Obstacles to digitisation
Executive Education / 16 June 2020
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Project Management Product Manager
Barbara Rave (M.A.) is a product manager in Frankfurt School’s Professional & Executive Education department. She designs continuing education programmes covering Strategy & Change Management and Technology & Operations.

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Are you currently planning the implementation of your digital strategy, but don’t know exactly how to go about it? In an earlier blog post, “Hasty vs. Strategic: Digitalisation in Germany“, we discussed how important good planning is when implementing digitisation in a corporate environment. In this post, we shed more light on the three most common obstacles to successful implementation and explain why you shouldn’t underestimate them.

1. Technical obstacles:

Technology is probably the biggest obstacle to digital transformation. Companies often fail due to an inadequate IT infrastructure, or even just inadequate bandwidth. To prepare for all eventualities, ask for a professional opinion on your implementation well in advance.

Assuming that both infrastructure and bandwidth have been optimised, companies often stumble over their own data policies. Compartmentalised databases – or data silos – result in all kinds of problems: multiple data input, “dead records”, or incompatible formats or systems. This kind of data chaos, usually the cumulative result of legacy developments, makes systematic digital management almost impossible and obstructs data analytics. Before you tackle digitisation, you must first finish systematising and merging your databases – potentially a very time-consuming project!

Ensure that your internal interfaces are all working. Business processes that lack transparency can significantly increase workloads. For example: Your CRM system doesn’t know that certain customers haven’t paid their invoices, because this information isn’t automatically transferred from the accounting system (silo). And accounting isn’t aware that the reason customers haven’t paid their invoices is because they haven’t yet received their goods – the delivery details are tucked away in the warehousing system (another silo).

Here, startups have an advantage over “older” companies because they can set up centralised data repositories and systems right from the start, making it much easier for them to use data systematically and so automate many of their processes from the outset.

2. Business obstacles:

Implementing a digital strategy takes time, both at the planning stage and during the actual rollout. Often the human and financial budget runs out halfway through the process, before the implementation objectives have been achieved. Think about establishing adequate buffers for scheduling and funding.

3. Emotional obstacles:

Overload, inadequate information, powerlessness, lack of motivation – these are just some of the emotions felt by employees as a change project becomes imminent. If the stress is too great, this anxiety ceases to drive a desire for change and instead, activates defensive mechanisms that may in turn cause them to become less productive or less cooperative, or maybe even sabotage the project. So introduce a transparent corporate culture well in advance of your projects and explain the planned steps and goals to your employees. By providing enough information and bringing all those affected onboard at an early stage, you can ensure they all positively accept the upcoming changes.

In addition, choose your project team members carefully. You should only involve people who are prepared to work actively and consistently on your digitisation project. Sporadic collaboration is more likely to cause trouble than produce results. What’s more, your senior management team should express full, unconditional support for the project, aiming to overcome the emotional barriers. Only by identifying these obstacles in good time and communicating them transparently can you realistically expect to overcome them.

You’ve anticipated all three obstacles and taken the necessary steps to avoid them? Good for you – go for it!

We’re always happy to answer any questions you might have about our continuing education courses in the fields of project management and/or digitisation.