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The Top 4 Barriers to Digital Transformation and How to Overcome Them

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The Top 4 Barriers to Digital Transformation and How to Overcome Them

Jul 7, 2022

John McCurdy
Business professionals gather together to explore ways to overcome challenges.

Six-time NBA champion and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan once said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.”

The basketball legend was speaking from his years of experience on the court, but the sentiment expressed and the mindset it encourages are applicable in the business world as well. No matter the industry or the nature of their operations, companies will always face challenges, and it takes a combination of creativity and resilience to address them successfully.

One of the tallest orders for any organization is tackling a large-scale change initiative, particularly a digital transformation. This endeavor—defined as the implementation of comprehensive, modern solutions to improve efficiency and effectiveness across multiple functions—takes time and requires a significant investment of resources in order to achieve the desired end.

If done correctly, the payoff is worth it, though. From increased efficiency and scalability to better data collection and customer satisfaction, the benefits of digital transformation are many and wide-reaching, having positive impacts across the board and equipping you for a future that is sure to be even faster-paced and more dynamic than today.

Still, you likely face some roadblocks that could hinder your business’s advance in this mission-critical journey, and the uncertainty they create might make it seem easier to just maintain the status quo. That’s why we’re here to discuss four of the biggest barriers to digital transformation and provide strategies for overcoming them.

Barrier 1: No Clear High-Level Vision or Goals

Not having a map—or, as is much more common these days, a GPS—when setting out to a new destination can be a nerve-wracking experience, and it’s likely to cause you issues later or even get you lost. If you think about digital transformation and can’t begin to imagine the path you’ll take, you probably aren’t going to be too eager to explore the matter further.

If you’re also not sure of what it is you really hope to accomplish with your digital transformation, that’s another recipe for disaster. Without a clear set of objectives, you can’t know if you’re taking steps in the right direction or simply changing for change’s sake.

Strategies for Success

For the above reasons, you should begin your digital transformation journey by forming a core group dedicated to the task that includes individuals from all departments and levels in your organization. Together, they should define your goals and set a vision for how the project will proceed, including timelines and distinct phases.

And if you don’t feel that your teams have the necessary experience to handle those tasks on their own, look for a solution vendor who does that can provide guidance to you throughout implementation. That helping hand from experts in the field can be invaluable in such a complex, involved process—just make sure they know your industry and have worked with companies like yours in the past.

Barrier 2: Legacy Systems and Information Siloes

You’d be hard-pressed to find a company that didn’t have at least some systems in place for their operations, even if they are paper-based or centered on spreadsheets saved to a single hard drive. Because they contain data that you want to preserve and processes to which your employees have become accustomed, it can seem impossible to do away with or replace them.

These kind of disparate and disjointed tech stacks also create information siloes, which makes it difficult to know where to look when you need to access or share certain facts or figures. You might not even know what you have and what you’re lacking if important resources are saved on a single hard drive that only a few teams can access.

Strategies for Success

To alleviate these problems, you should seek a solution that offers a “single source of truth” for your whole organization, like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. These all-in-one, cross-functional platforms enhance performance across all departments by providing high visibility for all of your data in a unified, intuitive interface shared across the entire company. This breaks down siloes and brings you up-to-date with a solid software foundation for digital transformation.

It would also be wise to familiarize yourself with best practices for data conversion, as you’ll likely be bringing over lots of historical records to your new platform. From determining the scope and creating the plan to mapping fields, translating codes, purging duplicate information and vetting converted data for errors, this step entails care and forethought, so dedicate adequate resources to it.

Barrier 3: Risk Averse Culture and Employee Pushback

A digital transformation can seem dramatic—it can seem like a full overhaul of your operations and how work gets done at your facilities. The journey will also require a considerable financial outlay, not to mention many hours on the part of your employees, and just as with any investment, it will come with some level of risk.

What’s more, some of your staff may perceive the change as scary, threatening or unwanted. There’s comfort in what’s familiar, and knowing that they’ve put in the effort to learn your current procedures and systems might make them resistant to the notion of tossing out the old and ushering in the new.

Strategies for Success

The key to overcoming this obstacle is making sure to prioritize clear and consistent communication from the very beginning of the digital transformation process. Involve your personnel early and often in decisions that will affect them, provide proper training and demonstrate your willingness to answer questions and provide guidance as necessary.

It’s also a good idea to reiterate your goals that you’ll reach through the initiative, as well as the advantages to the new solutions and systems you’re introducing. Through digital transformation, your personnel will be empowered to work on more strategic initiatives while lower value tasks are taken care of automatically by purpose-built solutions.

Barrier 4: Lack of Process Familiarity and Technical Expertise

If no one on your internal team has been through a digital transformation before, you might feel like you’re going in blind and can’t know what to expect from such a project. Will you need new hardware? Can your current equipment setup integrate with the new software you’re putting in place? Just how long will it be until you see results? What makes certain software solutions better than others? All of these are questions you may be asking yourself.

For that matter, it’s hardly a given that everyone at your company knows what an ERP is, let alone some of the other more specialized solutions you might consider putting in place like a warehouse management system (WMS), transportation management system (TMS) or product lifecycle management (PLM) platform. It’s certainly a tougher ask to get on board with a new platform if you don’t really understand it.

Strategies for Success

Here again, the best way to tackle these concerns is to rely on the expertise of your software provider and seek their advice on best practices throughout deployment of your new systems. At Aptean, we’re proud to act as a partner to our clients, assisting in the creation of a timeline for rollout, offering tips on how to go about the trickier steps and providing reliable support past the go-live date.

Finally, you should remind everyone that the change won’t happen overnight, and an adjustment period that allows all your staff to get up to speed is to be expected. Everyone will be in the same boat together, and the more hands on deck, the better chance you have of staying afloat and reaching the destination.

Aptean: The Name to Trust for Digital Transformation

As you begin to explore your options for the platforms that will form the basis of your digital transformation, you may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of different alternatives out there. It’s crucial to remember that they’re not all created equal, and any that claims to be everything to everyone will likely be missing some key features that a specialized business like yours needs.

As such, you should only consider systems that are specific to your industry and come with the tools you need for the unique challenges you face. We know well just how true this particular point is, and that’s why we’ve leveraged our decades of collective experience across the spectrum of functions and industries to create a full suite of solutions.

Whether your organization falls into the distribution, retail, apparel, process manufacturing, industrial manufacturing, equipment or food and beverage space, we have an ERP for you. We also have a complete ecosystem of complementary software packages, including products in the aforementioned WMS, TMS and PLM categories as well as Aptean Business Intelligence (BI), Aptean Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Aptean Pay, plus many more.

We’re ready to help you climb over, push through and work around the digital transformation obstacles we’ve outlined here, as well as any others that come up as we make the journey together. Find out why thousands of clients around the world have turned to Aptean for their business system needs and experience the difference our cutting-edge applications can make.

Learn more about Aptean’s full lineup of powerful solutions by contacting us today. We’re also happy to conduct a specialized demo at your request.

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