Barriers to sustaining accelerated digital transformation

23 March 2021 4 min. read
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Rapid digital transformation during the pandemic has been promising, although sustaining this speed of change is a tremendous challenge. A Coeus Consulting report presents some of the barriers to onboarding digital at speed.

Nearly 140 senior IT leaders were surveyed across Germany and the UK, as Coeus Consulting sought the bigger picture on digital transformation during Covid-19. Many promising trends have emerged: two thirds of businesses saw an increase in funding for accelerated transformations, and IT leaders became core drivers of business strategy.

According to the report, more than half of IT leaders “were able to implement a strategic shift of their entire business operations to digital.” With all this achieved in a matter of weeks or months, many are enticed by the prospect of sustaining this transformation speed in the long term – through higher budgets and more focus on IT.

What are the key challenges that your organisation has faced over the past 12 months?

Per the survey, this is easier said than done. Digital transformation last year was an emergency response – driven by transitions to remote working and the shift of entire customer bases online. Nearly 80% of respondents implemented “quick-fix solutions” as a result.

Questionable longevity aside, these changes were also tremendously challenging to implement. The researchers examined the end-to-end transformation process from strategy to implementation and post-implementation – each presenting its unique barriers.

Kicking things off was the task of realigning priorities. Security became the top business concern, as IT infrastructures spread across a larger web of insecure private networks. Vast pools of data flying around with little oversight also threw up a host of governance, regulatory and compliance issues. And this was for businesses willing to change.

Challenges at the pandemic response strategy phase

A third or more of IT leaders were stuck convincing their colleagues – from other employees to board members – to make digital investments in a risk-averse environment. Cultural inertia to change, and the need to technically educate the workforce were all core issues in the strategy phase.

According to Coeus Consulting founder Ben Barry, preparation levels were key for performance at this stage. “There is no denying organisations that had a clear digital strategy, especially around cloud and digital channels, will have fared better in agreeing the priorities.”

Then came the implementation phase, where the high cost of transformation predictably emerged as the central barrier. Other challenges include a lack of bandwidth to deliver and integrate myriad networks, and a skill gap across the business.

Challenges at the pandemic response implementation phase

“This is probably to be expected but does demonstrate the lack of technology flexibility that seems to have created problems for a significant proportion of organisations,” noted Barry. Business rigidity was an issue after implementation as well.

Most organisations were reeling from the impact of new tech on their processes, which took some adjustment. Costs were an issue here too, as maintaining a range of new technology pushed operational expenses steadily upwards through the year. Cultural issues persisted in the backdrop, and the overall lack of coherence also affected customer perceptions.

Gearing up

All things considered, the experience of IT leaders through last year shows that rapid transformation is not always good. On the other hand, Barry points out how not all businesses had a tough time. “The digital maturity (or immaturity) of organisations has been thrown into sharp focus as those that were digitally immature had to scramble to adapt whereas digital first organisations typically fared much better.”

With the right levels of strategic digital investment in the near future – spanning cloud, customer channels, cost optimization and a focus on end users – Coeus Consulting suggests that businesses can gear up for faster and better digital transformation.