Lost in digital transformation: Inexperienced partners advising canned bolt-on solutions

Emergn - Lost in Digital Transformation: Inexperienced Partners Advising Canned Bolt-on Solutions - boxes on a conveyor belt

In this ongoing blog series, we’re discussing the three common challenges that many enterprises encounter in the midst of a digital business transformation.

In this post, we’ll talk about the risk of trusting inexperienced transformation consulting firms. You can learn about the other two challenges at the links below:

Inexperienced Transformation Consulting

To address a lack of internal transformation expertise, many organizations seek help from an outside supplier. In fact, 88 percent of businesses use a third-party provider for at least one part of their digital transformation, according to Forrester. Their reasons are sensible: they want a partner who can help them improve customer experience (45 percent), reduce the burden of the transformation on internal resources (43 percent), reduce risk (40 percent) and because they feel they need help from an expert (39 percent).

These partnerships can be highly beneficial in cases where the vendor is bringing genuine expertise to the engagement. However, experience in digital transformation is hard to come by. The risk today is in the number of inexperienced digital strategy consultancy firms or integration organizations who are marketing and selling packaged, ready-made, oversimplified digital transformation solutions.

Capital investments and efforts to modernize technology and processes are complicated. Optimizing the customer experience is anything but simple. Upgrading an ERP platform is anything but simple. An executive-level understanding of all of this is anything but simple.

Still, inexperienced vendors often sell these concepts to businesses as digestible, easy-to-apply service packages. They create attractive presentations with beautiful designs, gorgeous animations, and impressive videos. They apply a snappy title that borrows buzzwords from industry trends (i.e. “Scaled Agile Development” or “Customer Experience Factory”). They build confidence in the buyer, who naturally expects to see digital transformation as a logical and ordered process.

It certainly can be under the right guidance, but a one-page guide with a flowchart does not accurately reflect the effort and time needed to complete these projects successfully. Far from being helpful or constructive, vendors can undermine efforts by giving organizations improper expectations and a false sense of security in the speed and ease of transformation.

Making Digital Transformation Personal

Pre-designed recommendations are effectively proofs-of-concept that haven’t been tested in an organization to see if they match their unique real-world circumstances. They’re bolt-on solutions; methodologies that are broadly applied to similar client challenges but don’t hold up to scrutiny.

That’s because every company is different, and every transformation is unique. Proper transformation starts from the ground up and the inside-out. An effective partner who will truly help you transform will teach you the skills to own the change yourselves.

It starts with a structured analysis of your organization’s situation, but it quickly needs to include your own people, your own data and your own experiences of implementing change before any commitments can be made as to how to navigate the complexities of the business dynamics. Consideration must be paid to the structure and scale of change within the business, as well as the mechanisms that will sustain success long after the vendor is out of the picture. Education provides confidence, and experimentation helps businesses discover what actually works for real-world customers. To make lasting change in a company, you need to create lasting change in the people within the company, and then support them to reshape the system of work to better deliver the outcomes.

However, bolt-on, canned methodology solutions are still popularly applied because they are easy to understand and even easier to sell. Internal pressures can then turn seemingly short-term projects into overdrawn burdens: a decision maker may feel personally obligated to stand by his or her vendor or project, no matter how it’s actually working out. It’s how unproductive engagements persist long after their usefulness.

If you want to take the best of what’s out there you’ll be better off adopting the same principles and embedding them within your people than copying ‘best of breed’ methodologies and systems.