The importance of transformation and modernization is undeniable in today’s fast-moving business landscape. Companies need to evolve, not just to keep up, but to prepare for what’s next when it comes to digital tools and technologies.

However, it’s not easy. As you’ve probably heard, a lot of digital transformation efforts fall completely flat. The numbers may vary across the years — 70 percent! 73 percent! 84 percent! — but the truth remains the same: many companies have put in the effort and failed to see the value.

As a business leader, it may be even more staggering to consider the natural outgrowth of that reality — that an even higher percentage of companies face significant challenges on the path to transformation.

The fear is simple. Transforming will cause massive disruption to the business and its everyday users. And that fear? It’s all too often realized.

But I know firsthand that successful technology implementation is possible, without users even feeling the disruption. So, in this blog, I want to highlight some key tactics for developing a strong transformation strategy — optimizing user experience and supporting continued business growth every step of the way.  

The Technology Can’t Do It All

Technology is not a panacea.

And just as change should not drive a total upending of everyday business, technology should not drive a complete overhaul in the way the business functions. In fact, the inverse is true. Targeted business process changes should be decided well before technology changes, and the technology should only be an enabler and optimizer for the business.

Put simply, the business case for digital transformation must come first (and be made by business leaders), and transformation must be pursued in a way that minimizes major disruptions to the business. Expecting the technology to magically fix the business’ problems on its own is a loser’s bet. Because you’re not implementing digital, next-generation solutions just to get fancy new technology. You’re doing it to make the business run better. Period.

Don’t Make It a Package Deal

Another common mistake of digital transformation leaders is eating the elephant all at once.

What do I mean by that? All too often, the well-meaning but ultimately unproductive mindset of “While we’re doing this, we should implement this, this, and this, too!” can have damaging and lasting effects. It can threaten a smoothly run project, a timely and successful implementation, and, in the end, user adoption itself.

In order to keep two feet planted in reality, companies should concentrate just on transforming to the cloud at first — and on doing no harm to the technology core along the way. Later, they can incrementally layer in value-added change to optimize their processes. We see this in especially sharp relief in the work we do at Fission with private equity technology carve-outs. In times of extreme change, you have to put the end user’s experience first and prioritize the minimization of disruption to the business. You have to “eat the elephant” the only way you truly can: one bite at a time.  

What You’ve Heard Is True

Clichés don’t become clichés on accident. To become an overused and unoriginal thought, it helps to be based on an overused and unoriginal truth. That’s why — when it comes to digital transformation — you’ve probably heard advice like this quite often:

  • You must ensure the company’s project goals are widely understood and accepted
  • You must build a comprehensive project roadmap and communicate it effectively
  • You must prioritize efforts in a proper and well-structured way during implementation

And so on, and so on.

Advice like this is not new, and, crucially, it’s not wrong. But it’s worth putting deeper thought into these common bits of guidance when setting out on a transformation project, because (as another cliché truth might say) people don’t like change. And the anxiety that will arise from workers and end-users during transformation processes is unavoidable. You must build a targeted and supportive approach that adapts these tenets to your business to ensure the negative impact will be minimized — and that the positive impact on your success will be immeasurable.

Don’t force org assimilation upon your people. Take the time to educate them on why the project is good and necessary. Outline the benefits and goals. Be empathetic, open, and honest throughout. Because you need the business to come together and buy-in on the journey. To leave it all out on the field. To give it 110 percent. Etc., etc., etc.

The Struggle Is Inevitable

Maybe the business side will get too involved with the tech side of things. Maybe the change management team will be integrated into the project far too late. Maybe the internal messaging of your implementation project will be poor and ineffective. It’s hard to say which “maybe” might be for certain, but one thing is for sure: There will be challenges. Partners and consultants that tell you otherwise are doing nothing more than selling you a false bill of goods. Because transforming a company is a monumental task.

Still, it is a task that is no less necessary, even if challenges are to be expected. We see this every day working in the private equity carve-out space, where the complexity and change are even more extreme but the urgency and necessity are just as great as companies look to accomplish quick TSA exits and create greater ROI potential on their investments.

The bottom line is this: When setting out on your journey, make sure you choose a partner who has been through it — enough times to know what can, should, and will happen along the way. Stay pragmatic, not hypothetical. Aim for clear and tangible benefits. And make sure you’re approaching the project with a technology-centric mindset and methodology, one that will keep your team focused, productive, and strategic.

It takes a ton of work to facilitate a non-event go-live. But it’s worth it, especially if it means helping your company avoid the fate of becoming just another statistic in stories about failed digital transformations.