Beyond The Barriers Of Digital Transformation

18.03.2024 7 Min Read
Saba Khergiani

Management Consultant, Business Strategy & Digitalization

Beyond The Barriers Of Digital Transformation

No one argues anymore that digital transformation, or at least digitalization, is a strict imperative for business, but what lies beyond this reality? How should businesses navigate their digitalization journey, and what potential obstacles await them? These are the exact questions we address in this article.

Organizations that proactively adopt digital technology and weave it into their workflows and operations stand to gain significant benefits; These include increased efficiency and productivity, enhanced customer service, increased revenue and a stronger competitive edge.

However, the path to digital transformation is not always easy. Many organizations encounter substantial barriers that hinder the dynamic transformation process and often lead to its failure. However, it is encouraging to know that the challenges associated with digital transformation are often similar across industries, allowing organizations to leverage proven strategies to overcome them.

Common barriers to digital transformation and ways to overcome them

The challenges companies face during digital transformation are frequently quite similar and with the right strategies, they can be effectively managed. Fortunately, organizations can "learn from others' mistakes" and plan their own digital transformation journey more efficiently. Let’s explore some typical barriers (and solutions) that businesses encounter on their path to digital transformation. By proactively addressing these common challenges, businesses can build a strong foundation for successful digital transformation.

Lack of clear vision and strategy

Navigating your digital transformation journey without a clearly defined strategy is like walking blindfolded. At such times, businesses find themselves in uncertainty – what technologies should be implemented? How should these technologies be used? And in general, what are these technologies for? This ambiguity and lack of strategic priorities frequently become the primary reasons for failure.

Involving the organization's key stakeholders is crucial in developing a clear digital vision. This strategy should turn into an actionable roadmap, namely:

1. Assessing digital readiness. Analyze your organization's digital readiness to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement. This will help you see what your organization's digital landscape currently looks like and what steps you need to take to achieve your desired goals.

2. Joint workshops. Conduct workshops with key stakeholders from different departments (senior management, marketing, sales, IT, etc.) to generate ideas and define your organization's digital goals.

3. Mapping customer experience (CX). Analyze all key touchpoints in your customer experience to identify digital optimization opportunities that can improve the customer experience.

4. Define success metrics. Define key performance indicators (KPIs) aligned with digital goals that align with your digital vision to measure progress and track your transformation.

5. Develop a step-by-step roadmap. Break down your long-term vision into actionable steps, with clear deadlines and steps for each step. This incremental approach ensures flexibility and adaptability during digital transformation.


Resistance to change

Employees accustomed to traditional work styles may find themselves confused and frustrated when faced with new technologies and workflows. This conflict can lead to decreased productivity, which in turn affects the overall performance of the business.

Effective change management techniques are essential. Open communication and active communication of the main purpose of the transformation will help employees understand the need for the process and buy into the transformation. Remember that to create a culture of support for digitalization it is necessary:

1. Communication – clearly explain the purpose of digital transformation, clearly outline the benefits for both the organization and employees. Present this as an opportunity for professional growth and development.

2. Empathy. Focus on emotions and address employee frustrations during change. During change, it is important for people to understand that their feelings and emotions are taken into account, that each employee's point of view is valued, and that the transformation process serves everyone's interests.

3. Support. Involve employees in the decision-making process and encourage feedback. This creates a sense of belonging, motivates employees to participate and increases their contribution to the digitalization process.

4. Constant development. Create consistent training and education programs to keep employees up to date with new technologies. It is important to provide ongoing support and a mentoring system. This will help reduce resistance and develop a culture of learning and adaptation within the organization.

5. Celebrate achievements. Recognize and celebrate individual and team achievements (even small ones) throughout the process. Sharing success stories builds momentum and makes the value of transformation clearer.


Inadequate budget and resources

There are often cases when company management clearly states the desire for digital transformation and justifies its necessity, but often this business requirement is not accompanied by appropriate further steps. The process of digital transformation requires investment in technology, increasing the competence of employees and, possibly, the support of external expertise. Ensuring sufficient funding and efficient allocation of resources is often a challenge for many organizations.

Carefully evaluate budget constraints and prioritize areas that align with digital goals and support your business strategy. Properly assessing digital readiness will help define strategic priorities, providing a digital roadmap that must be supported by appropriate budget and resources. To better allocate resources during the digitization process:

1. Digitalization budget. It is necessary to plan the necessary funds to achieve your digital goals for the appropriate period of time, since innovation and digital transformation without financial costs are unfortunately unthinkable.

2. Cost optimization. Optimizing IT costs may include renegotiating software licenses with vendors, merging vendors, or canceling unnecessary subscriptions.

3. Cost-benefit analysis. Analyze the costs and expected benefits of digital initiatives to prioritize initiatives that deliver the most value.

4. Resource distribution. Plan allocation of budget, human capital, and technology resources based on team skills, workload, and upskilling potential of existing employees.

5. Budget flexibility - plan for unexpected expenses or opportunities. Regularly review your budget against your priorities.


Inadequate IT infrastructure

Legacy technology systems can create compatibility issues with new digital tools and limit the scalability and flexibility needed for transformation. At the same time, an inadequate IT infrastructure is a serious stress for the team of a company undergoing digitalization and contributes to people's frustration.

Modernizing legacy systems can be an important prerequisite for any digital initiative. Therefore, pay attention to the following aspects:

1. Legacy Infrastructure Assessment - Assess all current hardware, software and applications. Analyze their compatibility with digital goals. Identify critical systems for modernization and phase out non-critical systems.

2. Modernization roadmap. Develop a step-by-step plan that takes into account budget, environmental factors, obstacles, and operational implications.

3. Modernization options - explore replacing existing applications with cloud-based solutions through API integration or the use of virtual environments.

4. Implementation of the cloud. Evaluate migration of legacy systems to cloud systems for scalability, cost-effectiveness, and data archiving or system recovery.

5. Data migration. Develop a secure and efficient data transfer strategy that takes into account data cleansing, mapping, and downtime.

6. Support system – develop a systematic approach to solving employee problems and provide the necessary training module for working in a modernized environment.

Database silos and security issues

Data scattered across different systems can make it difficult to use them effectively. In practice, there are often cases when an organization does not have a unified approach to storing and processing data. We often come across examples where confidential information is stored only on the hard drives of the laptops of different colleagues. Moreover, ensuring data security in a digital environment is of paramount importance and is often one of the least considered aspects of transformation.

Consider the following steps to properly manage your data and reduce security risks:

1. Data comparison. Identify all data sources, formats, and locations to understand the company's current data practices and identify data silos.

2. Data management. Establish data access, access and use policies, and security protocols for responsible data management.

3. Data integration. Break down data silos for integrated solutions to facilitate the seamless flow of information exchange and processing and improve data-driven decision making.

4. Cybersecurity. Invest in robust security tools, conduct regular assessments, and increase employee awareness of data security best practices.

5. Continuous improvement. Continuously monitor, analyze and update management policies and security protocols to adapt to potential threats and regulations.

Lack of digital literacy skills at company level

In addition to the need for specialized technical knowledge, successful digital transformation requires a high level of digital literacy skills within a company's team. This means that employees at all levels—from senior management to front-line staff—must feel comfortable using digital tools and platforms. Lack of these fundamental digital skills can create significant barriers to adoption, potentially leading to failure.

To improve digital literacy skills at the organizational level, it is important to consider the following steps:

1. Analysis of digital skills. Assess digital literacy at the company level, identify areas for improvement and prioritize competency development.

2. Multi-level training system. It is important to develop training programs for people with different levels of digital skills, from basic computer knowledge to complex tools.

3. Microlearning and gamification. Use bite-sized modules and gamification to increase employee engagement, allowing you to develop interactive learning experiences and increase employee enthusiasm and motivation.

4. Mentoring programs. Encourage a culture of knowledge sharing and mentoring to promote collaboration and effective use of the company's team's core competencies.

5. Constant support. Create a digital knowledge base, transcribe the knowledge and skills of the company's team and make them accessible manuals and essential user manuals for digital platforms and systems, providing ongoing employee support at minimal cost.


The locomotive of success - The digital transformation team

It is clear that the most common barriers, to one degree or another, contain the problems that your company may face on the path to digitalization. But the most common and perhaps classic mistake is when a company’s team tries to implement digital transformation using only internal resources. The process of digital transformation is complex and requires a holistic approach across the entire organization. Therefore, a transformation team is needed, consisting of people with relevant expertise and cross-industry experience, who have an equal understanding of business goals and technological opportunities.

Remember that a seamless digital transformation requires a clear vision, effective communication and an understanding of responsibility for creating the capabilities your organization needs.

How prepared are you to take that initial step on the path to digital transformation?

Featured Insights

In the modern era, we are all witnessing first-hand the unprecedented speed at which technological advancement is changing industries. The evolving technological environment creates different business needs and requires new strategies to respond to them, for which often traditional strategic planning alone is no longer effective and it becomes necessary to use various technological advances, including artificial intelligence (AI). Integrating AI into the management and decision-making process of companies gives managers the opportunity to collect, analyze and make decisions based on the maximum amount of data.

Problems of traditional strategic planning

Strategic planning is the process of setting long-term goals, analyzing internal and external factors, and determining how to respond to them, allowing businesses to seize opportunities and overcome challenges in a rapidly changing environment to optimally allocate resources, expand market share, or achieve sustainable growth.

Accumulated consulting experience shows that different businesses vary in their level of adaptation of the strategic planning process, although even the best of them often have significant shortcomings in their strategic planning efforts, e.g.

• Planned events are carried out infrequently (once a year or not at all)

• When making strategic decisions, reasoning is often based only on the intuition and experience of management and does not take into account rational factors of the external environment (market, competition).

• The planning process does not use sufficient, accurate and objective data.

• Once strategies are selected and implemented, progress is rarely monitored.

What does AI offer businesses today?

Currently, artificial intelligence is already actively used at various stages of business management and operations. In its simplest form, it serves a descriptive function and is used to create analytical data such as graphs/dashboards for competitive analysis or to study the performance of different lines of business. More advanced versions of AI have diagnostic intelligence, which refers to the ability to establish cause-and-effect relationships between events and understand root causes and driving forces. Such algorithms can identify patterns and trends in customer behavior, market demand, or competitor strategies by analyzing historical data.

The third stage of AI development and the most progressive stage currently actively used in business is predictive intelligence, which has the ability to create forecasts for the future based on certain assumptions and analysis of past experience. Predictive intelligence is used to create scenarios based on various changes and scenarios, allowing business owners to assess the potential impact of these scenarios on their business and develop customized strategies to respond to them. Predictive intelligence can also identify potential risks, which through ongoing monitoring enable organizations to proactively mitigate their negative impact.

The next levels of AI integration into business include developing analytics-based recommendations, delegating certain decisions to artificial intelligence, and full AI autonomy, although the full integration of these stages into management is still a work in progress and will take some time.


Still, how can AI be used in strategic planning?

Despite the fact that the use of artificial intelligence is characterized by growing trends in such key areas of business management as marketing, human resources, logistics, customer service, etc., the degree of its implementation in the strategic planning process is still quite low, due to important features of this process. Unlike other processes associated with business management, the strategic planning process has a particularly high proportion of human involvement, decisions based on personal experience and intuition, emotions, historical and cultural context, along with rational factors.

Therefore, if we ask the question as follows, is it possible to completely automate the strategic planning process using artificial intelligence, the answer is no (at least in the current situation and the future perspective that can be imagined from this situation). However, observing the current business context allows us to confidently say that artificial intelligence is already transforming certain stages of the strategic planning process, as well as the approaches and thinking of the people involved in these stages.

In the strategic decision-making process, we can think of AI-human interaction as a three-step process, in the first step of which a human tells the AI a problem/asks a specific question that it wants to solve. At the second stage, AI processes and analyzes the database associated with the problem, as a result of which it offers the “customer” several options for solving the proposed problem. After this, the “customer” obviously has a choice - make a strategic decision based on the given options, entrust the decision to artificial intelligence, or modify the problem to accept other options.

In other words, AI can play an important role in the strategic planning process in making rational, fact-based and data-driven decisions, the further review and final evaluation of which is still subject to human influence.

Delegating rational decision-making to artificial intelligence will itself change the specificity of certain positions in organizations and will lead to an increase in employer demand for so-called “strategists” who will be responsible for aligning the recommendations generated by artificial intelligence with the values and goals of the organization . Particularly important in this process are skills that will help you make intuitive strategic decisions. An example of such skills is creative thinking, the ability to analyze not only facts, but also context and abstract thinking.

What benefits does AI bring to the strategic planning process?


Incorporating artificial intelligence into the strategic planning process offers companies several significant benefits, which include, but are not limited to:

• Automating repetitive and manual tasks – reducing the time spent on these tasks, optimizing costs and increasing business productivity and efficiency.

• Optimization of the decision-making process. AI algorithms can provide objective and data-driven insights, allowing business managers to make faster and more informed decisions.

• Increased forecasting accuracy – leads to a reduction in risks associated with strategic decisions, and through constant monitoring allows for the timely identification of various anomalies.

Which businesses will benefit most from using AI in strategic planning?

Let's start with the fact that all businesses, regardless of size and industry, have the opportunity to use artificial intelligence more than today. However, the advantages of artificial intelligence in strategic planning are directly proportional to the presence of a number of prerequisites. Therefore, before you begin this process, questions need to be asked (note: the following are some basic questions, although they are not exhaustive; the readiness assessment process will be much more complex):

• Do you have all the data (internal and external) that can influence your strategic decisions? - Remember, often even minor problems in the environment can have a significant impact on your strategy.

• How good is the data you have? - Remember that the result obtained using artificial intelligence will be of exactly the same quality as the information you provide. Therefore, ensuring data accuracy and reliability is critical for effective AI analysis, which in turn requires additional investment in data management systems.

• How flexible is your business? – AI-generated scenarios and recommendations enable you to develop rapid response strategies in a turbulent environment, but you must ensure that your business processes, systems, structures and your team's mindset support the implementation of these recommendations.

What are the potential risks of incorporating AI into strategic decision-making?

If you decide to incorporate artificial intelligence into your strategic planning process, it is important to remember that there is no universal AI that can solve all your problems. However, it is important to understand that artificial intelligence is not “magical.” Therefore, to avoid unrealistic expectations and poor implementation, it needs to be properly structured and contextualized. In other words, it needs to be “trained” to give correct answers and predictions.

When using artificial intelligence, the issue of ethics must also be taken into account. When making strategic decisions, managers consider various ethical aspects and human values, potential impacts on society and the environment, which may not be integrated into the artificial intelligence system.

Another challenge to using artificial intelligence in strategic decision making is accountability. In fact, only humans, not machines (even intelligent machines), can be held responsible for their decisions. This issue will increase the need for legal regulation of strategic AI decisions in the future. To create a regulatory framework for compensation for damage caused by the operation of artificial intelligence systems, it will be necessary to define the concept of artificial intelligence and its status in civil law relations.


In conclusion, artificial intelligence has already changed and in the future will even more fundamentally transform the strategic planning process. By using it, organizations can ensure that their strategies adapt to a rapidly changing environment to ensure long-term success. However, organizations must also take care to address the challenges associated with the use of artificial intelligence and ensure that it is used responsibly in critical decision-making processes.


While a crisis management strategy is an integral part of any long-term business strategy, in today's fast-paced business environment, businesses are often faced with unforeseen events such as global pandemics, political conflicts or economic downturns, which effectively challenge business creators, requiring rapid adaptation and difficult decisions. . By studying these issues in depth, organizations can improve their ability to adapt, identify potential opportunities, and maintain growth even during a crisis. Strategic planning plays an important role in managing crises and ensuring long-term success. Important steps in this process are assessing the impact of the crisis, developing and implementing a plan and strategy for managing it.

Assessing the impact of the crisis

One of the key aspects of navigating an unpredictable environment is environmental analysis, which involves identifying new trends, changes in customer behavior and competition.

Based on the identification of current changes in the external environment, businesses must assess the immediate and long-term financial consequences of the crisis, which may be associated with disruptions in the supply chain, consumer demand and general, existing and expected changes in the market. etc. A thorough analysis gives organizations the opportunity to discover vulnerabilities that will be taken into account when developing a management strategy.

In addition to the financial aspects, it is necessary to assess the impact of the crisis on people inside and outside the organization. This includes assessing employee welfare, customer concerns and any impact on brand image and reputation. Understanding these factors allows organizations to act proactively to support their employees, maintain customer loyalty, and protect brand reputation.

Development of a crisis management plan and strategy

Once the impact of a crisis has been assessed, it is critical to proactively respond to it by developing a crisis management plan. The plan should include analysis of multiple potential scenarios based on different assumptions, allowing business owners to prepare for a wide range of possibilities and make decisions that maximize their chances of success.

One of the most important aspects of a crisis management plan is the creation of an effective crisis management team. This team should include representatives from various departments and positions within the organization, such as finance, operations, human resources, public relations, etc. By creating a diverse team, organizations can ensure comprehensive crisis management.

After assessing the environment, assembling a crisis management team, and analyzing scenarios, organizations must determine key crisis response strategies. These strategies must address short-term and long-term goals such as maintaining operational efficiency, employee safety, and business continuity.

Experience shows that crisis situations stimulate the development of creative thinking and innovation, and also force organizations to reconsider established norms and change the traditional paradigm. In this process, it is vital for organizations to have the skills to adapt to a crisis, which can be achieved by implementing a culture focused on continuous learning and improvement, creating space for innovation, openness and promoting collaboration.

Implementation of crisis response strategies

One of the key aspects of implementing a crisis management plan is developing a communications plan that outlines both external and internal communication protocols and establishes regular communication channels with employees, customers and other stakeholders.

During disruptions, organizations may also need to implement new approaches to maintain business continuity and operational efficiency, something that has become especially evident during the pandemic. These approaches may include implementing remote work policies, providing alternative sources of supply, creating reserve system, etc. By using business continuity-focused approaches, organizations can minimize the impact of crises on daily operations and maximize their ability to recover quickly.


In conclusion, strategic planning in times of crisis is essential to overcome uncertainty and facilitate adaptation and growth. By understanding the challenges associated with a crisis, conducting a thorough assessment, developing a holistic crisis management plan, and effectively implementing crisis response strategies, organizations can overcome difficult times and emerge stronger in the long term.


What is digital transformation and why is it so important for business today?

In today's fast-paced business environment, “digital transformation” has become more than just a buzzword, but a strategic imperative. Businesses are faced with a stark reality: adapt or be left behind. The rapid and continuous development of technology has fundamentally changed people's lifestyles, work habits, and consumer behavior.

Consequently, to succeed in this dynamic landscape, the digital transformation of a business is a tough proposition, and its thorough understanding and implementation have become critical for sustainable and long-term business success.


Digitalization or digital transformation?

When discussing digital transformation, you will often also hear the word "digitalization", these words are used as synonyms, but they are significantly different from each other.

To better understand the essence of digital transformation, it is necessary to define the difference between digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation.

  • Simply put, digitization means converting something from analog to digital format, which involves converting physical or analog data, such as text, audio, or visual data, into a digital format that can be stored and processed electronically. For example, scanning a printed document and turning it into an electronic version.
  • Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to improve business processes and increase efficiency and value. It involves using digital tools and technologies to perform traditional business tasks. For example, implementing digital tools such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system or implementing digital communication platforms to streamline business operations.

Digitalization is more than the digital conversion of existing analog data and involves the integration of digital technologies into a specific aspect of business.

  • Digital transformation is more than just using modern gadgets and software. It involves a holistic approach that integrates digital technologies across the entire organization and requires a reassessment of business domains - what is the business strategy in the digital world, and how is value created for the customer; It includes optimizing operations and processes, fostering a culture of innovation, and using data to make evidence-based decisions.

An example of digital transformation is the implementation of a telemedicine system in a medical clinic, through which patients can make virtual appointments, maintain an electronic health record, talk with doctors online and receive medical advice securely from home.

At its core, digital transformation is a larger and more complex process than the digitization of data or the digitalization of a specific business operation. It is impossible to successfully implement digital transformation if it is not preceded by the stages of digitization and digitalization.

Often, unsuccessful digital transformation attempts are due to an inconsistent approach where the digital maturity of companies is not properly assessed. But the possibilities are truly endless: with the right vision for the digital era and the adoption of digital capabilities, organizations can transform their business models to improve efficiency and unlock unprecedented growth potential.

Why is digitalization, or better yet, digital transformation, vital for business?

By using digital technologies, businesses can create future potential and gain tangible benefits today, more specifically:

Improving customer experience (CX) - In today's digital age, customers expect consistent, seamless, and personalized experiences from businesses. Digital transformation allows businesses to meet these expectations by automating routine tasks, providing self-service capabilities and real-time (LIVE) support.

Improved operational efficiency and productivity – Optimizing processes through digital transformation improves operational efficiency. Robotic process automation (RPA) and optimization lead to resource savings, lower costs, and overall increased productivity. It also reduces errors, saves time, and frees up valuable resources so employees can focus on more important activities.

Competitive advantage - Digital transformation provides competitive advantage through the use of advanced technology and rich data, allowing businesses to innovate faster, improve efficiency, and gain a competitive advantage in an ever-changing marketplace.

Data-driven decision making - The ability to use and analyze data to make informed decisions is a key benefit of digital transformation. Organizations can gain valuable insights into customer behavior, market trends and internal processes, leading to more accurate and effective decisions.

Adapt to change – The dynamic nature of the business environment requires constant adaptation. Digital transformation fosters a culture of innovation and agility, enabling organizations and their teams to quickly respond to market changes, seize new opportunities, overcome challenges, and stay ahead of industry trends.

Beyond digital challenges

Of course, digital transformation comes with its challenges. Resistance to change, inadequate IT infrastructure and digital literacy, cybersecurity concerns and budgeting issues are just a few of the challenges a business may face. However, with a strong digital strategy, investing in the right solutions and developing a culture of continuous improvement, these challenges can be overcome.

Remember, digital transformation is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process. The future is digital, and the decision about how businesses want to exist in this future lies in the hands of their leaders. However, the time to act is now as the pace of technological development continues to accelerate and the drive to achieve sustainable success matches the pace of development.

Start your digital transformation today and create the future success of your business.