Last updated 20 November 2023

Implementing digital transformation is a key focus for businesses across all sectors. Unfortunately, there are some common barriers that can get in the way of a successful transformation and implementation. These obstacles should not dissuade companies from pursuing digital transformation, but they should be approached and managed carefully.

The need for businesses to transform

Why are businesses implementing digital transformation?

The range of benefits digital transformation can bring to an organisation are wide and varied. Here are just a few:

  • Businesses become more flexible and agile, ready to meet the challenges of an evolving world and market.
  • Organisations get to know their customers more intimately and are able to better meet their needs with digital tools and solutions.
  • Team members are supported throughout their day-to-day, with a comprehensive set of digital tools and resources.
  • Businesses find they can deploy remote teams faster, with more confidence, and achieve effective collaboration from day-one.
  • Operations become streamlined, increasing the effectiveness of the company while reducing costs.

Barriers to digital transformation

While there are many benefits to digital transformation, the process is not without its challenges. Let’s take a look at some of the key barriers to digital transformation and how these barriers can be overcome.

Resistance from personnel

Not everyone is going to be fully on board with your digital transformation from day one. Some personnel may be resistant or uncertain about change and therefore may not be ready to immediately embrace the significant changes required for digitalisation.

How to overcome resistance

Focus on communication. Make sure that everyone is aware of the benefits of digital transformation and knows who they need to talk to if they have any concerns. Transparency like this will ease concerns and help to ensure all members of staff take ownership of the project.

For complete understanding and actionable feedback, have one-on-one conversations with staff members that seem hesitant with digital transformation. Though the benefits of such a change may be obvious to you, your employee may only see the key challenges of digital transformation and have a sort of tunnel vision approach. It’s up to you to confidently and effectively communicate how you will overcome the barriers to digital transformation and how it will benefit not just the organisation as a whole but the workers and their ability to do their work more efficiently and effectively.

Disunity in digitalisation strategies

Many key digital challenges are strategy-based. For example, one department may adopt a particular strategy for its own portion of the transformation program. Another department may be following a very different strategy and schedule — maybe even one that conflicts with those of other departments.

How to overcome disunity

Facilitate company-wide meetings and forums, as well as develop a central roadmap for implementation. All teams and departments need to understand where their efforts fit into the bigger picture, so they know precisely how to move forward. Successful digital transformation relies upon two strategic levels — the strategies of individual departments and the overarching central strategy of the company itself.

Lack of expertise and project leadership

Often a lack of knowledge and experience can be an organisation’s undoing. There’s no need to compromise on efficacy and expertise to save a quick buck. Organisations need project leaders if they are to overcome digitalisation challenges. Without expert leadership at a senior level, it becomes difficult to ‘sell’ the project to all stakeholders. Moreover, the project will lose momentum without the necessary expertise at this level. The best way to avoid this is to focus on a trickle-down effect.

How to overcome expertise and leadership gaps

Training must be delivered ahead of time so that digital transformation ‘champions’ have the necessary expertise to inform and educate all other members of the team. Like all big organisational changes, you can’t tackle everything at once. You need to train certain people at the highest level so they can bring their experience to the table and allow other employees to look to them for effective leadership. These champions will also need clearly defined roles as project leaders, providing the direction and focus required to exceed transformation objectives.

To make this work, you need structure. Develop a method for training your employees, starting at the top, and ensure that all levels of progression are outlined as clearly as possible. Though this may not directly impact the transition to digital operations, it will have a ripple effect on the productivity of your workforce. So, you must fill these expertise and leadership gaps to avoid the biggest challenges of digital transformation.

Organisational structure issues

We’ve all had moments where we’re unsure where to go for clear and direct answers. This is an absolute no-go for organisations of any size. During a digital transformation, organisational structure needs to be clearly and unambiguously defined. If team members are unsure about who they can reach out to for answers to questions or for guidance, the entire project quickly begins to break down. This is also true when data becomes siloed within different departments and platforms — if all teams, right across the organisation, cannot access the data they need, transformation will be difficult to achieve.

Dealing with this level of disorganisation is often more challenging than any level of actual digital transformation. Unlike positive change, even the smallest impact here can have disastrous effects on the organisation as a whole, almost simultaneously. Fortunately, there are a few ways to avoid this.

How to overcome organisational structure issues

Many digital transformation challenges can be overcome with the addition of one key ingredient — clarity. Demonstrate to stakeholders reporting lines and who they can go to for support. Sometimes, your staff will need assistance but won’t know where to seek it, so they’ll just carry on until someone stops them. You can also eliminate data siloing by introducing centralised data resources, stored in the cloud, that all teams can draw upon.

By dedicating your time to ensuring that there is one process for answering appropriate questions, you’re giving employees and stakeholders peace of mind, knowing they have a single hub for all their questions. You can even formulate and promote a frequently asked questions section on your website or internal comms, so everyone is on the same page. Some automated solutions can also come in handy here. Miscommunication and confusion are some of the biggest challenges of digital transformation.

Budget limitations

Money often becomes a barrier to digital transformation, regardless of where your organisation is based. While digital transformation provides numerous benefits, it can still be a costly exercise. The entire project may flounder if cash flow is insufficient or management cannot sign off on the required investment.

Budget limitations are the final barrier to digital transformation. Without the proper funds or money management solutions in place, there’s simply no way to overcome this hurdle. This needs to be the first consideration when considering a complete organisational shift.

How to overcome budget limitations

The simple answer is to plan. Plan effectively and at every step. Businesses need to be aware of the cost of digitalisation from the outset. Every member of the organisation — from top to bottom — needs to be fully on board with the project so that the proper investment can be delivered when required. This can often be seen as daunting for those with little to no experience, but it can be achieved. Though without a proper plan in place, everything will fall apart, and you’ll lose more than your opportunity for an organisational rehaul.

By planning and forecasting your budget carefully, businesses can make sure that they have enough funding to complete the project and begin reaping the benefits. Ensure that you have the right funding avenues in place with reasonable terms and realistic goals in place. Think about how long it will take to repay any loans, and don’t compromise on long-term survivability for short-term gain. Your organisation’s existence hinges on its ability to plan for this evolution. It may sound dramatic, but that’s the reality. Put all your effort into this at the outset, and you won’t regret it down the line.

Discover more about digital transformation with Lánluas

Here at Lánluas, we have seen the benefits a digital transformation can bring first-hand, but we’ve also seen the obstacles. Our years of experience give us the unique perspective needed to assist you and your business in this time of transition. Whether you’re operating at a large or small scale, we have the passion and knowledge to drive your change to avoid the pitfalls and normally preventative challenges for digital transformation.

Contact our team today to discover more about this and to plot the optimal course towards successful digitalisation.

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