The pressure's on: digital transformation seen as a make-or-break proposition for IT managers

Survey finds 83 percent of IT leaders fear they actually could be fired if their digital transformation efforts fail.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Are IT careers at stake with digital transformation? With the deluge of articles, seminars and analyst briefs on the glories of digital transformation, it's understandable why business leaders would be leaning really hard on their IT people to make things happen. And the pressure is on -- a recent survey finds 83 percent of IT leaders fear they actually could be fired if their digital transformation efforts fail.

The recent survey of 450 IT and digital leaders by Couchbase finds plenty of risk in the drive to digital -- and much of it falls in the lap of IT leaders and managers. For starters, the survey's authors estimate that the average spend on digital will amount to $28 million. A majority, 52 percent, say there is great potential of waste and dashed expectations that will go with these investments.

As with many technology trends over the years, many executives rush to buy the shiny new gadgets, expecting them to work miracles on their calcified, customer-repelling processes. Digital transformation -- and all the technologies associated with it -- is only the latest example. Companies attempt to put digital approaches in place, thinking they can do things cheaper, without funding the essential background work, such as data integration.

But the competitive pressure is intense: 85 percent said disruption in their industry has accelerated over the past 12 months. Thirty-five percent say the primary driver for digital transformation is advances made by competitors, 23 percent changes in regulation, and 20 percent pressure from customers - "meaning digital transformation is mostly being driven by reactive needs, instead of proactive ideas," the survey's authors conclude.

It takes a lot of work, coordination, and support from the organization: 95 percent of respondents believe that digital transformation can seem an insurmountable task. Digital transformation has been mostly driven by the IT function -- 76 percent of organizations rank it in the top three business functions driving their digital transformation in the last five years.

From a technology perspective, legacy systems hold things back: 87 percent of organizations find they have to scale back ambitions for new applications and services so that they will work with IoT or mobile devices, since these devices cannot match the data processing power of larger servers, and cannot guarantee a consistent connection Only 29 percent of organizations say they can use data in real-time, limiting the end-user experience and the types of services they can offer.

Still, there are tangible benefits to be gained from successful digital efforts. The Couchbase survey finds organizations with well-supported and thought-out digital transformation strategies report increased worker productivity (65 percent), improved business end-user experience (65 percent), improved compliance (69 percent), expansion into new regions (62 percent), and improved customer experience (55 percent).

The survey reports authors share the common denominator seen among successful digital enterprises: they focus their efforts on digital transformation projects across the organization: from business processes (85 percent) to customer-facing experiences and machine-to-machine services (both 81 percent) to worker-facing experiences (69 percent). "These organizations are succeeding because they recognize the potential that digital transformation brings to all areas of the business," they report. "Instead of being fixated in specific areas, they have been able to spot an opportunity for revolutionary transformation, and take it."


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