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What are some common obstacles to avoid on the digital transformation path?

Key Takeaways:

Fiber-driven services are becoming more accessible, leading to a fiber-forward future.

Resistance to change and lack of alignment with business goals can hinder ​digital transformation projects.

Legacy systems, data privacy and cybersecurity concerns, skills gap, and vendor selection are common hurdles in digital transformation.


Fiber-driven services are expanding, providing opportunities for a future focused on fiber technology. Businesses are embracing digital transformation to improve customer service and operational efficiency. However, there are several hurdles to overcome. Resistance to change and lack of alignment with business goals can impede progress. Legacy systems pose integration challenges, necessitating careful evaluation and potential reprioritization. Data privacy and cybersecurity must be prioritized to protect sensitive information. Talent and skills gap, along with appropriate vendor selection and management, are also crucial aspects to consider. A successful digital transformation roadmap involves understanding existing systems, addressing hurdles, and aligning with business goals.

More and more communities are being provided with fiber-driven services, which enables residents and businesses to embrace a future focused on fiber. In order to enhance customer service and improve operations, organizations are incorporating digital technologies, migrating applications and operations to the cloud, and utilizing artificial intelligence tools.

As a CIO, I have learned that businesses often encounter obstacles that can impede or completely halt a digital transformation project. However, by proactively addressing these potential hurdles, you can ensure a smoother path towards achieving your digital transformation goals.

Hurdle #1: Resistance to change and lack of alignment with business goals   

I combine resistance to change and lack of alignment with business goals together. People quite naturally want to stay in their comfort zone unless they have a compelling reason to change. If you propose changing how employees operate on a day-to-day basis and do not communicate specifically how the change will improve operations now and in the long-run, you won’t attain the adoption rates you need.  

A common business goal is to improve customer satisfaction and revenue by improving the digital customer experiences. If your digital transformation strategy is defined by that goal, it must be explained and evangelized throughout the business. Identify people who understand and will support your vision within their own departments as well as company-wide. That’s how you’re going to flip that resistance to change.  

DT is more than a company implementing a new cool technology. It’s helping people understand that business problems can be solved with new digital technologies and using those value stories with key-performance indicators to gain adoption and support for your entire transformation.

Hurdle #2: Legacy systems and technical debt

Organizations typically have “technical debt,” or outdated legacy systems that can’t integrate with newer digital solutions yet represent a significant financial and personnel investment.

For example, an e-commerce customer portal must take credit card information and then effectively tie into a financial Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. What if your company has already invested significant money and effort in an ERP system that can’t perform that integration? Do you say, “we need to keep using it because we’ve invested all this money and it doesn’t matter if we can’t do everything we want now?” Or does your company say, “it’s time to move on.”

If you’ve had this tool for a long time and the company has outgrown it, then I think the conclusion is clear. But if it’s a new tool the company recently invested in and implemented, go back to your business partners. Is there a way we can re-prioritize our business needs? Or, is there a tertiary tool to add to your architecture that will meet the requirements? Are there manual swivel chair processes that can help meet your business needs? They may not be as efficient, but it depends on business priorities. A legacy system may be able to meet your needs if you’re not evaluating a highly complex business problem.

Overall, I think it’s important for an organization to determine if the software that took you to $100 million can take you to $500 million. If not, then it may be time to rethink the architecture.

Hurdle #3: Data privacy and cybersecurity  

Digitizing operations requires vast amounts of sensitive data to be assembled, which raises significant data privacy and security concerns. Cybercrime is growing in volume and sophistication. A data breach can easily bring operations to a standstill. A data privacy and security-first mindset with well-thought-out cybersecurity strategies and safeguards in your digital transformation roadmap is critical.

First, understand your organization’s regulatory cybersecurity compliance requirements and make sure you meet those before any digital transformation takes place. Implement robust cybersecurity measures, such as compliance framework and data protection protocols, on all your target systems to safeguard both customer and company data. I highly recommend companies enable third party penetration testing, also known as pen testing, to conduct simulated cyber-attacks against your systems. Insights can identify potential vulnerabilities and prevent costly security breaches.

Hurdle #4: Talent and skills gap

The people, processes and technology framework where all three factors drive organizational change has long been a successful approach to business improvement. In a digital transformation an existing technology, along with the processes, is moved to a new system that requires process change and re-architecture. The first pillar — people – definitely impacts the success of a digital transformation because the processes within the organization may be significantly changing.  

For example, instead of manually entering data, that work is now automated, which in turn frees up your workforce to move towards more strategic work. Business leaders must evaluate if these employees can transition from data entry to a more strategic role. From an IT perspective, if you are transitioning core applications as part of your architecture, then you’re likely moving from on-premises in the data center to a cloud-based application. Do your employees, your IT team, have the ability and the skills to transfer to this new architecture? Are there employee training opportunities? How can you proactively invest in your people, so they are not being pulled by the technology, but rather driving that technology change?  

Hurdle #5: Vendor selection and management

Selecting the right technology vendors and partners is crucial to the success of your digital transformation. Evaluate vendors based on technology capabilities, scalability, reliability, alignment and your organization’s needs. You also must consider your company’s unique culture. A major change is more than two executives shaking hands. Your partners will be working not only with the executive team but throughout your organization. Do your partners and vendors understand the culture that makes your company unique?  Can they appreciate how your employees helped your company get to where you are today and help them drive your technology into the future without overpowering an organization?  Do not underestimate the importance of respecting your company’s culture or a digital transformation may not work.

A successful digital transformation roadmap

I believe the key to designing a successful digital transformation roadmap is to understand your existing systems, their capabilities, and functionalities, as well as to recognize and plan for potential hurdles. I also highly stress the importance of the first hurdle: lack of alignment with business goals. What problems are you solving and why does it matter to the business and the employees? To build a roadmap to the future, first understand what’s in your landscape today, both the technical processes and data limitations, and share the importance with all stakeholders.