deflated hot air balloon on the ground
PHOTO: Kenny Luo

In going back through some of the market research work I’ve done for AIIM over the past year, the pesky Charles Dickens quote from A Tale of Two Cities kept creeping into my thoughts:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way ....”

A Tale of Two Digital Transformations

Let me explain. [Note: All of the data points are from 2019 AIIM market research studies I’ve done.]

It was the best of times ...

It was the worst of times ...

79% of organizations realize they must transform into true digital businesses in order to survive.

Getting the right information to the right process worker in context is a problem for 75% of organizations.

73% of organizations now see information governance as “important” or “critical” to their business strategy.

Only 25% of organizations say they have “robust, enterprise-wide information governance policies.”

53% of organizations see automation of information governance processes as “highly important” or a “game changer.”

Only 38% of organizations see themselves as “advanced” or “highly advanced” in adopting artificial intelligence tools to automate the process of information governance.

The top process automation drivers —improving data quality (53%), reducing manual errors (51%) and improving customer service (43%) — are also key to realizing the customer experience goals of the C-suite.

Easy integration of capture technologies with line of business applications like ERP and CRM is a problem for 72% or more organizations.

70% of organizations understand that intelligent capture needs to be a key element in their Digital Transformation strategy, and 73% see the connection between intelligent capture and AI/Machine Learning.

For 72% of organizations, scanning paper is still the most important part of their information capture strategy.

92% of organizations believe they must modernize their information management strategy in order to address rising levels of information chaos.

59% of organizations say migrating content and data from legacy content management systems into more modern systems is a problem.

The painful gap between Digital Transformation dreams and Digital Transformation realities is reflected in this McKinsey analysis:

“... the painful reality is that most transformations fail. Research shows that 70% of complex, large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals. Common pitfalls include a lack of employee engagement, inadequate management support, poor or nonexistent cross-functional collaboration, and a lack of accountability. Furthermore, sustaining a transformation’s impact typically requires a major reset in mind-sets and behaviors—something that few leaders know how to achieve.”

Related Article: 3 Decisions That Matter in Digital Transformation

5 Causes of Digital Transformation Failure

So what’s the problem? Let me suggest a few potential trouble spots in the failure to launch many digital transformation programs.

1. A failure to understand the root cause of the problem

On average, organizations expect the volume of information coming into their organizations to grow from X to 4.2X over the next two years and they expect over 60% of this information to be unstructured (like a contract or a conversation) or semi-structured (like an invoice or a form). This kind of dramatic inflection point is not one that can be addressed by doing the same technology things more effectively. Rapidly rising information chaos requires different approaches to information management.

2. A failure to focus on the 'I' in IT

David Foote from Foote Partners gets it exactly right: “Clearly the widespread acceptance of technology’s singular role as an engine of innovation and competitiveness is unquestioned, as is the energized role that has been thrust upon technology professionals and organizations everywhere to monetize technology. Too often those in the C-Suite have been reluctant to hold their IT leaders accountable for such a heavy responsibility, instead choosing to create tech innovation departments and/or hire expensive consulting firms to do what they believe their IT leaders and tech workers are not capable of doing.” There is a skills mismatch that will not be solved by continuing to crank out vendor-based tech certifications.

Related Article: Successful Digital Transformation Is More Than Meets the Eye

3. A failure of industry sell-side vision

There is still too much zero-sum, trade-show-driven thinking in the sell-side community when it comes to providing meaningful support to industry efforts (yes, that means those pesky associations) focused on lifting all the boats. The Got Milk and Go RVing campaigns have budgets in excess of $20 million, focused on broad-based market education in response to disruption in their respective spaces (for milk, a change in dietary habits, and for RVs, changing demographics). The challenges to traditional information management raised by digital disruption and the cloud go beyond the realm of business as usual.

4. A failure to remember people and processes in the people-process-technology triad

Any successful enterprise automation initiative must address three factors — people, process, and technology — and in that order. Thornton May of the Digital Value Institute captures this well: “The first rule in most disciplines is ‘Know your turf.’ The data from Digital Transformation pioneers is unambiguous — one of the most important critical success factors is to know your employees — what motivates [and de-motivates] your workforce.”

Related Article: Does Lack of Digital Literacy Hamper Digital Transformation?

5. A failure to begin at the beginning

It’s a truism that every organization starts their transformation journey in a different place. So many transformation initiatives are top-down, C-level mandates with little appreciation for the real digital maturity of their organization. The mismatch between good intentions and real capabilities is at the heart of many transformation failures.

Yes, it is the best of times ... IF organizations can dramatically change how they view the nature of the transformation challenge they face and overcome their failure to launch.