BCG: Top-Down Change Key to Successful Digital Transformation

In a world driven by growing uncertainty and disruption, technology plays a crucial role in helping businesses successfully navigate an ever more challenging environment. The pandemic-driven change to hybrid ‘work from anywhere’ and virtual meetings and the growing push to move IT infrastructure to the cloud has made it clear that nearly all companies must become, at least to some extent, technology companies.

While the value of digital transformation is clear –according to research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), successful transformation efforts lead to 1.8 times higher earnings growth and more than double growth in total enterprise value– currently, seven out of ten business transformations fail to meet their objectives or produce significant value. With so much at stake, BCG has shared its insights on why so many digital transformations fail, and how to ensure success in the future.

Uncertainty seems to be a theme these days, and it’s no exception here: one of the greatest pain points BCG identified was a lack of clarity from leadership regarding what path to take and which technologies to select, with scalability, integration with existing tools, and prioritization serving as crucial needs that must be carefully planned for and managed throughout the process. Leveraging external subject matter experts and consultants can help overwhelmed executives effectively manage initiatives, with offerings such as the firm’s BCGx providing tailored focus on the build and design challenges faced by businesses.

While executive and IT leadership are the main drivers of digital change, human resources has a key role to play as well: the people dimension –the organization, its operating model, processes, and the overall culture– is what can really make or break a transformation attempt. HR departments can be strategic partners by driving a culture that promotes innovation helmed by a leadership team that is committed, aligned, and engaged in the process. Embracing new ways of working and breaking down silos between teams will continue to put people at the forefront of transformation endeavors, and leaders can support this by encouraging ‘fail fast’ learning while keeping the main goals in sight.

Ensuring the right people are in the right roles will further ensure success, and organizations can take an ‘open source’ approach to finding talent to lead transformations, drawing leaders based on skills and expertise rather than seniority. With big tech layoffs and the Great Resignation in full swing, HR can fill knowledge gaps externally by maintaining a strong recruiting program and ensuring the company is attractive to top talent.

While enterprise digital transformations are not without significant challenges, increasingly competitive and uncertain markets are leaving little room for businesses wishing to live in the past. By maintaining top-down commitment and alignment, choosing a clear path, and taking a people-centric approach, businesses will stand a better chance of beating the odds and ensuring successful transformations.