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This article was published on March 22, 2021

Ugh, it’s 2021 and your company’s digital transformation is still only skin deep

It’s amazing how many enterprises are still just going through the motions.

Ugh, it’s 2021 and your company’s digital transformation is still only skin deep

The business environment is more challenging than it’s been in generations, with just 27% of CEOs saying they’re confident that they’ll see revenue growth during the next 12 months. Yet far too many of them are leading companies handicapped by legacy systems — and I’m not only talking about their tech stacks.

It’s amazing how many enterprises are still just going through the motions of “digital transformation.”

Today’s customers, whether they’re buying T-shirts for themselves or turbines for factories, expect you to offer them seamless, cross-channel, self-service, on-demand purchase experiences backed by smart automation and concierge human support. If your team isn’t living and breathing digital by now, then it might be too late.

The laggards are understandable to an extent, since many onboarded new cloud-based systems, without any strategic plan in place, simply to support remote work because they had to when offices closed because of the pandemic last spring. McKinsey estimates that COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation by around seven years.

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But COVID-19 highlighted the importance of true digital adoption, where digital tools are used to their fullest extent, not just a surface digital transformation. While we are seeing creeping change, with digital adoption solutions (DAS) inquiries increasing month by month, the pace is slow.

Gartner’s Improve Employee Usage, Engagement and Productivity With Digital Adoption Solutions report from November predicts just 70% of organizations will be using DAS to overcome insufficient app user experiences by 2025.

Data from WalkMe reveals that CIOs place digital transformation efforts at the top of their lists of priorities. Sure enough, 77% say that it’s their primary concern, placing it slightly ahead of cybersecurity. Other digital transformation issues such as analytics and CX are also high on the CIO list. Two years ago, I‘d wager that most IT department leads barely had customer experience on their radars at all.

Although the great vaccine rollout promises to end the worst of the pandemic, the impact that social distancing has had on buyers’ demands will remain for the long term. Enterprises will be forced to ramp up their digital adoption efforts if they expect to see any growth this year.

Only digital adoption can meet customer demands

Consumers have gone through their own digital transformations.

The pandemic forced banking, shopping, payments, and healthcare online, and that move is likely to be permanent. Some 78% of consumers now prefer to use online or mobile payments instead of payments in person.

At the same time, many are struggling with new digital experiences. They are stressed out and low on patience after a year of on and off lockdowns, and they aren’t inclined to show loyalty to brands that make it difficult for them to complete interactions.

Customer experience (CX) is today’s key revenue driver, with 84% of CEOs looking to digital initiatives to increase profit margins. But even established customers will leave if your CX suffers. With customer retention dropping by 82%, it’s clear that the post-COVID consumer won’t stick around if you fail to deliver.

Vendor-side teams that handle workflow processes in the cloud have the advantage here, helping consumers onboard easily to new digital interactions instead of increasing their frustration.

Digital investment is wasted without adoption

Since 2009, tech spending has remained on a steady growth incline, but 2021 could be the first year in a long time that it drops.

According to the Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO Survey 2020, over three-quarters of companies increased their tech budgets during 2020 to respond to the pandemic. Altogether, IT leaders spent an extra $15 billion per week during the first three months of the crisis to support cybersecurity and remote work needs, as well as meeting new customer demands for digital interactions.

After a period of such intense and unexpected extra outlay, spending has to be reined in. CIOs need to prove ROI on their previous splurge and use digital tools and assets more efficiently, but that’s going to be tricky if employees haven’t been fully immersed.

When your workforce isn’t sure how to use your new tools, they’re more likely to bypass them in favor of familiar yet time-consuming traditional methods which undermine your ROI. It’s a waste of both money spent on new tools, and the time efficiency they were expected to deliver.

When you achieve digital adoption, you can track usage, measure uptake, and prove ROI on your spending.

True adoption can prevent employee burnout

Your team is likely already anxious about their health and finances, so their emotional bandwidth is low. Overloading them with unfamiliar cloud tools to facilitate remote work can be the last straw.

Often, employees are expected to master complex tools that support complicated functions like accepting and processing sales while working alone from home, with little training and no IT support one cubicle over. Employees can end up feeling unmotivated and disengaged.

At the same time, employee ignorance only increases the burden on IT support teams, which is the top challenge of the pandemic, according to those CIOs surveyed by WalkMe. Nash/KPMG reports that 84% of tech leaders are concerned about the mental health of their IT teams.

Investing in thorough digital adoption from the outset can circumvent these woes to remove frustration, streamline work processes, and lift the burden from IT support.

Digital adoption is still mainly lip service

Far too many companies adopted digital tools and platforms hastily and with little thought about how to make the most of the digital opportunity.

Enterprise employees received sketchy training in their use, and there was little to no effort invested in driving a digital culture. There’s a widespread failure to realize that digital transformation isn’t a “one and done” affair, but rather the first step on the path to digital adoption.

Too many executives get distracted by new SaaS tools and exciting platforms which wind up as little more than a virtual band-aid and forget the need to train employees in using them and making the switch to a digital-first mindset.

In effect, these executives are working at cross-purposes to their own stated goals. They wish to create an aligned, innovative work environment that advances agility and resilience, but when they neglect digital adoption, they’ve left out the key ingredient.

Without digital adoption to upskill and empower employees to approach their roles in new wats, they have nothing but the shell of a digital company.

Without digital adoption, digital transformations will wither

The more time passes, the less easy it will be for business leaders to use COVID-19 as an excuse for incomplete transformation.

To avoid frustrating consumers and employees while wasting digital investments, take retooling your culture seriously.

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