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6 digital transformation challenges and how automation helps you overcome them

Martin Stewart -
Digital transformation

Digital transformation remains the big buzz word in business—and it’s not going away. But digital transformation isn’t really a new thing, just a new phrase. Technology has been a part of business operations for decades. We know this. There’s a well-documented history of technology in business. It started with managing stacks of data with mainframes (do things with data). Networking drove expansion into enterprise apps (a need to do digital things for employees). Then the internet and smartphones came along and the whole thing blew up (a need to do digital things for customers).

What does digital transformation mean to you?

Organizations still struggle to define what digital transformation means to them. They know that technology has the power to accelerate everything: customer interactions, business processes, data processing, reporting and insight, and more. Digital transformation is a mindset: a lens through which to look at your organization to identify where digital technologies can deliver efficiency, convenience, visibility, and transparency.

The real question is this: What do we digitally transform next (and why)?

Digital transformation is difficult to define because it is both unique to the organization or industryand it’s a moving target. Every starting point is different. Each organization has different priorities. There’s no cookie-cutter roadmap. And there is no end point. Every step forward brings the organization back to the same question: What do we digitally transform next?


Focus on building digital transformation capabilities

What does this mean? The ability to strategize and execute digital transformations is more important than any single digital transformation project. The ability to see and do is the key. Both capabilities are needed. A clear plan of what needs to happen means nothing if you can’t make it happen. Ability to execute quickly means nothing if you’re building the wrong things. Starting a digital transformation program without building capabilities means you’ll spin your wheels while the competition forge ahead.


6 digital transformation challenges

According to a Bain & Company survey, 85% of business leaders believe digital disruption will maintain pace or accelerate over the next five years. They have identified 6 key challenges that organizations must face to increase the pace of digital transformation:

  • Committing to the cause
  • Refactoring tech architecture
  • Extracting full value from data
  • Making Agile the norm
  • Igniting innovation
  • Becoming a talent magnet


1 - Committing to the cause

Making a decision to commit is great, but the reality in many organizations is that people don’t have the time to make significant progress with digital transformation projects while a big part of their day is wasted on routine operations work.

Work automation takes routine work off their plate—giving them time to plan and execute projects that make a difference.


2 - Refactoring tech architecture

Legacy technology carries a maintenance overhead that will stand in the way of progress with digital transformation.

While IT people are feeding and watering old tech to keep the lights on, they’re not working on the new building blocks required to power digital transformation.

For most organizations, modernizing the tech architecture (without disrupting business-as-usual) will be an essential step towards digital transformation maturity. Automating routine IT operations tasks which consume hours out of each day creates the capacity you need to do this.


3 - Extracting full value from data

Likewise, projects to unlock insights from data can drag while IT and business people are burdened by routine workloads. Workflow automation can help release the logjam to accelerate new big data and analytics projects.

When it comes to how you make big data and analytics available to business people, these can be “wrapped-up” as services, accessed easily through an organisation’s service portal. Under the hood, these data and analytics services can be driven by workflow automations for “hands-free” delivery.

When big data and analytics are packaged in this way for business people, they get what they need fast—and without putting a burden on the IT team.


4 - Making agile the norm

Agile development relies on quick, focused sprints to create and deploy working code that delivers value to customers. While developers and IT operations staff remain distracted by routine tasks, bottlenecks remain and sprints fail to deliver value as planned—stifling momentum. IT automation can help clear the decks for full focus on creating and shipping the features that customers want.


5 - Igniting innovation

The drive for innovation (and the risk-taking that enables it) is a cultural factor.

Organizations that punish mistakes stifle innovation by suppressing ideas. Organizations that see mistakes as experiments and learning opportunities open the door for ideas coming from anywhere in the organization.

The more capacity your people have, the more innovation projects your organization can have in flight at any given time. So, creating capacity through the automation of mundane work means your organization can complete more cycles of experimentation, learning and iteration in a year.

That means more innovative momentum.


6 - Becoming a talent magnet

You can’t become a talent magnet first. While your employees are bogged down in routine work, maintaining legacy systems, and manually sifting data, they’re unlikely to recommend your organization to peers looking for a new and exciting role.

To attract the people you need to execute on your digital agenda, you need to give them two things: A digital agenda to execute, and the time they need to deliver it. New employees often find they are the victim of an unwitting “bait-and-switch”: they are interviewed by an organization that is keen to deliver exciting new projects, but the reality is that the new employee will be snowed-under with routine operations work. They leave and tell everyone about it.

Sort out the operational workloads that are standing in the way first. Give your people the tools to automate routine workloads. Then bring in new talent when you’re in a position to keep them.



In short, workflow automation makes way for digital transformation. Automations look after the high-volume, low-value workloads that stand in the way—giving your people more time and energy to build the foundational digital transformation capabilities and drive individual projects forward.


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