Why most digital transformation projects fail and how yours can succeed.

July 12, 2021

Various disruptive forces are driving the digital transformation of professional services businesses. The ones we identify as most important at Calls9 are increased competition, shifting customer expectations, new working patterns and disruptive technology. Professional services businesses feel the pressure to change and the existential threats, especially during the global pandemic, and are working to reimagine their business models, improve the customer experience and introduce better ways of working to drive sustainable business success. 

However, the hard truth is that most transformations fail. Research from the Everest Group shows that 73% of complex, large-scale digital transformation programmes did not provide any business value. Additionally, 78% did not meet their business objectives, leaving us with a success rate of 22%. This data is extremely painful but true. Why is this happening, and how can professional services businesses avoid the pitfalls of transformation to drive success?

Here are the pitfalls that you need to avoid and the keys to a successful digital transformation. 

Digital transformation does not match customer and employee needs.

Businesses that change for the sake of it are doomed to fail. Digital transformation is all about people and how to make their lives better. This involves taking into account their needs and expectations. 

Start by listening and understanding what your customers and teams require your business to improve. Without engaging with your people first, you risk investing in expensive solutions that are not well received from those that use them daily. The experience is not what they expect, or they are irrelevant to their needs. 

Organisation culture is also a key factor of success or failure. Businesses with a change-resistance culture that start a digital transformation programme without changing their culture first will be unsuccessful. Changing people's behaviour is not easy, but it is necessary. Start by making them aware of the need to change, invest in learning and development and implement small changes first. 

See how Squire Patton Boggs improved the global customer and employee experience by firstly understanding the challenges their people were facing.

Lack of a clear vision and purpose 

Digital transformation, like any other strategic decision, needs to have a clear vision, purpose and objectives. Before starting a digital transformation programme, it is fundamental to define what specific objectives you need to achieve, determine your vision, the purpose of change and the resources and infrastructure you will need. Projects that don't have this level of clarity will fail. 

This strategy needs to have input from the business leadership, employees and customers. It also needs to be effectively communicated through the business, getting people excited and engaged with the project. 

Read how, with a clear vision and purpose, I&I disrupted the dental Indemnity and Insurance industry, delivering a market-first proposition. 

Digital Transformation starts with technology

Digital transformation is not just about technology, it is also about people and processes. However, many businesses start their journey by replacing legacy technology or deploying new technologies without thinking of the overall business ecosystem, their processes, talent resources or what their customers need. From our experience, we found that a technology-first approach becomes a serious barrier to progress. 

The best approach is to start with an understanding of your people needs and setting up clear goals. Then you will launch the digital solutions that match your customers and employees' needs and achieve your business goals. Focus your digital transformation initiatives on creating value for your customers and employees by providing next-generation experiences and introducing new business models that future-proof your business. 

See how we helped Interlaw, the Global Legal Network, to digitise their offline business model to match their members and customers' needs.  

Trying to reinvent the wheel

A common digital transformation pitfall is trying to change everything in your business all at once. This leads to massive stress for the business leadership and the employees. They have to cope with the day to day activities and prepare or learn new processes and systems at the same time. How you approach your digital transformation determines the difference between projects that fail to meet your goals or create any value and a project that delivers positive outcomes and meets your expectations. 

Our experience shows that digital transformation works best when businesses understand where the opportunity with digital lies and improve what needs to be improved. This gives the business time to process change, focus the appropriate resources on successfully transforming specific inefficient parts and deliver measurable outcomes. 

Read how Savings Champion enabled better and more efficient ways of working and improved the customer experience by identifying what was not working well in their business and then switching to a new digital solution from Calls9. 

How we can help you kick-start your digital transformation journey 

At Calls9, we help start-ups and established professional services businesses digitally transform to reduce inefficiencies and accelerate growth. With over 10 years of experience, we understand the struggle and the challenges professional services face with their digital transformation efforts.

To help you avoid the pitfalls of digital transformation, we have designed an auditing process that helps you quickly see how your organisation can use digital to transform by understanding:

  • How your business is perceived by your customers and employees to identify areas of improvement
  • What the competitive landscape looks like and changes in your sector that could affect your business
  • How digital can enable new business models, better ways of working and improved customer experiences

At the end of our Digital Transformation Audit, you will have a clear digital transformation strategy built around your specific needs and designed to help you improve your business, disrupt your market or enter a new one.

We then use this strategy to kick-start a programme of digital transformation.

Start your digital transformation journey now

Paul Smith
Non-Executive Director

Paul Smith is the former Global Chairman of Eversheds Sutherland, a successful author and legal innovator. With 30 years of experience in the professional services sector, he provides thought leadership, unique guidance and inspires innovation

Chara Kalemaki
Marketing Coordinator

Chara Kalemaki covers the latest industry insights, technology trends and digital strategy. Her passion for helping businesses understand the opportunities digital transformation brings to the professional services sector flows through the expert insights she provides.

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