Top challenges facing digital transformation

"Thinking beyond a 'campaign mentality' in digital strategy efforts" ranks high as a challenge for company initiatives. To affect culture, executives must not only 'get it' but also become part of digital transformation.

by Brian Solis

Digital transformation is the act of investing in people, technology, systems, and processes to upgrade how businesses work in this digital economy. Technology is disrupting everything, but business philosophies and practices aren’t keeping pace. Now’s the time to invest in people AND technology to change perspectives and to find new ways of engaging and leading connected employees and customers.

As part of a survey on the State of Digital Transformation, we set out to surface the premier challenges facing digital transformation.

We asked survey respondents to share the different types of challenges they face, ranked as extremely significant, somewhat significant, or not a significant challenge.

At the top of the “challenges” list, changing company culture lead with 63% of respondents stating that it is extremely significant in successfully leading digital transformation efforts toward fruition.

On the flipside, only 3% felt changing culture is not a significant issue.

Company culture is the basis of digital transformation, a fact supported by both the qualitative and quantitative research my colleague Jaimy Szymanski and I conducted from 2013-2014. We learned from those leading digital transformation efforts that without openness to change, either naturally or as a specific initiative, digital transformation stalls at best or implodes at worst.


We found that even though most company cultures are open to change, they are mired in directional ambiguity or risk aversion.

Traditional cultures can be slow to embrace change

Without executive support and leadership, culture cannot mature or adapt. This is especially true when the case for change is not partnered with a compelling business case. And that’s what’s necessary to progress and earn relevance in a digital economy.

The businesses we independently surveyed and interviewed recognize that executive support is key to sanctioning change and investing in it. Earning it is referenced as a challenge at 42% (extremely) and 39% (somewhat).

To become customer-centric takes creating a culture of customer-centricity. And that takes a shift in the culture as it exists today. This is key, as culture evolves to empower people to work together in new ways to solve new problems and seize new opportunities.

Businesses undergoing digital transformation are each, in their own ways, creating new processes, forming new business models and teams, and investing in new technologies and systems to work in ways that are more relevant to the state and evolution of today’s markets. In doing so, they’re leveraging digital transformation to become more customer-centric and more human, and they are renewing their culture for a new generation of customers and employees.

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