Feel like you’re on the island of digital transformation despair?
If you’re feeling frustrated and dissatisfied with your digital transformation, know that many others are in the same boat as you. Studies show that one out of every two companies is failing to execute on digital transformation strategies. The reasons that digital transformations flounder or fail boils down to five problematic ways of thinking—all of them built on misconceptions about what digital transformation is and how to achieve it:
Misconception 1: “We should hold off on developing a long-range vision. For now, we should just figure things out as we go along and see what works.”
Misconception 2: “Achieving digital transformation means something different to us than our competitors. This is how it should be; we’re a unique entity.”
Misconception 3: “Digital transformation must have a start and end date; it’s the only way to hold people accountable and to control the budget.”
Misconception 4: “Digital transformation should be led by a small few, mostly from IT. We need centralization and a point person to hold accountable.”
Misconception 5: “Digital transformation is primarily about adopting new technology. If we focus on the technology, everything else will fall in line with it.”
All five of these ways of thinking will set up an organization for failure. In this blog post, we’re going to focus on explaining why the fourth way of thinking—the erroneous belief that only one or two people should lead digital transformation—is so dangerous. It’s a mindset that we’ve seen dominate in countless organizations.
Then, in Part Two, we will tackle the misperception that digital transformation is all about the technology behind the ServiceNow platform. Indeed, ServiceNow isn’t ranked by Gartner as the top transformative platform in the Service Management space just because of all its great bells and whistles; what sets ServiceNow apart is the way it quickly and effectively enables and facilitates enterprise-wide transformation.
Part One: Digital transformation takes a village
Digital transformation isn’t a one-person show. It takes a village to achieve change. That means everyone in every facet of your organization needs to understand what digital transformation is and, more importantly, how it relates to their job responsibilities—and the entire organization by extension. The role of leadership in this process is to articulate the vision, so that the business units can build support pillars with clear expectation metrics. And here’s the most important part: None of these tasks should be taking place in silos. To increase your likelihood of success, everyone in your village needs to pull their weight and work harmoniously together.
A siloed approach to digital transformation slows your momentum and stunts progress. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, so too does it take a village of perspectives and insights to succeed at digital transformation. Various departments and service units across the organization must buy into your transformation plan, speak the same language of change, and row in the same direction. Everyone needs to believe that the transformation initiative is optimized to meet their needs. Indeed, all corners of your organization need to feel empowered, valued, and confident that their ideas and strategies are being heard, incorporated, and efficiently utilized to drive the transformation.
Unfortunately, most companies aren’t set up to operate this way. They use a top-down approach (mostly out of perceived necessity) and tend to centralize and concentrate decision-making with just one or two anointed leaders. Let’s explore what happens when you fail to adopt a village mentality as you work toward achieving digital transformation:
You don’t stay focused on forging mutually beneficial partnerships: The village mentality encourages you to proactively forge partnerships with people from different backgrounds who come with different perspectives. At first, it may seem counterproductive to empower and engage so many folks, but this is a key strength. The diversity of thought and skill will enable you to work faster and more effectively. Multi-disciplinary teams think very differently than traditional, homogeneous teams: They won’t feel constrained by conventional barriers and boundaries, and they can draw upon diverse talents within the group to come up with more innovative solutions—and do so faster.
You put your priorities ahead of the organization’s: Digital transformation leaders are go-getters, and they want to ensure success at all costs. Often, they lose sight of the organization’s priorities as they let their own goals dominate their actions and decision-making. When you adopt such a myopic focus, you inadvertently erect silos and barriers that prevent you from engaging meaningfully with others. You end up monopolizing precious resources and using them in sub-optimal ways. Your digital transformation strategy falters as you put your priorities ahead of mutual, agreed-upon organizational priorities.
You aren’t agile enough: As organizations are quickly learning, the flexible workflows pioneered in the software development world are useful during digital transformation. Agile workflows allow you to make progress in shorter sprints, with more opportunity to learn, solicit feedback, test, adjust, and improve upon your plans and ideas. Agile workflows are conducive to working as a team and adopting a village mentality. Conversely, when you don’t focus on team-building, you tend to lose your agility and become unaccountable to everyone but yourself. Equally troubling, you attempt to unilaterally accelerate progress, even when doing so could be counterproductive.
You don’t focus on rallying and engaging your end users: For digital transformation to take hold across an organization, every service unit and employee must be on board. This diffuse audience is hard to reach and impossible to rally unless you’ve got an entire village working in lockstep to help you get every end user on board. Indeed, the members of your village play a critical role in evangelizing the promise and potential of digital transformation to every user across the organization. When your village is robust and diverse, you can count on your team to reach and convince every end user to buy into the grand vision.
You gravitate toward technical aspects at the expense of vision: Planning for digital transformation is challenging and mentally taxing. Hence, it’s human nature to want to steer clear of the toughest parts of digital transformation—that is, developing and executing a big-picture vision—and to instead gravitate toward the more technical elements, which feel manageable and defined. The reality is that the technical aspects will sort themselves out, whereas shortcomings with your big-picture vision will hopelessly derail your progress. Your energy needs to stay focused on developing and executing your big-picture vision.
You don’t rely on data to drive decision-making: When you make decisions in a silo, you tend to go with your gut instinct and intuition. After all, you are the only one to hold you back from making decisions this way. The smartest approach to decision-making, however, is one that’s based on relying on hard data, not on what any individual thinks should be done. Relying on a village to drive your decision-making forces everyone to use data. In other words, villages are made up of diverse voices, which means they move forward not by popular vote, but by coming to a consensus about what the data says should be done.
Going it alone or with a few anointed co-pilots only gets you so far so fast in the world of digital transformation. If you’re not taking the village approach to transformation, there’s a good chance that you will be left behind. In Part Two, we explore how to think about technology—specifically ServiceNow—to rally your village and move the digital transformation needle.
For more tips and ideas on how to “think transformatively,” check out these other free and helpful resources: