Why digital transformations fail

Why digital transformations fail


Digital transformation has evolved into an essential process for any business that wants to remain competitive in today’s dynamic digital economy. According to IBM: “Digital transformation takes a customer-driven, digital-first approach to all aspects of a business, from its business models to customer experiences to processes and operations. It uses…digital technologies to leverage data and drive intelligent workflows, faster and smarter decision-making, and real-time response to market disruptions.”

If only it was as simple as investing in new technology, plugging it in and reaping the rewards – but there’s much more to a successful digital transformation. Another factor is even more important than technology: people.

This reliance on people means they can also be the biggest barrier to change. Why? Because people typically resist change if they don’t see the benefit and they’re not included in the process. This exclusionary approach prompts a restrictive mindset – “We’ve always done it this way” – that can lead to digital transformations being viewed as time-wasting projects, not as a successful part of the business strategy.

This lack of inclusion in the digital transformation process can trigger a range of change anxieties for employees, caused by:

  • Change is perceived to be a protracted and complex process.
  • People fear stepping outside their comfort zone.
  • Change is viewed as a threat to their role.
  • They mistrust senior executives and managers.

Business leaders’ failure to engage with people at all levels in the digital transformation process – from crafting a strategy to executing it – typically results in projects that focus on business results and technology and ignore people, leading to failure. These leaders must recognise that employees from across the organisation have a decisive role to play in the change process.

Committees and working groups can provide the structure needed to include and engage employees during a digital transformation – but this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. To be effective, they must be tailored to your business’s size and requirements.

A committee and working group framework that works for your business could be structured like this: IT steering committee, IT management team, project office working group, project working group, user working group, business continuity working group, security working group, and business innovations working group. It’s up to you to shape this structure around your business and requirements.

IT Steering Committee

IT Steering Committee

The most influential IT steering committees are typically comprised of board members and the IT management team, who meet regularly to oversee the IT strategy and receive updates on its progress. It’s their job to approve an IT strategy and roadmap that doesn’t overwhelm the business with an aggressive level of change.

Alignment between the business strategy and IT strategy is their primary objective. They review and monitor critical IT projects to ensure the potential benefits are realised – and the business strategy is fulfilled.

IT Management Team

The senior IT management team – including the IT director/CIO – oversees the project office, user working group, business continuity working group and security working group. This comprehensive oversight allows them to coordinate day-to-day IT operations – from ensuring all systems and users are managed and supported to delivering security to the highest standard.

The team maintains the performance of the IT department by establishing and monitoring KPIs. They also keep projects on track by ensuring the approved IT roadmap is executed effectively on behalf of the project teams and the IT steering committee.

Business Innovations Working Group

This group should report to the IT steering committee. They are typically responsible for challenging business systems, analysing the market for innovative ways of operating, and presenting new ideas to the IT steering committee – which will decide if they add value to the business strategy.

The feedback from this group helps drive the IT strategy and roadmap by highlighting initiatives that might benefit the business. Through the group’s analysis, innovative ideas within the industry are examined, including products and systems that are available both within the sector and beyond its boundaries – exposing the business to new ways of working.

Project Office Working Group

The project office working group is typically comprised of managers from relevant departments who assess which projects will have the biggest impact on the business to assign priority. This group is usually led by a project office manager or the head of the IT department – depending on the size of the company.

The group works together to oversee approved strategic projects within the roadmap, as well as ad-hoc projects to ensure business-as-usual operations are maintained. To achieve this, their responsibilities include:

  • Defining and maintaining standards for the project management office.
  • Providing guidance and standards in the execution of projects.
  • Ensuring strategic projects contained within the roadmap are executed effectively.
  • Managing risks and issues affecting projects and the business.

Project Working Group

Each project should be assigned a dedicated team that’s led by a project manager. They will oversee its successful delivery by ensuring it remains on track and value is harnessed for the business. The team is responsible for executing project tasks and making sure business deliverables are met within schedule.

The team should have representation from each department impacted by the project to ensure buy-in from the business. This cohesion – underpinned by effective communication – fosters a symbiotic relationship between the change delivered by the project and the people it impacts.

By creating a team that’s representative of the organisation and works in unison, each project will have the foundation needed to achieve successful outcomes that add value to the business.

User Working Group

This group is typically comprised of users from across the business who meet regularly to provide feedback to the IT steering committee and IT management team on two key areas: how new technology is being received by each department and how it’s impacting business as usual operations. By creating a proactive dialogue, the relationship between IT and the business becomes transparent and productive.

Having been presented with the IT strategy and roadmap, they become aware of the projects being delivered within the context of the business strategy. This is supported by effective channels of communication – such as an intranet, announcements, and training – that allow the IT steering committee and IT management team to update them on the IT roadmap and for them to provide ongoing feedback.

Business Continuity Working Group

Senior management from relevant departments typically work together to develop and implement an efficacious business continuity plan that’s regularly tested and enhanced. The IT department will share essential elements of the plan – such as disaster recovery mechanisms, recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) – to ensure they meet business needs.

  • RTO: Measures how much time it takes after a disruptive event for the IT department to recover the system.
  • RPO: Measures how much data is lost after a disruptive event.

When an incident occurs that impacts operations, the group will convene and make an informed decision on whether to invoke the appropriate actions outlined in the business continuity plan. They will manage the immediate incident in line with the plan and capture any lessons learnt to improve the process for future incidents.

Security Working Group

The security working group is typically represented by senior stakeholders from across the organisation, who accept responsibility for security within the business and ensure robust security standards and regulatory compliance. The group will plan and provide oversight of a set of processes and controls that are designed to elevate the business’s security posture. This will assure the IT steering committee and the board that security is being managed to the highest possible standard.


Don’t waste time creating a rudderless IT strategy and roadmap, underpin it with a well-planned and efficacious business strategy that the whole organisation – from the board to the staff – can buy into.

Once you understand what you are doing as a business, and implement the strategy needed to achieve it, you will have the foundations required to build an effective IT strategy and roadmap – and assemble the working group structure needed to make your digital transformation a success.