I have an insatiable appetite for all things digital transformation.

I’m inspired by the bold visions that organisations seek to achieve and curious about the customer problems that the transformations seek to solve.

But I confess to being especially fascinated by the challenges.

So much of the hype around digital transformation is about the technology. And while it’s absolutely true that the level of technology innovation being experienced is driving the change, the implementation challenges are rarely about the technology.

Overwhelmingly, the challenges are about the people.

A few years ago I was chatting with a senior technology leader in the retail industry, and I asked him a question about his experience with digital transformation challenges.

I really liked his description about the people challenges:

“The number one challenge is the people. And the number two challenge is convincing people that the number one challenge is people. “

In a world increasingly bombarded with a never ending supply of bright shiny things, too many digital programs are caught up in the power of the technology.

It is rare that sufficient attention is given to the change management and people aspects that drive true transformation.

The pace of organisational change depends on leaders

A clear vision and the technology to achieve it are essential ingredients. But the pace of change is dictated by the extent that leaders bring people on the journey and work to build new rhythms and processes that shift the culture.

Any gaps in these steps act as a handbrake and drive the extent to which an organisation will be able to achieve its vision and realise the benefits of digital investments.

Are you clear what is required to “transform”? Does your program governance approach reflect that?

As an example of how this plays out practically, the focus of project governance is frequently on developing, building, and integrating new software. Too often, the scope of the project is limited to the technology implementation, with “business implementation” considered out of scope.

Yet customer and business value don’t happen when new software goes “live”. They only happen when it is used. And using it requires change leadership, and is the biggest transformation challenge of all.

The leaders of the teams who will be using the software, and whose customers will be getting value out of the investment must be involved from the beginning, and be accountable for the outcomes.

I’ve written before about how digital transformation is a team sport. This is important at all stages in any transformation program, but it is particularly important in the set up phase.

I get many questions from Directors and leaders about how to improve the likelihood of success with digital programs. To help address these questions, in the new year I will be developing a masterclass on “Setting up your Digital Transformation Program for success.” If you have any burning questions about this topic, I’d love to hear from you.