Technology isn't always the best first answer.

Don’t start with Technology

In Digital Transformation by Endre Walls

Planning is the cornerstone of any successful endeavor. Whether you are changing a business process or building a piece of furniture from Wayfair, a clear plan is key to reaching your desired outcome.

Starting with a business blueprint that helps you define where you want to go and why is just as important to implementing a successful digital transformation project. So why then, do so many companies approach digital transformation by starting at the finish line, with selecting the technology?

According to Forbes, 70 percent of digital transformations fail. These failures include undertakings by major industry giants, including GE, Ford and Procter & Gamble. Each company attempted a digital transformation that was not aligned with the core business and lacked a clear strategy for success. The good news is, each company was able to analyze the failures and later embraced transformative strategies that followed unified approaches in every department of the organization.

As I mentioned in my previous piece, technology improvements like automation can offer a competitive edge from a business and consumer experience perspective. This edge can only be realized though if IT decision-makers strategically use technology. Before selecting any technology solution, you need to know what you’re solving for and the gaps that are driving the need for change. Start at the beginning – engage team members, better understand current processes, and take a full inventory of what technology and tools are already in use.

Sticking with GE as an example, business leaders at the company took the time to thoroughly understand the wind farm industry to identify potential opportunities to increase efficiencies. The business leaders used this information to select technology products that enabled them to capture data correlating to how each turbine interacts with the landscape. GE used computer modeling to build digital versions of wind farms and adjusted each turbine to optimize the wind farms. Following this blueprint, GE was able to generate approximately $100 million in value over the lifespan of a 100-megawatt wind farm and increase energy production by up to 20 percent.

Once you have collected your business information and understand existing gaps, you are now ready to identify the technology solutions that best meet the needs of all parties. It is backward to start a digital transformation with the technology and try to fit that to the various needs of team members, business operations and customer experiences. What’s worse, starting with the technology first may lead to a wrong fit, the inability to integrate with existing legacy systems or even lack the desired functionality.

In our increasingly digital-first world, technology is the easy part. Create a clear blueprint that outlines each step in the process and follow your path to success.