So much money is being spent in pursuit of digital transformation.

But way too often that investment doesn’t quite make it all the way to the finish line. You know, the part that includes the user of the technology – the end customer.

Software doesn’t deliver benefits when it is implemented or live, only when it is used.

A case in point is the car industry.

This industry, with the notable exception of Tesla, is limping its way towards developing what are known as connected cars, where sensors in the car collect data and that data is used in a range of ways to personalise and improve the driver experience.

When done well, it also delivers tremendous value for the car company through increased retention and revenue per customer.

It’s a bold vision, but consumers are not buying it at the extent to which the companies expect, with take up by drivers varying between 40% and 100% (SBD Automotive Case Study).

I was listening to this excellent case study by SBD Automotive recently.

According to SBD Automative, car manufacturers have spent millions of dollars investing in not just the technology, but forming the right partnerships.

Yet the last mile of the customer journey, which should include a frictionless sign up process, has been frequently neglected. As has the change management that supports it.

Digital Transformation doesn’t work the way Apparition* does

I’ve been looking at new cars recently.

Given my passion for all things digital, I am very interested in the “connected car” experience. I was also intrigued to see how the manufacturers are adapting from not just selling cars but also selling the “connected car” as a service.

Sadly I have been disappointed.

The only information I received about this key feature (from multiple manufacturers and dealers) was when I asked, and even then it was clear that the sales people didn’t know a lot about it, and certainly didn’t see it as a selling point.

The connected car in the minds of the people I spoke with at least, is an extra that exists separately from the vehicle.

The car is still the car, and an afterthought, but only if you’re interested, there’s this other thing, that may or may not be useful to you.

So in other words, the sales team have not been “digitally transforming”, in the way I’m sure the car companies are expecting.

Digital disruption is coming along anyway, whether or not the car company or the sales team are ready.

Now let’s look at the connected car poster child for disruption: Tesla.

Buying a Tesla is a very different experience. A Tesla is a truly connected car. You can’t drive one and be unaware of its connectivity. It’s very much a part of what you are buying.

You also don’t buy it from a dealership. Hello disruption.

The clunky sign up process by most car manufacturers is not an uncommon experience across products. How many times do we hear about something that sounds great, but the signup process eventually beats us down until we give up?

So, is there magic at work here?

This problem starts inside companies, at the outset of programs, when insufficient attention is paid to the customer and business value that will be created.

Assumptions are made about adoption rates, and those assumptions are backed up not by plans, but by magical thinking.

An assumption that is commonly made is that delivering the sometimes cutting edge technology will be the hard part.

But in my experience, no matter how challenging the technology implementation might be, it’s the people side that so often derails transformation programs.

As Board members we can and should influence this.

When projects come to us for decision, we need to ask about the user adoption plans.

The ROI of the program will always depend on the end user actually taking up the service.

So as directors we need to have confidence that customer centred design is being used, a frictionless experience will be delivered, and that there are robust implementation and change management plans that drive adoption.

Like the car industry, at least for now, in many industries adoption still depends on sales people, so ensuring that they are brought in on the journey, inspired by the vision, educated about the value of the new service and incentivised to drive take-up, is essential, otherwise it’s not going to happen.

It’s pretty amazing what can be done with technology today.

But so far at least, it’s not magical.

So make sure your implementation plans don’t depend on magic either.