The six symptoms of digital transformation purgatory

The six symptoms of digital transformation purgatory

While most companies seem to have enthusiasm for wanting to make the digital transformation called for, most are stuck, in six essential parts in this digital journey that needs to be undertaken.

The six places where purgatory lie are:

  • Simply getting started with a robust, clear vision and plan to begin the transformation is one. This lack of a clear “defining value” fails to secure senior management commitment, does not communicate the ambition behind the targets and most importantly begin to secure the levels of investment this is going to undertake.
  • They are caught in starting multiple pilots but then get caught up in this “pilot purgatory” for multiple reasons or no clear plan or justification, to move forward. The lack of clarity on what the pilot is set out to achieve, the often lack of discipline in the learning, and documenting the issues of where a pilot takes you. You can easily drift off your roadmap you get lost or totally enamoured by this and forget what the pilot was set up originally to achieve.
  • Then there is this dawning recognition this digital transformation “initiative” is way beyond the team assigned to manage these own internal competencies and the growing realization of how fundamentally challenging this really is.
  • Then you have the unbelievable amount of legacy issues to deal with, some so core to the business they really are frightening to change. Dealing with all the complexities of systems built up over years, layered with temporary fixes or systems that are multiple versions of an ERP system, Facing the task of bringing these all into line and the associated costs can be millions and that is before you make the transformational moves you had originally intended.
  • Then you seem to find difficulties to see this transformation as fixed but one where the costs seem to multiply. With the results coming in as mediocre and the prospects of heavy investment becoming an even more looming reality, no wonder we are in digital purgatory. This makes the ROI highly suspect and tough to revisit without some very heavy questioning and evaluation. This validation, often of the untested is so hard to overcome.
  • Then the one that in my view, transcends all the above, is this fundamental change is not just processes. It impacts systems, structures, the whole architecture of the enterprise, it draws in the whole organizations to achieve alignment to this, in culture, in commitment, and belief.


This last one is the real killer.

That belief when you still talk of growing uncertainty, trying to convince a sceptical board they will get a “sufficient” return on all of this disruption and at what cost and deflection away from the business is really hard to justify. There are so many staying trapped in this perpetual purgatory, looking for miracles.

Technology becomes secondary as the organization grapples with such changes in the way it undergoes its business. People become central to working through the solutions of transformation. Let alone as the final issue is what these challenges in its present business model to challenge and change and the change in client engagement this demands. Business has to make such a change it becomes overwhelming. Is it best to stay where you are?

It seems the advisors, the consultants, the guru’s, all arguing for digital transformation, are presently drowning the prospective client with all shapes and sizes of “use cases” doomsday scenario’s and optimistic outlooks to show that “just cause” to these clients that to make the moves necessary are totally necessary, not just to thrive but to survive.

Yet we are presently not moving the “needle” into large-scale roll-outs. The momentum of change is still being pushed, yet it is not on this acceptance slope. What will make this happen?

Lou Gerstner‘s line: ‘No institution will go through fundamental change unless it believes it is in deep trouble and needs to do something different to survive’

So digital transformation is that sudden realization you need to make it happen, often to simply survive. You are moving away from the comfort of where you are, onto a journey of uncertainty but realizing it is mostly in your hands to work through, no one else’s and that means simply and purely “getting engaged and committed” to a reality.

That reality, that digital transformation is needed, is absolutely necessary for positioning us all to meet the changes of this century that are far more dynamic than the last century in adaptation, in being flexible, fluid and agile. To achieve this we need a “flow” of knowledge constantly coming into the company, being adaptable enough in our processes and systems to rapidly adjust, and then in the very response to the non-stop changing occurring in the market. We live and operate in a very restless world and we have to re-equip ourselves to manage in it and digital is central to this managing.

It is a realization for all of us, we must embrace constant change, otherwise, inertia overwhelms us and we get caught out, immobilized with self-doubt. This is a time and place for real leadership. We must work through the six symptoms of digital transformation purgatory. Can we?

Can we afford to stay in purgatory being punished by investors, by customers, by our own staff leaving? Change can be agony but purgatory is far worse.

Arrange a Conversation 


Article by channel:

Read more articles tagged: Definition, Featured