Doing digital transformation well takes a lot of coordination. Leaders need to align people, processes and technology in a way that accomplishes initial goals, and have a plan to sustain and continuously improve the elements being transformed.

Prioritization can often be misleading. After all, it is called digital transformation, which implies the biggest components are technology-related. While data, platforms and tech infrastructure are certainly large components of any transformation, organizations that underestimate the human component of such an initiative are setting themselves up for failure, in the short-term, the long-term, or both.

Let’s look at a few reasons why the human component of digital transformation might be bigger than you think.

Leadership Sets the Stage for Digital Transformation Success

Let’s start at the top. The critical need for executive buy-in and support for any large-scale initiative is well-documented. Yet many organizations plow ahead with their projects with only half-hearted support, or executives who claim to offer support, only to back down when it comes to prioritizing quick financial wins to a long-term investment.

Digital transformation initiatives are no different. Everyone from the CEO down must be aligned with the requirements of teams, timing and budgets for true success to occur. When leadership teams are misaligned, it will quickly become apparent as portions of a transformation may successfully move forward while other areas suffer.

The human component of digital transformation starts with how leaders support the initiative in good and tough times, as well as how they respond to the inevitable challenges that will arise. Not only do individual department or division leaders need to take responsibility and support this undertaking for the sake of the teams they oversee, they need to support their fellow leaders so the organization can come out of the transformation stronger and more resilient.

After all, digital transformation is all about setting a company up for long-term success and sustainability. While some of the changes are relegated to technology and systems, many are more human in nature, and require leaders to look at their roles in a new light. This often starts with their support of an initiative that will set the stage for the future of the company.

Related Article: Forget Digital Transformation — Just Become Digital

Good Working Relationships Help Traverse Challenges in the Process

I’ve consulted, interviewed on my podcast, and talked shop with countless people within organizations who were starting, currently engaging in, and had recently completed big milestones in their digital transformation initiatives. While every company and story is unique, there is one common thread: none of them said it was easy.

The true test of any relationship is the tough times, not the easy ones. Since every digital transformation initiative will hit at least some bumps in the road, it stands to reason your teams will have conflicts.

Thus, it cannot be understated how a strong company culture that is aligned towards mutual goals can handle a digital transformation much better than a siloed, disconnected one. It is well worth considering investing in team building and organizational culture work before you even start your digital transformation. Just as your processes and platforms are transforming, your team is often transforming and redefining their roles and how they determine success.

Learning Opportunities

Just as a transformation initiative is a chance to get leadership on the same page, take this opportunity to make meaningful changes with how your employees align with your mission and each other. Your transformation initiative will overcome technical challenges with much less difficulty if you do so.

Related Article: Breaking Down the Myths of Digital Transformation

Long-Term Success Requires Teamwork

Digital transformation is never truly done, if you’ve thought about it in the right way. That said, there is often a point in time when you've completed the foundational work and it is time for ongoing improvements and optimization.

Many organizations fail to plan for the latter. They might even get to a “stopping point” where they claim success, when in reality what they call “done” is just the beginning of a new era for their organization.

Long-term success not only requires maintaining the processes and systems set in motion during a transformation initiative, but that the human component is kept strong as well. This means strong teamwork, a culture centered around customer experience, identifying and resolving issues, and a mindset of continuous improvement.

Which Do You Want: Short-Term Chaos or Long-Term Success?

Don’t get me wrong: data issues, technical integration challenges and strategic decisions and actions are all key parts of any digital transformation. If you aren’t considering and factoring in the human component, however, you are missing a critical aspect that could mean the difference between short-term chaos and long-term success.

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