The case of Digital Transformation success and failure

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Contrary to the popular belief, digital transformation does not entail the complete uprooting of existing business strategies and framework. Rather, the process is supposed to complement what is already there. A Bain & Co. research found that only 8% of global companies have been able to achieve their targeted outcomes from their investments in digital technology. The statistics related to digital transformation are disappointing. In a McKinsey survey, the success rate for digital transformation was found to be less than 30%.  

The majority of companies adopt a digital transformation strategy for digitalizing their existing business ecosystem for competing in the increasingly innovative and disruptive world. However, the significant gap between the failure and success ratios reflect a lack of common understanding about what really the digital transformation means. The lack of clarity in the definition leads to ambiguous strategic decisions, which may lead an organization on a downward spiral. 

The failed strategy of GE Digital 

General Electric fancied to own the industrial internet. In this endeavor, the American conglomerate spread its resources too thin, resulting in a failed digital transformation initiative. Formed in 2015 as a separate unit, GE Digital aimed to centralize all of the IT operations of the company. With the vision to become one of the top ten software companies by 2020, GE spent billions of dollars on its digital initiatives.  

Instead of individual units taking care of their respective digital needs, a separate entity in the form of GE Digital was formed to centralize the digital initiatives of the company. Although, GE Digital was supposed to enhance the company’s data analytics capabilities and position General Electric as a more technologically-focused enterprise. The unit’s objectives were strikingly different than the company’s expertise. The hurried transitional effort from huge machinery to cloud-based software solutions actually backfired on the company, leaving GE in a dark economic pothole. The quarterly P&L requirements prevented GE digital to invest in long-term strategies, limiting themselves to short-term goals that did not add significant value to the overall business. 

Against the expectations of opening new revenue streams, GE digital led to plummeted stock prices, bad reputation, and economic losses. The new CEO, John Flannery, is now driving a more focused strategy for GE digital along with a 25% budget cut and a sharp pivot in the digital strategy. 

What went wrong: 

  • The intent of GE was right, but it got lost in the process of doing everything at once. Without a clear vision, driving the digital transformation at the scale of a GE-level enterprise is a suicide mission. 
  • Despite the heavy investments and best-in-class talent, the digital initiatives did not succeed due to the lack of balance between the business needs and capabilities.  

Also read: The inevitability of Digital Transformation and the need for Digital Assurance 

The biggest pitfalls causing the digital strategies to fail are: 

  1. Not having a clarity on what digital transformation means 
  2. Not having the buy-in from the management 
  3. Doing everything at once 
  4. Absence of quantifiable metrics to measure the digital progress 
  5. Lack of a change management plan 

The digital triumph of Target 

Target remodeled hundreds of its stores for delivering convenient and inspiring shopping experiences to the customers. The retailer is focusing on deepening its customer personalization capabilities with the help of a holistic digital strategy. Target is providing its customers the benefits of e-commerce as well as physical stores, such that the consumers can leverage both the in-store as well as digital advantages from the retailer. 

Instead of replacing their existing physical stores with digital platform, Target used the offline locations to scale up its digital operations. With digital fulfillment becoming a key priority for the company, the retailer’s physical outlets are handling about 80% of their digital volume. 

What they did right: 

  • Instead of succumbing to the sheep effect, Target took an approach different from its competitors. Instead of closing down the physical outlets, Target upgraded them with the capability of handling digital traffic. 
  • Target’s same-day delivery option was a hit among the consumers. By partnering with Shipt, Target increased its digital fulfillment capabilities. 

The keys to a successful digital transformation: 

  1. Having the right leaders driving the digital wagon 
  2. Upskilling the workforce for the digital tomorrow 
  3. Establishing a seamless communication channel 
  4. Upgrading the existing procedures with digital technologies 
  5. Managing the change proactively 

Conclusion 

There is no silver bullet that can ensure the success of digital transformation. If resources were sufficient for guaranteeing success, there would not be an abundance of failure stories of the big-shot organizations’ digital transformation efforts. 

Also read: How to Not Fail at Your Digital Transformation Efforts 

Enterprise digital transformation requires deep strategizing and meticulous implementation. By achieving an ideal balance between digital innovation and organizational objectives, digital transformation implementation can be successful.  

Cigniti’s Digital assurance & testing solutions address the multi-faceted needs of digital transformation testing. We assure digital transformation success by conducting comprehensive testing across your digital value chain and ecosystem. To know more about our digital transformation services, connect with us here.