Many enterprises which have embarked on previous Digital focus group initiatives, still setup Digital CoE and Charters under new nomenclatures without trying to understand why their initial initiative failed. In many cases a new title is used for a group just to hide a previous failed attempt in strategy execution. Even when the new name is heralded as the next version, all that is happening is name change and the outcomes are the same. So the question arises on why Digital enablement strategy initiatives fail, even after several Digital initiatives taken up by the enterprise and presence of skilled experts in these initiatives.
The problem in majority of unsuccessful transformation exercise lies in the thought process used in approaching digital strategy. Broadly IT approaches to digital transformation that result in failure can be classified under one the following focus areas:
- Technology focused – Examples include setting up a Digital platform like RAD (Rapid Application Development) platform, Application Container, etc.
- Resource focused – Example include Digital CoE or Charter, to have resources with focused skills for setup and maintenance.
- Internalization focused – Examples include frameworks to offer re-use, process to avoid shadow IT, etc.
The reason for failure in most cases is the focus on technology (re-usable tools, development framework, test labs, etc) and process (frameworks, governance models, process guidelines, etc) before defining the business roadmap. Three sample scenarios, which most strategy consultants would have faced and where they know the client is on the way for an unsuccessful Digital transformation attempt are given below:
- Let us use ABC platform as the platform for all enterprise needs. To prove the solution, please select a PoC which would trigger interest with business => This will fail because:
- Key use cases for digital enablement, that will generate ROI, over the next few years is not defined and the requirements for these use cases are not leveraged in identifying the platform to setup.
- After identifying the key use cases, the stakeholders/business anchors were not engaged to identify their willingness to adopt a new platform and make appropriate changes at governance level, process level, etc for new technology adoption.
- IT will setup ABC platform and educate business on the benefits. Business will easily adopt this platform as IT is offering infrastructure, platform and maintenance, which is a pain in shadow IT initiatives which are directly taken up by business. => This will fail because:
- Business teams have the required funds to execute a program. If there is a need to setup and maintain a platform, then business can do this. Anyway both business and IT is going to leverage an external vendor or internal team to get the work done. So assuming that business with adopt something without engaging them is a good candidate for failure.
- Business is comfortable with the quick turn-around in directly working with an external vendor, compared to the process overheads and delays when getting projects executed through IT.
- IT has a Digital CoE group that performs application development. However in the past few years this group did not create anything big like a cross platform, an application gallery for our clients, etc. So we are creating a new Charter with a fresh team to build a specific solution. => This will fail because:
- When the existing CoE group (members of a team that executed initiatives in the enterprise) is not consulted or engaged, then an understanding of what works and what fails in the enterprise for a digital enablement initiative is lost.
- There would be several technical and business challenges that a new team does not know relating to digital enablement in the enterprise. Analysis of past mistakes is critical to avoid repeating of the same mistakes again.
This article was intended to call out some of the common pitfalls encountered in Digital enablement, where huge investments are made without clear vision on business roadmap and strategy.