PARIS — Many digital transformation projects whither before they start. That's the reality Dietmar Schantin, founder of the Institute for Media Strategies (IFMS), an independent, international advisory and research organization for the news media industry, explained today at eZ Systems annual conference here.

The two-day event, eZ Conference 2016: Beyond the Web, is the largest gathering of the open source content management system's worldwide community. 

Schantin outlined seven reasons why digital transformation projects fail, based on experience with IFMS clients. The organization, with offices in London and Graz, Austria, develops and implements strategic solutions for digital, print and broadcast media houses.

Obstacles to Digital Transformation

Schantin blamed the failure of management to engage with the transformation projects as a main stumbling block. 

Digital transformation projects require new business models, driven by new ways of thinking. He stressed digital transformation is about people as much as it is about technology.

1. Fragmenting the process

Digital transformation projects are complex and require changes in many different parts of the organization. It must be addressed holistically, he said. But there is a tendency for those managing digital transformation projects to look at bits and pieces, and focus on changing one element —  the company intranet, for example —without instigating change companywide.

2. Vision vs. Goals

Instead of developing a vision supported by goals and milestones, many digital transformation projects are driven by a nebulous vision. The project stalls because of lack of direction.

3. Underestimating Needs

Many organizations start digital transformation projects before working out what they need in terms of human and financial resources. Midway through, the money or expertise runs out, stalling completion.

Learning Opportunities

4. Cobbling Together Solutions

Too many enterprises "bolt things together" or cobble together solutions from existing enterprise platforms. Rather than question how the structure works and what is needed to make it better, everything is simply pulled together. Ideally, enterprises should start from scratch, look at what they have, see what might fit without forcing it and then discard the rest.

5.Tools and Technologies

Failure is often the result of attempts to use old tools and technologies for a new way of working and forcing people from existing jobs into new positions without assessing whether they are suitable for that position. This results in lack of ‘buy-in’ to the project and in worse case scenarios, resistance to those projects.

6. The Wrong People

You need to hire the right people to accomplish transformation projects. Too often, there are people missing from key positions and existing staff is unable to fill the gaps because they lack the skills.

7. People

Everything is ultimately balanced on people, which Schantin called the foundation of digital transformation projects. Without training, education, coaching and job shadowing, the projects will fail.

Schantin points out that he often hears enterprise management complain about the costs of investing in people at this level. In many of these cases, they don’t realize failure is far costlier in terms of loss of market share and competitive edge.