Meeting milestones: top tips for digital transformation success

Person in front of multiple computer screens - improving digital transformation
(Image credit: Image Credit: Wichy / Shutterstock)

Setting and reaching milestones is a key part of any journey, and digital transformation is no different. In a business climate that is fraught with challenges, businesses are almost unanimous in the importance of digital transformation. In fact, our Digital Divide research found that 99% of UK IT-decision makers recognize it as important, demonstrating that the future is digital.

About the author

Simon Michie is CTO at Pulsant.

Digital transformation has been a prominent business buzzword for last few years and many organizations are already well underway on their transformation journey. However, as with any new trend, it can be easy to jump on the bandwagon in fear of being the last to take the plunge without thinking things through first. The problem with this approach is that without truly understanding your goals and objectives, opportunities and challenges, how can you ever truly achieve success? This is reflected in the fact that a staggering 70% of businesses fail to hit their targets and therefore won’t achieve the desired ROI.

Our own research found that less than half of UK businesses have a transformation plan in place, despite many already digitalizing key business areas. So, it’s perhaps not surprising to also see that the majority are also facing barriers. To ensure your business doesn’t fall into the same trap, make sure you follow the below key steps to achieve transformation success.

Step 1: Define your transformation goals

Before beginning a digital transformation initiative, you need to have a clear understanding of your goals. What is the purpose of the project and what do you want to achieve? Where lack of appropriate technology may have proved a hinderance previously, digitalization presents the perfect opportunity to remodel the business and achieve things that weren’t previously possible, so clearly outline your objectives from the outset. You may find you have multiple goals along your journey. For example, your end goal may be to improve customer experience, but improving operational efficiency through automation or increasing employee productivity may be the first steps in achieving this. Or you may want to go so far as developing a new digital revenue stream through digitalization but will need to improve your business agility first before doing so. Whatever the driver, defining what you want to achieve from a digital transformation project is critical. You need to ensure goals are aligned to the business objectives, devise a plan to get you there and put in place clear lines of accountability at each stage. Also, make sure you gain agreement on transformation objectives from the outset from all stakeholders, otherwise you may find yourself facing challenges later down the line if expectations vary.

Step 2: Identify potential barriers

It would be foolish to think you won’t encounter any challenges on your transformation journey, so make sure you take the time at the beginning to identify anything that may prevent you from reaching your goals. Undertake an honest assessment of where weaknesses may lie across your infrastructure, people and processes and consider areas such as leadership, skills, culture, technology and connectivity. You could find you have your objectives nailed but are lacking the leadership to drive the strategy from the top-down. If so, you need to find a C-level executive to champion and lead your digital transformation, ensure the strategy aligns to business objectives and drive digital change throughout the business.

Alternatively, you might have the right vision and leadership but lack the skills to implement it. Access to the right skills will be essential to digital transformation success, so take time to assess the current capabilities in your organization, identify any gaps and source a strategic partner to support if needed.

Finally, while technology will be an enabler in your transformation, you might also find it a barrier. For example, cloud will be an essential component of your digital transformation but integrating with legacy infrastructure can be complex. Our research shows this one of the top challenges for most organizations, so take time to distinguish what data and infrastructure you need to support your transformation and identify areas (if any) where legacy infrastructure needs to stay.

At this stage, it is also worth considering a workload assessment to identify priority workloads for migration and map out how each component will connect your strategy. Once you know this, you can then design the right cloud configuration for your specific needs. For example, if you want to keep some data on-premise or in legacy systems, you can design a hybrid cloud solution around existing your IT infrastructure and develop a broader cloud roadmap for the longer-term.

Step 3: Look to others for guidance

Don’t be afraid to look for others for help. The good thing about the number of businesses that are already transforming is that you can learn from their experiences. Look to others for best practice guidance and learn from their mistakes and successes. Common factors of success will be a clear vision, engagement from stakeholders, a clear digital architecture and the right culture and skills to support Also don’t be afraid to seek help where you need it. While digital transformation can seem complex, it doesn’t have to be with the help of the right partner – someone that has been through it before or has experience where you don’t. Success may come down to finding the right balance of in-house and external expertise, for example the third party provides the technical know-how you may lack and supports with the execution, while you and your team own the vision, drive the requirements and measure the outcomes.

A successful digital business needs true clarity on its vision, and with almost endless possibilities, it pays to approach transformation with ambition and enthusiasm. A misconception is that a strategy such as this requires a business to build or engineer its own tools but tapping into the right expertise means that even the smallest businesses need not be excluded from the digital revolution. Whether the aim is to implement hybrid cloud for efficiency and security purposes or to take advantage of the move towards edge computing, external knowledge can help drive business objectives.

Simon Michie is CTO at Pulsant.