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Barriers to digital transformation - and how to overcome them

Barriers to digital transformation - and how to overcome them

For all the talk of digital transformation, most organisations are fundamentally analogue.

While they may use software to support their business, their operations do not fully exploit the potential of technology. Instead of being built around the power of modern technology, most organisations are run in the same way as they were in the 1980s.

Given the clear advantages of going fully digital (and the risks of falling behind), why are so many organisations failing to take advantage of the technology available to us all today?

Let’s look at some of the barriers to digital transformation, and what can be done to overcome them.

Legacy systems

Does your organisation rely on software that’s been doing the same job for as long as anyone can remember? What might have started as a revolutionary system is now struggling to cooperate with your other systems, and nobody is really sure how it works – apart from that one IT manager who swears under their breath every time it breaks.

If you rely on outdated systems to get business done, you’re not alone. In a survey for Harvard Business Review, 52% of senior executives cited legacy systems as a barrier to digital transformation.


Transforming the way you operate is no small task. It’s going to require a concerted, multi-disciplinary effort. How do you gain support for a major project when your colleagues are already working at capacity?

One benefit of digital transformation is that your teams can spend less time on operational work and repetitive tasks, but to reach that point you’ll need to allocate resources to the transition project.

Unsurprisingly, it’s easier for many organisations to maintain the status quo, no matter how inefficient it might be, than to disrupt multiple teams.

IT reluctance

Similarly, your IT team likely have their hands full maintaining legacy systems and keeping everyone working smoothly. They just don’t have time to research, plan and deploy new solutions.


If your senior management aren’t driving digital transformation, it will be difficult (or impossible) to allocate the budget and resources required to make the shift.


Your digital transformation can reduce costs in several areas, but before you achieve savings you will need to invest. Even the promise of long-term savings is not enough to loosen the purse strings for many organisations.


What exactly is a ‘digital transformation’?

The answer depends on your organisation and the way you operate. Going digital means different things for every company, and varies greatly depending on your audiences, stakeholders and offerings.

This means that the solutions, services and support you need to truly go digital are difficult to pin down; only your organisation can answer this question, and finding the answer will require research.


How well connected are your teams?

The reality for many organisations is that everyone is cut off from each other, busily working in isolation, disconnected from peers in other departments. Sales, finance, operations, marketing, IT – these teams tend to have fewer overlaps than they should.

A digital transformation requires these teams to coordinate, which can be challenging when everyone usually works in their own silo.

Risk aversion

Startups celebrate failure. They talk about ‘failing forward’ and having a culture of experimentation. This is a stark contrast to the average business, in which many professionals seek to achieve slow, steady progress without making mistakes.

This aversion to risks means that a major project to go digital is unlikely to be warmly received by people who want to cruise to their next promotion without any hiccups.

“We are the best place in the world to fail, and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment. Most organisations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments to get there.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Digital security

With headlines dominated by news of major data breaches and record fines, organisations are naturally wary about changes to their solutions, processes and IT setup.

Any digital transformation must address issues of data security.

Eliminate barriers to digital transformation

At first glance, the barriers outlined above may look too difficult to overcome. But organisations are going digital every day, and they are all dealing with these issues – and more – to reach their goal.

What’s the secret?

How do you deal with the challenges stacked against you and become a world-class digital organisation?

The most important place to begin is to make the case for digital transformation.

Making the case for digital transformation

Before you can convince your colleagues to get on board, you need to identify your organisation’s needs, challenges, threats and risks. As well as looking at how your teams are performing today, and the problems your colleagues are facing because of legacy software, you should also look at the impact on the customer experience. Include threats from competitors who may be more advanced in their transformation journey.

Look for ways to quantify these issues. For example, is there a number of orders that failed because of your misfiring sales software? Or is your competitor gaining market share because of your lacklustre customer experience? Or are your colleagues leaving because your systems are frustrating to use? Giving numbers to these problems can make it easier to persuade stakeholders in other teams.

Quantify the opportunity

As well as estimating the losses caused by your legacy systems, it’s important to put a figure on the value of a digital transformation. Even if these figures are estimates, it can be helpful when weighing the potential costs of a transformation project.

Look for external support

Unless you have a team of tech experts sitting on their hands, it’s unlikely that you have all the expertise and capacity that you need in-house. Finding third-party support is essential for driving projects to completion. Not only do consultancies and vendors have a vested interest in your success, they offer the clarity that comes from being outside of your organisation, and the capacity to deliver your project on time.

Transform the way you communicate with customers

Are your customer communications still fragmented, inefficient, or difficult to change?

At DocCentrics, we help companies transform the way they reach their customers. By implementing a leading customer communication management (CCM) platform, we can help you get better results from every message. Contact our team to find out more.