[Joint Blog] Where digital transformation goes wrong?

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Digital transformation has been high on the agenda for most companies over the past few years – but there’s often too much inaction. This is preparing for failure, and that will come sooner than many might think. Furthermore, getting started on the journey is one thing, but implementing it in the right way, for success, takes time, people, leadership, management, and focus.

This is now a need to do, not a nice to do. Are you ready to commit to the journey? Do you need to fast-track the road that you’re already on? Let’s explore some of the common pitfalls that companies fall for, and what success looks like.



The need for change

There’s no such thing as being too big to fail anymore.

Technology continues to evolve at pace, and that opens up new ways for companies to be able to deliver products and services to their customers. We’re now seeing every industry start to have an influx of new “challenger” companies, which are created as technology-first. There’s no such thing as being too big to fail anymore. Competitive advantage is speed and rapid performance. Are you as a leader in your organisation ready for the steep learning and action curve?

The ways that companies are delivering value to their customers is also changing, as they create more interactive and self-serve experiences. Customers are now starting to demand more of this in every aspect of their life, and are now often reaching for convenience and functionality over brand loyalty. The movement is from customer experience, to longer-term, in-depth customer journeys.

learning how to lead and manage remotely has been one of the biggest hits and misses for successful and failing leaders our there

The pandemic has also introduced a lot of new problems for companies to deal with that are likely to be around for the foreseeable. This includes a more distributed workforce, a change in customer behaviours, and disruption to traditional supply-chains. Technology and change opens the door to solutions that can help a company to not only overcome these issues, but also find new audiences and efficiencies.

Today, putting leaders and managers on a level footing with other employees is also important. As the landscape continues to change, it’s key that everyone learns together -and learning how to lead and manage remotely has been one of the biggest hits and misses for successful and failing leaders our there.



Technology departments remain a key component

It’s key to remember that it’s a collaborative process

Once the need for change has been identified, the next step is often that a company will lean on the technology department to lead the programme. This usually starts with a transformation specialist (such as a Chief Technology Officer) who can start to build a roadmap.

Some companies choose to first look at new ways of reaching their customers. This could be through using social media, and more digital-first ways of marketing, or by introducing things such as interactive web experiences, or mobile apps. Others start with their internal systems and processes, looking to find ways to achieve things faster, cheaper, and with fewer faults.

many organisations are set up in a way that’s too rigid

While technology leaders and the teams that support them are excellent generators of practical ideas and strategies in this area, it only goes so far without proper support from the rest of the organisation. It’s key to remember that it’s a collaborative process, and as much as digital strategy, it’s also a human one. CTOs need the whole business lens, not just the technical one. Technical systems must be matched with getting people “on board” with them. Developing binding ecosystems is required to ensure that technology truly becomes embedded in the long run.

We have seen successful organisations start by introducing somewhat standalone “innovation centres”. These act almost like a startup, with more autonomy to bring about change. But, in order for this to actually impact the core business in the long term, it requires a transition through to “business as usual” for everyone else.

To actually put in place even the most well thought out transformation plans, they need the key things that every other project does – budget, resources, and time. These are often the things that introduce hurdles to overcome, as many organisations are set up in a way that’s too rigid for some of the unknown exploration required for change to be brought about.



It begins with leadership

Leadership is where digital talk and workforce transformation fails first. Budgets and resources can often be locked behind paperwork and lengthy sign-off processes. These are often designed to mitigate risk, and ensure that spending happens in the most efficient way – but they can be the main reason that projects never get off the ground.

more often than not, you need to test and explore the possible by running a series of experiments

Change in any organisation is almost always a calculated risk, with a dose of educated guesses thrown in. In this case, mitigating those risks can be a sensible thing to do, but more often than not, you need to test and explore the possible by running a series of experiments. This naturally requires a budget and approach to be more flexible than the company may be used to.

Let’s imagine that an energy company is thinking about making their core services available via an app to their users, to make it more “self-serve”. There’s bound to be a good business case for this, including cost savings to contact-centre staff. But as with any technology project, there’s a question of what users actually want. There may be no point developing the app if 95% of users still end up choosing to call up to give their meter reading.

The agile methodology has been the standard in technology for many years now. It’s designed to break down projects into smaller chunks and “test the water” by getting feedback at each stage. This naturally requires a different approach when it comes to budgeting and roadmaps.



Whole-organisation transformation

As we’ve explored, the issue often stems from not bringing the whole organisation along for the ride, and instead, trying to implement transformation as a “side project”.

Working in agile ways shouldn’t just be reserved for the technical teams.

Working in agile ways shouldn’t just be reserved for the technical teams. Being strategically reactive and data-driven, by using tools such as analytics, data visualisation, and feedback will bring a shift in the company, when it’s implemented across the organisation. Leaders must walk the walk across departments – and also ensure that the the entire organisation follows the example.

Plans are less “set in stone”, and often need teams to have freedom to “fail” and learn by testing. To succeed with transformation, boards must become more open to a game-plan, rather than a strict step-by-step proposal. Those who lead the company must also adapt their ways. Teams must be given relative freedom and autonomy to find the best way to achieve the business goals.

Perhaps most importantly, to get results from digital transformation, companies must be willing to truly transform with it. Leaders must nurture a more collaborative, and data-driven environment – and be willing to take calculated risks towards a new future for the organisation.


Written by

Scott Gulliver

Scott Gulliver is the Director of Fluff Software, a software development company based in the South West of England. Scott has been helping large companies to implement software and technology, with a particular focus on digital transformation over the past decade.

Website | LinkedIn  | Twitter


Jeremy Blain

Jeremy Blain is the Chief Executive of Performance Works International (PWI), a modern business transformation consultancy and training company that helps executive boards, leaders and teams succeed in the digital climate amidst disruption, opportunity, and uncertainty. Jeremy is a global authority on empowered working and backed this up with his 2021 award-winning, International #1 best-selling book: ‘The Inner CEO – Unleashing leaders at all levels

Website | LinkedIn

[Interview] With Jeremy Blain, Digital Transformation Expert On The Next 5 Years For Your Company

April 29, 2019

Jeremy Blain is an award-winning Business Leader, Futurist, New Era Learning Professional, Author & Conference Speaker.

Jeremy is founder and CEO of PerformanceWorks International (PWI). He has created PWI because he knows that his experience, knowledge and passion can help organisations and individuals face into the changing workplace and help them be fit and ready for the future.

We had an opportunity to have a chat with Jeremy to discuss digital transformation and what it holds for the future of companies and their retention of customers and brand loyalty to become a more digitally centered business.

1. How Do Define Successful Digital Transformation?

By not calling it digital transformation but re-orientating that to Whole Business Model Transformation. This is the real need.

Digital transformation seems to have lost its meaning for many companies, who are seeing it as the integration of technology, a system, a structure or similar. Multiply that effect by the potential for different technologies being implemented across different functions, without necessarily talking to each other, and they are compounding the problem. In many companies, a further question is not even considered…how does my digital strategy and transformation align to what my customers need and want? Here lies the problem.

For me true success is looking at the end to end transformation the business needs to include the digital, the people, the customer and partners; all led by a credible leadership and management team. Whole business consideration, not just piecemeal interventions that may not work. It is no coincidence that in research across 2016/17 by IBM and Forbes that 84% of digital strategy fails**. A staggering amount and this is largely due to a misunderstanding of what digital transformation actually is, what it means and how to go about it.

My latest research goes into this in some details and proposes a brand new 11-step model for digital strategy implementation. While doing the research, it was clear very little guidance actually exists – until now. You can see more here.

** source:


2. How Do You See The Effect Of Digital Transformation On The Public Sector?

It depends on the part of world we focus on. For example, Countries like Vietnam, India, China, Singapore, HK and more across Asia have digital at the core of their policies. Be that in the development of Smart Cities like Singapore or building the economy on technology-driven services and business.

In Europe, from my recent survey (white paper above) it is clear that Red Tape and Bureaucracy is getting in the way of adequate planning, budgeting and execution of government level policy and implementation when it comes to digital. For example, very few public sector organisations we surveyed have a digital vision or even a leadership capable of understanding what is needed…compounded by a ‘laisse faire’ attitude. Unless that changes, transformation in the public sector will be slow and only in certain areas; rather than an integrated, policy-driven actionable plan – which is adequately funded.

Interestingly digital is levelling the global competitive playing field and allowing emerging economies across the world, notably in Africa, SE Asia and Latin America to start from the same place as more established economies. The more enlightened governments are centralizing their planning around this to build future-ready economies and attractive investment sites for external developers, investors and businesses.   Whole conferences are being fast-tracked around this area as a platform for global, not just local, participants. Such as Africa Com later this year and many more. This is as important to government as it is to private enterprise of course.

3. How Do You See Digital Transformation Efforts Affecting Customers In The Next 5 Year?

It is not just about our customers, it is more a question of how we do more together with our customers, fuelled by digital and driven by human expertise. For example, as we transform our businesses, how do we ensure that our technologies, data and processes align with those evolving in our customers. To the extent that within the next 5 years our systems should actually ‘talk to’ those of our customers to fast track data sharing, informing more rapid joint decision making and forward strategy planning. This is the gold at the end of the rainbow for suppliers and their customers.

4. Which Are The Emerging Technologies That Will Play A Significant Role In The Digital Transformation Process?

This could be a long list but key tech that can enable successful transformation includes AI (Artificial Intelligence) – around big data analysis, strategic planning and rapid decision making. Bin the excel spreadsheets and be driven by hyper rapid analytics, for real-time action.

5G will be a game-changer in terms of the above and the ability for businesses who are ahead of the curve to secure competitive advantage. This not just about bandwidth, download speeds etc. this could become the life-blood running through the veins of our businesses and how we interact with employees, partners, customers and competitors even. More leaders need to truly understand the power that 5G can provide their businesses. Right now, too many ‘don’t know what they don’t know’

Aligned to this will be technology to allow systems to talk to each other. Prior to a true ‘Internet of Things’ filling the gap, the use of API (Application Programming Interface) should be adopted by more organisations (small, medium and large). API is a way to ensure that there are clearly designed methods and communication lines across  the varying technology components you may use internally – and – over the next few years, to enable better integration with your customer systems and technologies. A key component for competitive advantage.

RPA – robotic process automation. A way to automate your future business processes to ensure the technology, AI, robotics etc all work together and are linked to the human heart of your business. Crucial to some industries over the next 3-6 years and something that many informed corporations are budgeting now for, as they prepare their forward strategies. Others are not doing enough…

In the digital age one could argue that the human touch is as important as it ever was. Leveraging your human capital in the age of whole business model transformation can be the ‘edge’ as far as competitive advantage goes (particularly around the attraction, protection and retention of Talent). This is why many organisations are restructuring their organisation around Human Design Centres. Mobilising your resources according to core personality, preference and capability, not necessarily job role or function. It embraces ‘difference’ and enables your people to perform in ways suited to them. A more fluid way to use Talent and more sophisticated way to mobilise resources be they permanent, contingent workers, in an office or remote. Equally a way to understand how this can work best with the digital thread of the business as much as the human.

5. How Do You See The Integration Of Block-chain Affecting The Businesses?

By 2021 it is predicted that over $6Trillion USD will be lost through cyber crime. As part of any digital strategy, cyber risk, secure systems and end-to-end secure processes, technologies and tools require much work in many organisations. Not just for how they work internally but how they interface externally most importantly. Those organisations with 20th century systems in place now are not fit for purpose in the Industry 4.0 era. But many heads are being buried in the sand. It is perceived as expensive, non-urgent and, again, a fundamental misunderstanding of the ‘cost of doing nothing’ is the biggest risk here.

In 2020s ‘trusting’ a company, system or tool is not good enough. In the era of fake news, sophisticated scams and readily available ‘credible’ technology, you need more. And that is where Blockchain comes in. For me – as a summary – Blockchain is the end to end ‘traceability’ your organisation needs internally and to be seen externally. It is TRUTH over TRUST. And that is the key point and why it is so important.

Thank you to Jeremy for taking the time to speak with us at Upwise.  We have certainly learned a lot and hope this insight has helped our community too.

The journey of Business Transformation starts with Leadership Inspiration

Let’s face it…most so called “Leaders” don’t really lead at all – they simply tell people what to do. Here’s a thought, what if you stopped telling and started inspiring.

The fact is without inspiration you can never truly achieve business or people transformation.  Inspiration is the driving force behind any true transformation, so ask yourself this, “Why am I inspired to transform my business, people, and my leadership?”  If the answer is, I don’t know, dig a little deeper.

Ask yourself 3 powerful questions:

  • What will happen if my business, people and leadership stays stagnant?
  • What will happen if my competitors figure it out and transform before my business?
  • What will happen when my business, people and leadership transforms?

Think about increasing profitability, growing in new markets, what kind of new products or services can I be offering and how have my people/teams grown and developed.

By answering these 3 questions you will start to ignite the inspiration needed to move forward with your business, people and leadership transformation.  Here is a great tip, if you find yourself struggling with the questions, try doing a little research, go online and search for other companies, people or leaders that you admire that have transformed.  How did they do it?  What were their needs?  Ask people in your company to answer the same questions.

You see, without inspiration you are more likely to just be going through the motions.  That will never work. The reason? It will just be another program or corporate initiative.  You know the kind, the ones you always hated when you were an employee and your boss tried to stuff something down the ranks telling everyone how committed they are.  But of course you and the rest of the team knew better.  So you played along waiting for it to pass and within a few days/weeks/months you all were right back to where you were before – pretending everything was great.

This is why you, as the leader (boss, supervisor – insert our title or position here), must find true inspiration.  It is only with your inspiration that you will be able to get others inspired too.

Let’s talk about how to find your inspiration. My first suggestion is to do some real soul searching to find your inspiration. There is a reason you are reading this article.   What was it?

Is your business suffering from high turnover?  Have you been losing market share in recent month? Are your employee engagement scores lower than expected? Are you hearing about changes in your industry?  Whatever your reason, good for you, at least you are starting to think about the future.

However, all the doom and gloom doesn’t have to be the only motivator. Perhaps you are in the other camp, trying to think ahead of your competition.  You’re already on top of your game, you just don’t want to lose it.  You want to stay on top and you know transformation is the only way to ensure you don’t become complacent.

Determining why you feel the need to transform is the key, INSPIRATION is the engine! Now go and start your inspiration engine!

2 important leadership, learning & performance lessons from my first Spartan Race

I am 50 this year and instead of creating a mid-life crisis, I decided to make a positive step and challenge myself outside the norm. I wanted to achieve something and challenge my performance. Doing a Spartan Race certainly did that. http://www.spartanrace.sg/en

I am pretty fit; I go to the gym, I swim, I walk. You get the picture. This was different…
It took three months of training, developing muscles I hadn’t used for years (or ever), working with new people as a team and, finally, the day itself, a fantastic feeling as we crossed the finish line, everyone intact, exhausted and elated!
This was about achievement of something new, a different kind of performance with a new team, which bonded and performed at a new level…I had to unlearn what I knew about fitness and stamina, relearn new techniques and learn to integrate these skills into my performance toolkit over weeks of further personal development. I was totally committed.

On reflection there are so many parallels to my current leadership situation and how I have adapted my approach, style and more having been involved in the Spartan Race. It is having a marked impact on how I have re-oriented my own focus and the team’s over the last few months particularly.  It has made a difference – in quantifiable, actual terms.

As a result I realise anew that sometimes we must change the game to get out of the rut, find different ways to work and perform at new levels. Here is what I learned, actioned and impacted.

  • Leadership, team and performance
The learning The link
Refresh your goals and re-energise the focus Yes, we have KPIs / annual targets etc. but finding new ways to work in the current acceleration of things is crucial to success. I realised that I “thought” I was focused. This experience gave me another perspective and helped me fine tune the vision, refine the strategy and renew operational execution with and through my team. It is working…
There are new challenges to tackled. So tackle them. I have been in a senior leadership role for 16 years and I am driven. I believe in results through people and I believe in stretching the possibilities in business terms. 16 years on, it’s easy at times to get into a rut and coast. Not just when things are going well but when they are not. Leaders in this day and age can get battle-weary; and I have been. This Spartan experience re-wired my mental attitude and forced me into a change (even though there was some resistance inside me). The change helped me to relook at the business, myself, the team, the possibilities and DO differently – particularly on certain nagging issues. This made a huge impact to me earlier this year and put a spring back in my step – and, as a result, into my team and our first half performance.
Encourage new levels of leadership and  performance from your team At the Spartan I was in a new group of people – 90% I had never met. We formed, we stormed, we normed, we stormed some more (especially on critical training days!) and then we performed when it counted.

It required each person in that team to take a leadership role at times to take up the slack, support those driving the agenda from the beginning, picking those up when motivation started to wane and come in with new ideas when new thinking was required or new techniques needed.

Leadership at any level was a critical learning and the empowerment of my team, which has always been central to my style, has received a new coat of paint. Challenging them to lead in different ways; not just in their current role / focus but as  contributors to wider business. This broader empowerment was lacking and now it’s in play, it is paying dividends


  • Learning and performance – It starts with you
The learning The link
We can forget how to learn and think / do differently Yes, I know, I work for a Learning Company! That is how easy it is to forget 😊 – I have always worked closely with my team to support, coach, manage and evolve but again that has sometimes been at the expense of my own learning journey. I need development as much as the next leader and it was the Spartan that brought it home to me loud and clear.
I needed to unlearn, relearn and learn some more. Change the way I exercised and worked within a team, to deliver the performance I and we needed. I had to practice, practice and practice, having a couple of epic fails on the way and then found the path to success.

It is exactly the same for the workplace. I changed my game and it is benefitting the business in both qualitative and quantitative ways. This is not without a couple of false starts and a little re-engineering of course! It took time but with commitment and the will to learn and do differently the change came good.I urge you all in management and leadership to remember how to learn! It works.

New personal goals drive new possibilities See above. I am re-energised, learning again and it is infectious across my team. There is a complete, solid, obvious link to performance and I have reminded myself of the power of learning in relation to what can be achieved individually, with others and as a business.

This seems a counter-intuitive thing to say as a learning professional, so imagine this – there are many leaders out there who don’t see it, won’t see it, are unwilling to see it. This needs to change in the age of disruption we are living and working in. It requires new visioning, new goals and inspiring new possibilities within self and others.
Leaders and Managers in many organisations I work with NEED to change the game… What is everyone waiting for..?

So – I won’t be waiting for my 60th to do something different again. I have my eye on my next Spartan, a Temple Run, a new way of working with our customers, a more integrated and broader level of team empowerment and more. I am enthused, positive and renewed.

I am so convinced we can do more and help that we have themed our upcoming event (Twitter and Instagram #CegosDisrupt) entirely around creating this positive attitude for changing the way we lead, manage and get to action.  http://www.cegos.com.sg/leading-managing-age-disruption/Don’t hesitate to contact me personally if you feel I can help you make progress in your organisation – whatever your level and challenge.

I have disrupted the norm in my own small way and I feel it is a critical lesson learned as we head into the more in certain times of the ‘future of work’, new leadership practices, more challenges for organisations everywhere and the need for a strong human touch to bring talented people together and enable high performance. It’s not easy and it requires a renewed energy for learning.

What’s your story?