CEO of eXalt Solutions. “In the last century moving slow and not taking risk was acceptable. But today we are living through unrelenting disruption of all industries. Gone are the days of spending months on a strategy.”

Mistake #9: Treating it like a process that’s uniform across industries

A digital transformation should revolve around better serving your customers using digital technologies. Therefore, digital transformation will mean different things for different businesses.

This is where some businesses make a key mistake. They adopt “trendy” technology because that’s what others are doing. Or, they try to copy another organization’s approach.

In reality, there is no “right way” for every company. Digital transformation will differ depending on your company’s needs.

“Digital transformation means different things to different industries,” says Matt Garrepy, Chief Digital Officer at DigitalUs. “A major mistake is treating it like a process that’s uniform across all industries. Digital transformation can include anything from upgrading hardware to streamlining software to automating common practices. Your specific industry colors what digital transformation specifically means to you and your business. Ultimately, transformation should be defined by outcomes for your company.”

Mistake #10: Treating digital transformation like a typical project

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Many businesses go into digital transformation like they would any other project. They assume that once they implement the appropriate technologies, they’re done.

This is a mistake.

The digital world we’re living in now is constantly evolving. Digital Transformation is an ongoing effort that requires constant change. The technologies and processes you implement are designed to help you adapt and change course as needed. As explained below, this mindset is essential in any digital transformation process.

“There is a paradigm that can be either your biggest challenge or your biggest competitive advantage when it comes down to digital transformation,” says Anna Lebedeva, Head of Media at SEMrush. “Although it is widely accepted that having a solid strategy in place and building a strong architecture for further digitalization of your business is the key to future success, one thing often gets neglected – the speed at which circumstances change and the rate at which external digital environment is moving.”

“So, as much as strategy and long-term goal-setting is necessary to successfully become rapidly digitalized, embracing change and market transformations is as important. Don’t forget that digital transformation consists of two words – “digital” and “transformation”. So how do you embrace the two and at the same time? When it came to SEMrush, we implemented (early on) the philosophy of agile – in development, and then in our marketing and even other departments. It was the flexibility and quick reaction to market changes that really determined our strategy. And it definitely worked to our favour – having the strategy but the details of that strategy are constantly getting reconsidered and adjusted according to the current shifts, and in the digital world those shifts are the only constant you can really count on.”


In these two articles, we’ve explored 10 common mistakes to avoid in your digital transformation journey. Would you like to add to this list? Feel free to comment below!

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