Mythbusting: 5 Common Digital Transformation Misconceptions Exposed

Often times, the hurdles organizations face in digitally transforming lie in preconceived notions on what “Digital Transformation” is, what elements it encompasses, how to mature with intention, and the duration of the process when culture change is paramount. Over the years, we’ve uncovered myriad Digital Transformation myths that must be exposed early on in order to ensure their reverberations don’t cause unintentional damage (and slow progress) along the way to maturation.

Myth #1. Digitization is the same as Digital Transformation.

“We’ve turned all of our paper assets into PDFs, so we’re done here!”

There are three terms to differentiate when speaking about digital transformation within an organization: digitization, digital strategy, and Digital Transformation.

  • Digitization, or “going digital” is the process of (or transition to) storing, processing, and transmitting information electronically (”data”) vs. on paper or in-person.
  • Digital Strategy is a term used to connect business strategy to digital; how is it empowered and supported by digital capabilities? A company’s overarching strategy should not be separate in vision or focus from its digital strategy.
  • Both of these terms are not equal to that of Digital Transformation, as the final covers more than data and strategy; it encompasses an entire technological, cultural, and operational shift in order to ultimately sustain vitality.
Digital Transformation Defintion
Digital Transformation Defintion

Myth #2. Digital Transformation is a final destination.

“We’ve reached the final phase of Digital Transformation maturity, now let’s relax!”

The word “vitality,” by its very nature, signals continual growth and evolution in order to remain viable, useful, and full of energy and life. Many organizations believe that Digital Transformation is an end-goal, when in reality, those companies that achieve sustained vitality only do so by being adaptive and fluid. Backsliding is inevitable along the Digital Transformation maturity curve if organizations do not invest in appropriate innovation funnels and ecosystem partnerships in order to remain relevant to customers and employees alike.

The Five Stages of Digital Transformation Maturity

Myth #3. Digital Transformation is the job of marketing/IT/customer service/etc.

“They’ve got it covered, I don’t have to worry about Digital Transformation in my role.”

Digital Transformation is everyone’s job. It requires entire organizational buy-in and leadership, across departments and roles. In our research over the last decade, we’ve uncovered that “organizational alignment” is one of the key tenets of successfully maturing in Digital Transformation. Aligning the following functions under the direction of a digital team or “center of excellence” is critical:

  • Ecommerce
  • Sales or Channel
  • Customer Service
  • Legal / Compliance
  • Marketing & Communications
  • Operations; Product
  • Finance
  • IT

If one function is viewed as the sole leader or owner of Digital Transformation, organizational priorities often shift in the direction to fulfill that function’s goals, creating animosity within company culture and a barrier to innovation permeation.

Myth #4. Culture change isn’t that difficult.

“It can’t be that hard to change company culture; once everyone hears we’re ‘going digital,’ it’ll take care of itself.”

Culture change within an organization happens slowly and requires a commitment to change management and employee empowerment to make real progress. This often requires Digital Transformation leaders to act in opposition to traditional company culture that favors predictability over change. Foundational culture change is at the core of how corporations operate, what they value, how they support employees, and the vision leaders have for the future. It’s built over years of leadership, governance, hiring practices, and strategic approaches to innovation.

Myth #5. Digital Transformation and innovation are synonymous.

“We have an Innovation Lab and survey our customers for their ideas — pretty sure we’re good on Digital Transformation.”

After interviewing more than 250 senior leaders across industries, we found there to be seven areas that are most important to digital transformation maturity (see image, below). Yes, innovation programs are key to success! However, an innovative organization does not necessarily mean it has digitally matured across the board. Innovation programs often operate to the side of the organization’s core capabilities and revenue streams, an integral part to looking ahead and proactively bringing new ideas to the forefront. These initiatives are often silo’d and not directly incorporated into the company’s multi-faceted digital transformation strategy.

he Digital Directive by Kaleido Insights is a heuristic evaluation of Digital Transformation within a company, there are seven major modules and over 60 total specific criteria.
The Digital Directive by Kaleido Insights is a heuristic evaluation of Digital Transformation within a company, there are seven major modules and over 60 total specific criteria.

What other Digital Transformation myths have you come across –– or busted! –– in your career? Let us know! We’re continually adding to the list and will publish it in full in our upcoming report on Digital Transformation, slated for February 2020.

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