Ross: “Oh yeah it will! Come on, up! Up-up-up! Up! Yes! Here we go! Pivot!”

(They start up the stairs again. Chandler Bing is between the couch and the wall.)

Ross: “Pivot! Piv-ot! Piv-et!! Piv-ett!!! Piv-ett!!!”

Chandler: “Shut up! Shut up!! Shut up!!!”

(They put the couch down.)

Ross: “Okay, I don’t think it’s going to pivot anymore.”

Chandler | Rachel: “You think?!!”

Classic Friends.

Ross Geller roping in Chandler Bing and Rachel Green to move a much-too-large and ridiculously heavy sofa up a narrow flight of stairs into Ross’ New York apartment. Ross is convinced that all they need to do is “PIVOT”.

Sounds familiar, right? With all the shite we’ve gone through, brands need to “PIVOT”. And there’s no bigger “PIVOT” than a Digital Transformation.

The exception to the rule. The silver bullet that exists to save your existence.

They’re monumental. They’re elemental. They’re magical.

Revolutionising your world and making you a superhero.

All thanks to <insert name of tool here>.

Except, it’s bollocks. Complete. Bollocks.

If a new tool could revolutionise your world, then why doesn’t a carpenter get excited about a new saw? 

It’s not the tool, it’s what you do with it. And it’s the latter part of why most digital transformation projects fail.

Failures of a Digital Transformation

Digital Transformations are simple. People are complex.  

Do you know what pisses people most off about change? When they don’t know it’s coming. Do you know what pisses people off more? When the change doesn’t make their job easier or solve the issues they’ve been flagging for years.

Whether it’s an app, CRM, new website, intranet, business intelligence systems, analytics (etc.) transformation, from experience, the pitfalls are the same:

  • The tool is too bloated, comprehensive and complicated to fulfil the task. It’s overkill. A spreadsheet would’ve been fine. But that wouldn’t look good on the CV, plus you wouldn’t have been able to claim that free iPad as part of the contract…

  • Initiated by a select few, the system is useless to everyone else except those that led the project. It doesn’t integrate. You’re in too deep to change direction now. Go for broke.

  • A CRM can’t solve our problems?’ It’s not like Customer Relationship Management is a MANAGEMENT process. That’s crazy talk. The system does that all for you. It’s automated. We don’t need to structure our resources around it. It sends emails. Audiences love our content… ‘what do you mean an email marketing platform is cheaper?’

  • The bureaucratic shit show for approval has taken so long, the technology and infrastructure have moved on, the project scope is now entirely out of date. Oh well, at least the meetings will make you look busy. Time for a re-scope.

  • ‘Of course, you knew about the project. Didn’t you see that one post on the Intranet? It’s called communication, Karen!’

  • ‘We’re doing this in sprints’. Great for developments, terrible for scoping. Although you’ll only discover this when you get to that department that has a particular need that isn’t possible via the new tool’s functionality. Congrats. Now, how much is that bolt-on again…?

  • What do you mean the team hate the new tool? It’s not like it’s changed their job or automated their work. Of course not, that’s crazy talk. They just don’t like change. It’s got nothing to do with having a mortgage to pay.  Adapt or die, Tim. #GottaHustle

  • Automation reduces costs. But you didn’t map all the workflows, did you? Now it’s another process the team have to follow and the overtime claims have gone through the roof. Still, at least all that data is all in one place, right? Oh…

  • ‘This integrates?’ Not sure though why they would want their system to integrate with their competitor’s…it’s not liking they’re competing for the same business or anything…

  • ‘Training?’ The sales rep said it was ‘plug and play’. People need to get with the programme. Amiright…?!

What a digital transformation actually is

At this point, you may have picked up that Digital Transformations are not about that shiny, new toy. I know. Shocker.

It’s the cultural aspects, processes, buy-in, structures, training, and user experiences.

Both internal and external.

That’s the difference. That’s what put the ‘transformation’ into Digital Transformation. That’s the “PIVOT.”

E-commerce is a route-to-market. Viable for some. Challenging for others (logistics anyone…?)

Be clear on what you’re transforming. Why you’re doing it. Digital is just the tool. Without the correct diagnosis, you’ll start the wrong treatment.

Software in isolation does fuck all.

The ‘P’s of Digital Transformation

How to avoid failure? Use the ‘P’s* (order intentional): People. Process. Platform.

People

Bring people on board. Understand their needs. Their concerns. Their training needs. The skills gaps. The skills competencies. What do we need to transform? What do we need to change?

They are your customer and user, just as much as your actual customers. You need to understand both sides.

They need to know what’s happening and why. You need to know what you don’t know. A new tool may not be the ‘low hanging fruit’ you think it is.

People provide knowledge, context and ideas. It could result in structural changes. You need to bring them along. Continuously. They should be informing your brief. Your demands.

Unless you’re a one-man (or woman) band, other people need to use it. There are always upcoming projects people want to start. After all, they need it for their CV too.

Process

The next step. Understand the process and tasks from the people.

What do they do?

How do they do it?

What’s working?

What do they wish they could do?

Where are the bottlenecks?

Where can we make efficiencies?

How do systems talk to one another?

How will these change after implementation?

What integrations are needed?

What new protocols do you need to put in place?

Do the current guidelines, styles, ToV support the outcome of the project?

Does the IT infrastructure need an update?

What’s compatible?

You get the point.

There are many entities. Explore them. Understand them. These may change. Knowing the foundations is critical.

Platform

Now you know. This is the moment to shop for that new toy. You have an informed brief. You know what’s suitable. What’s needed. What will work. The functions you require, the features you desire.

You can ask the right questions. You won’t be blinded by sales. YOU know how the platform will improve your situation. Not to be dictated by a commission-driven foghorn. You know the upcoming projects your toy has to be compatible with.

You’re future-proofing your legacy.

*A few more can’t hurt… although technically two are in the 7p’s… shhh…don’t say it…

Don’t be a Ross…

Understand the problem you’re trying to solve, you’ll select the right tool for the job. How it’s used, makes the “PIVOT” possible.

Otherwise, you’ll end up doing a Ross – trying to fit something that was never designed for the perimeters you find yourself in. No amount of ‘PIVOTING’ will get around that scenario.

The sofa was cut. Then returned.

Start with the experience, work backwards to the platform. Treat digital transformation like product development

So, the next time someone mentions ‘Digital Transformation’, think about the processes and people. Explore them. Take note. Your inbox will thank you.

Share your thoughts

Why do you think digital transformations fail? Do you agree beige is a terrible colour for a sofa? Let me know in the comments below, tweet me @CJPanteny, or get in touch.

And if you liked this blog, don’t forget to share it on your socials and bask in its ranty goodness.

See you next time.

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