​Digital transformation gut check: Sorry state or natural selection?

A report from Forrester highlights how digital transformation efforts are running into a few roadblocks, but the road to digitization was never going to be easy. Humans, and companies, can't stand change.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Uh oh. Those digital transformation efforts are starting to run into that reality wall and delusional humans too.

A Forrester survey of 1,559 business and technology decision makers found that digital transformation efforts are running into roadblocks amid confusion, delusion and resistance to change.

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Analyst Ted Schadler in a research note said the findings reveal the sorry state of digital transformation. Here are some high level takeaways:


Credit: Forrester

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Twenty-one percent of execs even think they've digitally transformed. Let's call that group the delusional transformation crowd.

Is this a sorry state? Not really. Here's a way of thinking about these digital transformation efforts with a bit more optimism.

Not all companies are going to digitally transform anyway. Yes, every company wants to be nimble, agile and adapt to new frontiers. But if it were that easy we'd all do it. The positive message is that companies at least see the problem. Three of four leaders are willing to adopt emerging technologies, but few enterprises do so today, according to Forrester. You could argue that's a start.

Resistance to change is a human condition. While you could lament the divide inside of companies between those who want to be agile (sometimes without any business value) and the side that doesn't, the reality is that humans don't like to change regardless. In that perspective, I'd argue that Forrester's survey actually shows corporations may be collectively more agile than the average bear.

Digital transformation is a ground war. Business realities in 2018 are slapping digital transformation efforts in the head. Don't believe me? Check out General Electric. As recently as two years ago, GE was talking about digitizing and the industrial Internet. GE's most recent conference call barely mentioned digital and sure didn't mention Predix, the IoT platform as the company aims to restructure and potentially break up. Ford two years ago was talking about reinvention, new mobility models and technology. Today, Ford is cutting costs, retrenching and killing car models so it can primarily make trucks and SUVs (just as gas hits $3 a gallon). Simply put, sometimes you can't afford to think long term when the house is on fire.

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With that lens, Forrester's survey may not reflect that digital transformation is so sorry after all. What the survey does reveal is that digital transformation is hitting a few not-so-surprising potholes. Forrester noted that digital transformation is an ongoing effort that'll never end. Some folks get that concept, but most folks don't. Companies are no different. Enterprises that don't get the digital game will simply be replaced by ones that do. A sorry state today may just be natural selection and innovation running its course.


The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.



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