By Steve Durbin, Managing Director of the ISF and Forbes Business Council Member
Once expectations are set and potential risks identified, it’s important to test different scenarios and study how employees interact and adapt in a real-world setting
A lot of investment is suddenly flowing into digital initiatives, as businesses have been pushed to go online and workers are working remotely as a result of the pandemic. It’s an experiment that many businesses might not have prioritized before, given that 97% of enterprises accelerated their digital transformation efforts because of Covid-19.
Having said that, it’s alarmingly common for digital transformation projects to end up as expensive failures: A scant 5% meet or exceed expectations, according to a survey by Bain & Co. Driving enterprisewide change is hard, and there can be some serious impediments.
Common Roadblocks That Can Derail Digital Transformation Efforts
Lack of training and employee engagement: New technology and processes will always have a steep learning curve. It’s important you have the right knowledge in the organization and are able to use the appropriate tools to your advantage. If employees do not have buy-in to these new changes or lack proper training on the new technology, your project could run into problems.
During the pandemic when businesses were rushing to go online, nearly three-quarters of workers reported not having received any cybersecurity training, even after they were made to work from home full time. Gartner also cites lack of skills as one of the top challenges that threaten digital transformation.
Rushed or skipped testing: The bigger the project, the quicker executives often want to see its return. The shinier the object, the more natural the urge to reveal it. There are several reasons testing might be accidentally overlooked or actively discouraged.
In a recent developer survey, 47% of companies cited testing as the No. 1 cause for project delays. Businesses tend to hurry as they are under pressure to meet deadlines and end up making premature assumptions on how systems will be used without having the appropriate data to back them up. Such decisions can lead to unprecedented failures.
Leaving security as an afterthought: Most discussions on digital transformation focus on benefits rather than disadvantages. The need for having security built in is often overlooked at the start of the project, but this introduces new risks to the business. Per recent EY research, only 36% of new technology-enabled business initiatives include cybersecurity teams from the start.
Whether it’s a digital transformation project or a newly developed product or service, security should be considered at the DevOps stage and not retroactively. Cybersecurity that is bolted on after development can prove extremely inefficient, difficult and expensive to apply.
Best Practices To Avoid Digital Transformation Failure
Employees must be actively engaged: Any new transformation initiative must be questioned and justified in terms of tangible benefits. Employees are crucial to the success of any major transformation, so it’s key they become active participants in the process. Take time to train your employees, answer their queries, and explain why you are making these changes and the benefits brought to the organization. Appoint knowledgeable employees as mentors who can help train and teach how to fully exploit the potential benefits of your chosen technology.
There’s no substitute for testing: The faster you identify a problem, the cheaper and easier it is to deal with. Once expectations are set and potential risks identified, it’s important to test different scenarios and study how employees interact and adapt in a real-world setting. Ensure you have a feedback mechanism in place so that your system can evolve and meet the requirements of the business. Practical exercises are extremely useful to iron out implementation issues, fine-tune processes and gauge security standards. Test environments should mirror real-world environments, and the people testing the system should be the ones who will ultimately use the system.
Security must be at the core of every digital initiative: Closely evaluate how workers will interact with any new application you choose to bring in house. Engage with all key stakeholders, and ensure you have a holistic view of their concerns. Carry out a detailed risk assessment, and make sure that all risks are accounted for, including the ones related to simple human error, skill gaps, negligence or even malicious intent.
Remember that it’s imperative to have the right balance between security and usability. If you get this balance wrong, you run the risk of having a system that is insecure or a tool that is highly secure but too difficult to operate. Employees must also be trained regularly so that they build adequate muscle memory to handle security incidents. Equip them with the tools required to maintain security standards, and this will go a long way toward building a cyber-resilient organization.
Any major enterprisewide change must be flexible enough to take new data onboard and adapt to changing business needs and processes. If your efforts are inclusive, thoroughly tested and secure at the core, you have a greater chance of success with digital transformation.