Why digital transformations fail

The rate of digital transformation is unprecedented. In recent weeks, some organizations have implemented 3-5 year plans in a matter of days to ensure business continues and employees are able to work remote.

ARTICLE | 4m read
April 28, 2020

In the midst of all of this rapid change and adoption of new digital technology, prioritizing employee experience is more important than ever. Because if employees don’t feel supported through the change, or trained on how to utilize the technology, the intended outcomes of the transformation aren’t realized and ultimately, customer experience suffers. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the reason 70 percent of digital transformations fail is a lack of user adoption and behavioral change.

Executive summary

  • Why employee adoption is one of the main challenges for digital transformation
  • Proven ways to support successful adoption of your new technology
  • Pitfalls to avoid during digital transformation strategy and efforts

Why user adoption is the main challenge for digital transformation

For enterprises today, embracing technological change is a mandate. Digital disruption will wipe out an estimated 40% of today’s Fortune 500 companies, making it crucial for your organization to master digital transformation in order to compete. However, introducing new workplace technology without also considering user adoption is like buying a top-of-the-line sports car without making sure your driver can operate a manual transmission. It doesn’t matter how powerful your new solution is if your employees cannot use it effectively.

Beyond training, a great deal of new technology is too complex to offer a good employee experience. Rather than intuitively enabling employees to work smarter and more efficiently, too many new workplace technologies overwhelm users with constant notifications and poor workflows. The result is technology that promised to boost innovation and productivity instead produces distraction and frustration. Gallup estimates this employee disengagement is costing the world $7 trillion in lost productivity.

To drive continued user adoption through digital transformation, start with listening

You’ve already enabled employees to work remote. And you may have scaled this up fairly rapidly to meet the real time need. Now your priority is ensuring the technology fully supports your employees, rather than just simply giving them access from anywhere. Build on the knowledge you already have of various employee use cases, asking questions like:

  • How would you rate your recent experience with our workplace technology?
  • What workplace technology attributes are most important to you? 
  • What are your daily pain points and frustrations? 
  • How could the new tools we adopt make you work more engaging and productive?

By conducting this kind of internal research as you re-evaluate technology partners, or consider additional solutions for your longer-term transformation process, you’re more likely to choose technology your employees actually want to use. At the same time, you will make their buy-in more likely because you involved them in the decision-making process.

Avoid these pitfalls during digital transformation

Once you have considered the ease of use of your current technology, developed a preliminary training plan with key goals, and have heard from your employees regarding their current and desired workplace technology experience, you’re well on your way to a successful digital transformation.

That said, there are still user adoption pitfalls to avoid on your digital transformation journey.


of today’s Fortune 500 will suffer from digital disruption.


is the cost of employee disengagemen

Here are three to look out for:

1. Lackluster training

Even the best-designed technology requires quality training if you want employees to use it effectively. Design a tiered training strategy to fit different levels of expertise across your teams, create clear and easy-to-search documentation to answer questions, and tap your user adoption champions to help coordinate onboarding across your organization.

2. Ineffective communication

Only 13% of US workers strongly agree their leadership communicates effectively—and times of change are when good communication is most vital. Everyone in your organization should know the projected milestone schedule for transitioning to the new tools. Be sure all staff know who to ask if they have issues, and provide one shared version of the truth for each question. Above all, remember to include the “why” behind your digital transformation in every aspect of your communication about the project.

3. No optimization after implementation

Avoid resting on your laurels after you finish implementing your new technology. Continue to gather user feedback into your growth cycle so you can tune your new technology as needed. You should also analyze the ROI of your solution to ensure it’s delivering the value you budgeted. By using this insight to optimize your new solution after implementation, you can add value and longevity while also supporting user adoption over time.

User adoption is essential to digital transformation

Digital transformation is hard. And the journey can be made even more challenging when the unforeseen circumstances expedited the transformation.

You are adopting technology, equipped with artificial intelligence in some instances, meant to effect big change in how your organization operates. That in mind, the last thing you want to do is try to tackle digital transformation without gaining the buy-in and support of the employees who will use this new technology for everyday work. By focusing on employees first, you increase the likelihood your digital transformation will succeed while also showing your employees you value their perspective and put their needs first.


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