5 challenges holding back your digital strategy

June 30th 2022

4 min read

Digital business transformation, as visionary and ground-breaking as it may sound at an early stage of ideation, can be set back when the innovative ideas and technology meet the reality of introducing them into the business.  

Innovation-focused leaders who are responsible for delivering digital change, often face a range of challenges that prevent them from achieving the full potential of their digital strategy.  

In our Digital Product Delivery 2021 report, we spoke to more than 250 IT leaders to build a clear picture of what is holding their digital transformations back. 

We found several common themes that culminated in an inability to respond quickly to customer demand and deliver digital products and services to market at pace.  

1. Lack of clarity about the value of a digital product 

Our survey found that 40% of Chief Technical Officers (CTOs) struggle to clearly define the value of a digital product and what success looks like. This cascades down into digital delivery teams and ultimately means overall business goals are less likely to be reflected in, and driven by, their work.    

Sometimes value is easy to define – for example where a new tool is designed for a specific commercial outcome – but sometimes it is more ambiguous and harder to pin down. To create a culture of high-performing agile engineering teams, the value of a digital transformation needs to be understood and communicated across the business.  

Teams that understand how their work contributes to wider business goals will be able to prioritise their time and resources far more efficiently. 

2. Underused and under-analysed digital solutions 

According to our research less than a quarter of senior tech leaders say they have an “excellent handle” on how effective their digital investment is. While 57% say new capabilities are not used well or regularly analysed.  

This situation usually emerges when organisations view a digital transformation as a one-off event. They test a prototype and deploy it, rather than creating a continuous process of customer feedback and development. Without that loop, and the insights it provides from people using your products in the real world, problems go unnoticed, bad experiences aren’t remedied and users are likely to vote with their feet and move away from the product. 

3. Ineffective responses to customer demand  

Delivering change that meets rapidly shifting customer demand requires clarity and agility. Feedback loops will help to identify an issue, but pinpointing the solution is the next crucial step. 

Our research found that 32% organisations have not precisely defined what product innovation means to them, and without this precision, it is hard to quickly develop effective digital solutions.      

This reflects a disconnect between the vision, design and delivery of products and services, which often occurs in large organisations with numerous products and suppliers. Something that’s critical to overcome to achieve the full value from a digital strategy.   

4. Intermittent release of new features  

As customer expectations, markets and technologies rapidly evolve, organisations are having to focus significant time and effort on keeping up with the competition. In practice this means getting new features and updates to market as quickly as possible, continuously improving the product.  

Yet 72% of organisations we spoke to still release digital products monthly, quarterly or even yearly, rather than hourly, daily or weekly. This stifles innovation and reduces the value to, and feedback from, the end user.   

It also suggests that most organisations do not have the agile structures and processes in place to deliver enhanced products to market at speed. As the pace of change accelerates, establishing these agile frameworks is going to become ever more critical.    

5. The gap between vision and reality 

This is the ultimate challenge that all the previous issues are symptoms of. Does your digital strategy deliver what it promises? One in three digital leaders say no. 

They struggle to realise the vision and value they set out to achieve. The solution starts by defining that vision, but it also requires an organisation that is set up to deliver it. For many organisations a cultural transformation is required to break free from the constraints of 20th century structures.  

To do this successfully organisations need to reimagine themselves as a network of high-performing teams, prioritising flat, fluid structures and agile project management that encourages cross-function working. Interlinked teams focussed on creating value rather than simply delivering functional tasks – it’s a radical shift from the top-down structures that characterise much of the corporate world, but one that must be embraced to compete with the industry leaders of today. 

Overcoming these challenges 

While these challenges may sound insurmountable, through focused effort and careful planning, it is possible to resolve them. 

We helped our client Vodafone do just that, by embrace a new agile approach that removed its reliance on poorly-integrated and slow-moving monolithic legacy platforms.  

Enabling Vodafone to continuously ready, validate and roll out new features, multiple times a day, so users immediately feel the benefits.  

The results? Build times have reduced from 8 weeks to 30 minutes or less, and daily deployments have gone from 0 to 300.  

For more detail on how we supported Vodaphone on their journey and how to resolve these five common challenges that hold back enterprise-level digital strategies, read our full Digital Product Delivery Report here. 

Is it time to change? 

Many organisations experience one or more of these challenges as they embed their digital strategy.  

There will inevitably be bumps along the way, but by identifying and resolving these issues you can help to accelerate the digital transformation for your organisation.  

As a leading digital agency with 20 years of experience, we have developed a highly effective set of digital delivery frameworks which we use to support our clients on that journey.  

If your digital strategy is being blocked by any of these challenges, we’re here to help, book a discovery call to find out more.