Digital Transformation – What Success is and How to Measure it

According to research carried out by BCG, a staggering 70% of digital transformation projects fall short of their objectives, often with profound consequences on wider business.

But when digital transformation goes according to plan, companies stand to gain a competitive advantage that will propel them toward sustained resilience. This translates into better customer experiences, enhanced productivity, and access to new growth opportunities and innovation.

In today’s digital-driven world, businesses can’t afford to put digital transformation on the back burner and failure simply isn’t an option. Continue reading to uncover the secrets to a successful digital transformation project and important KPIs to help keep you on track. 

The Need for Digital Transformation

Gartner perfectly sums up what digital transformation is — and what it’s not: “Digital transformation isn’t just a technology strategy; it’s a strategy to leverage technology to enable new business models, new products and services, and new strategies — and drive business growth.” 

The main catalysts currently driving widespread digital transformation are (i) the pandemic, (ii) digital-first consumers and (iii) greater scrutiny on cybersecurity measures.

(i) The Pandemic

The pandemic shifted the attitudes of business leaders towards digital transformation. ‘Nice to have’ became a critical need almost overnight, and those resistant to digital change faced the harsh reality that their current business models weren’t viable in the long-term. 

In fact, according to a survey conducted by McKinsey in 2021, just 11% of business executives stated that they believed their business would be economically viable through 2023, while another 64% said their companies need to build new digital businesses to help them get there. 

The pandemic demonstrated to many technologically resistant businesses that their structures lack the agility required to stay resilient in times of uncertainty. Although digital transformation isn’t a guarantee of business survival in the future, one thing is clear: without it, companies will struggle to stay competitive. 

(ii) Digital-first Consumers

As a consequence of both necessity (the pandemic) and convenience (online trends), digital-first customers are driving businesses to rethink their business models to cater to those customers’ needs.

In many cases, the mounting pressure means companies must undertake digital transformation projects to stay relevant. For example, as part of its digital transformation efforts, Disney launched the Disney+ streaming service to compete with innovative disruptors like Netflix and cater to the growing modern, online audience. And it worked! Disney+ revenue in its first month of release eclipsed $20 million. 

By evolving in line with changing consumer habits, Disney has managed to secure its place in the digital streaming world — remaining a powerhouse for modern media.

(iii) Cybersecurity

Advancements in technology empower businesses with the efficiency and competitive edge they need to thrive in today’s market. However, the risk of cybercrime has never been greater.

Today’s cybercriminals are more tech-savvy than ever, meaning any vulnerability in a company’s system poses a significant risk to the data stored there. Not only are data breaches bad for a business’ reputation, they are extremely costly. According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach now stands at over $4 million.

Even the largest corporations have fallen victim to data breaches — Facebook, LinkedIn, Alibaba and Adobe have all experienced a data breach in the past five years. However, while these companies have the funds to fork out for a hefty fine and related expenses, smaller businesses will struggle to survive such a breach.

A key need driving digital transformation is cybersecurity. Business leaders recognise that fragmented, legacy systems are their Achilles’ heel, opening them up to data leaks. By bolstering infrastructure, locking down data and continuously upgrading and maintaining systems, businesses can stay one step ahead of any cybersecurity threats.

We live in a hyper-connected digital world characterised by social and technological developments. Digital transformation gives organisations the tools and processes needed to adapt to these changes seamlessly so they can compete with new players on the market. It’s no longer optional; businesses need to get out of their comfort zones for successful digital transformation projects.

What Does a Successful Digital Transformation Look Like?

To be truly successful, organisational transformations — especially digital — must permeate across teams and departments. Below we’ve highlighted some of the characteristics of successful digital transformation.

Collaborative

Successful digital transformation projects all have one thing in common: they share an environment that’s conducive to collaboration and communication. From the initial planning to the ongoing monitoring, everyone should be on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Secure

Security is one of the primary reasons many businesses choose to undertake digital transformation. Successful digital transformation will have security embedded into its DNA. Evolving digital threats are dealt with using advanced technologies, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) to minimise data loss, ensure compliance and avoid other emerging threats.

Efficient

Improved business and staff efficiency is expected when transforming internal processes. In fact, 40% of executives say that improved operational efficiency is the main benefit to implementing a successful digital transformation strategy. 

Agile

When transformation is effective, businesses are better equipped to react swiftly to market and consumer demands or changes. With increased agility that spans across every aspect of the business — from management to individual projects — organisations have the tools to work iteratively and react quickly to stay competitive.

Profitable

If companies fail to implement a successful strategy, they’ll struggle to reap the cost-saving and competitive benefits of digital transformation — which could consequently spell disaster for their bottom line. A successful project, on the other hand, will make it easier for businesses to acquire new clients for a significant ROI, help with building new products and drive collective team productivity.

Data-driven

Structured, usable data powers digital transformation. Companies that implement successful long-term transformation projects will be able to gather, organise and use data to shape business success down the line with accurate and timely insights that have the power to drive key decision-making.

Metrics to Measure Digital Transformation Success

Without effective monitoring, digital transformation projects can quickly unravel and fail to reach their full potential. Although there are no rules as to how a business should measure the success of its transformation project, it’s essential to choose realistic KPIs that are tailored to your individual business needs and goals. For example:

  1. Workforce productivity — With the right technology, such as the Developer Analytics solution from BlueOptima, leaders can effectively keep track of how new technologies are affecting their staff. Ideally, employees would be hitting peak productivity levels across the board, but if not, it’s not the end of the world. With continuous data insights, it will be possible to pinpoint the issue and adapt processes to build a more efficient workforce.
  1. Employee engagement and retention — Digital transformation aims to make the lives of employees easier while also driving engagement. If employees begin to lose interest or worse, leave the company, it’s a clear indicator that the project is going in the wrong direction. To prevent this from happening, leaders must involve the entire team in the project while regularly checking in to boost satisfaction.
  1. Customer experience — Digital transformation can play a key part in enabling companies to provide seamless, pleasant customer experiences. For example, digital transformation can enable customers to sign up for a new bank account in minutes rather than days or weeks. A positive customer experience can often be the difference between retaining and losing a customer.  
  1. Time to market — Digital transformation often speeds up workflows and processes, which also has an impact on the amount of time it takes to bring a product or service to market. Often this comes from the automation of repetitive, boring tasks which frees up time for employees. 
  1. Innovations successfully brought to market — Digital transformation encourages innovation. It’s not a static project. Technology is constantly evolving, so ongoing innovation is a necessity. Any company that has digital transformation as a core part of its operations will benefit greatly from the competitiveness that comes with technological innovation. 
  1. Availability and reliability of tech — Modern technology is now far more reliable and accessible than it was previously. For example, cloud computing enables a company to work far more efficiently as anyone can access their system from any device with an internet connection. 

Key Success Factors to Digital Transformation

Having the right, digital-savvy leaders in place  

Senior leadership must set the tone within an organisation. Without commitment and support from these people, implementing any sort of digital transformation will be difficult. 

Leaders must also create an internal culture where digital transformation and a positive attitude to change overall is the norm. For example, getting staff involved with digital transformation from the outset and making incremental changes so as not to overwhelm any team members will encourage them to perform at their best and contribute to achieving the company’s digital transformation goals. 

Empowering people to work more effectively 

Providing relevant training and development opportunities can be pivotal to a firm achieving its goals without having to hire new talent — a huge bonus in an increasingly challenging recruitment market. 

The key to increasing employee engagement and the success of digital transformation projects involves investing in training and upskilling, for example, in areas such as cloud computing, data literacy, deep technology and organisational change. Employees equipped with the foundational knowledge and skills can be stronger advocates of organisational digital transformation when they understand the benefits. 

Businesses can also leverage the in-house training to identify the need for new roles, which can include ‘integrators’. Integrators are employees who translate and integrate new digital methods and processes into existing ways of working, making the transition to new technologies smoother.

Monitoring outcomes continuously

Clear metrics are vital when implementing any change within an organisation. Without them, judging the success of a project is nigh on impossible. 

This data also needs to be readily available for anyone that needs it, so a key part of the transformation is including a tool that enables access to all the relevant metrics in real-time. Before the metrics are put in place, they must have buy-in from all relevant stakeholders across departments. 

High stakeholder engagement will be very useful when making iterations to the project, as it enables staff to quickly see whether any minor changes have any impact on company KPIs, processes or systems. Without the right measurement tool in place, businesses need to wait a long time to understand the effects of any changes, and potentially lose ground to competitors while they wait. 

Committing for the long-term 

Digital transformation isn’t a ‘one-off’. It’s an iterative process where people across teams and departments must commit over the long-term to see any tangible benefits. 

By working in iterations, businesses can measure transformation progress more easily and deal with potential issues early on. For example, KPIs like adoption rates, daily active usage of digital assets, performance rates and changes in workforce productivity will help to measure the success of a long-term and strategic digital transformation project. 

”If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It”  

This quote by management expert Peter Drucker sums up digital transformation.

Digital transformation is evolutionary and continually changing. To keep things advancing, businesses must constantly ask how each project serves their company. The most effective way to do this is by setting realistic KPIs that can be measured and adapted over time.

With an effective way to measure the success of a project, business leaders can instil effective digital change with the reassurance that they’re progressing towards their end goal — be it increased operational efficiency, a more productive team or lower costs.

Enhance Your Digital Transformation with Global Insights from BlueOptima

Digital transformations are complex, multi-faceted projects that need to be planned, executed and implemented with precision and alignment from all key stakeholders involved. 

With data collated from thousands of software developers in over 30 countries, our Global Benchmark Report provides detailed insights into the latest digital transformation trends from across the software development industry. Learn how software developers are performing across the globe today.

Click here to download the report.