How to deal with challenges in digital transformation during Covid

Many initiatives have sprung up during the pandemic as digital transformation projects, often without well-defined strategies and clear set of metrics to define success.

Dr. Karippur Nanda KumarUpdated: Saturday, August 06, 2022, 12:17 PM IST
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The pace of digital transformation accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic era but one worrying trend has been the percentage of failed projects with many enterprises not fully achieving the desired business outcomes. Many initiatives have sprung up during the pandemic as digital transformation projects, often without well-defined strategies and clear set of metrics to define success. For example, many departments drive digital projects that involve social media integration without an organisation-wide strategy to leverage social media holistically to engage customers, enhance customer experience and collaborate with partners. Cloud migration projects are often initiated without a clear vision of how data stored in various departments should be integrated for meaningful analytics and better security. Organisational silos can be a major barrier to success in such projects.

Dr. Karippur Nanda Kumar

What is Robotic Process Automation?

The concept of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) involves the combination of intelligence with automation that automate workflows and provide tangible benefits to enterprises as well as its customers. Legacy processes can be a major challenge in implementing RPA projects. Cultural resistance to change is often another reason for project failures. Projects are often led by professionals who are technical experts but lack the experience and skills to anticipate resistance and manage change. Digital transformation projects that involve several departments will have too many stakeholders to manage too.

The pandemic has forced enterprises to speed up digital projects to drive their business and respond to the crisis. But successful digital transformation requires scalable and sustainable technology adoption. Now it’s time to take a step back and develop a clear transformation strategy and review the value and long term benefits of these projects. There are many studies on the successes and failures of large scale projects that highlight the relevant best practices. Digital transformation is all about innovative integration of emerging technologies into all areas of a business, substantially changing how enterprises operate and deliver value to customers. There is a need to rethink how digital transformation will help to achieve organisational goals in the post pandemic world? Are there shifts in customer expectations and business models viability that enterprises need to factor in? Essentially the digital strategies of the enterprises need to be reviewed and revised for the post pandemic era.

How different metrics can help in the digital transformation plan

Before the projects are initiated the enterprises need to develop clear metrics of measuring the success in areas such as customer experience, strategic goals such as business model innovation, operational efficiency, and sustainability. Such metrics can include revenue growth, customer satisfaction scores, and employee productivity and these project specific metrics should be worked into the overall digital transformation plan and tracked using established key performance indicators. Shorter planning cycles with a planning horizon of between twelve and eighteen months with regular checkpoints will help to ensure projects are on track.

Employees need better resources to power their productivity

Key stakeholders of the project should be identified and consulted early on the project metrics. For example If employees aren’t engaging the way enterprises expect them after digitalization, it could be because the digital systems or platforms are not compelling enough to make them shift from their existing work patterns. Employees in the pandemic era want the freedom to access digital services with better user interfaces so they can work from anywhere and on various devices including mobile devices. Employees and enterprise partners need better tools for collaboration and increased automation to power their productivity. It is also essential to have the right digital skill set in place and enterprises should leverage the partner ecosystem to fill any gaps. An authoritarian or top down approach in devising a plan of action and imposing it on various stakeholders is rarely the best way forward. A basic analysis of key stakeholders of the digital projects, their interest in the project and key information requirements will help to establish clear communications channels early in the project. Enterprises need to put in place proactive plans to energise and empower employees and partners. Successful digital transformation requires a culture that encourages innovation, promotes data sharing, accepts risks and tolerates failures.

Dr. Karippur Nanda Kumar, Professor of Information Technology at SP Jain School of Global Management, Singapore.

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