Cultural Pitfalls of Digital Transformation: Part II

If you missed part I last week, don’t forget to read the full post here. What you build is as important as how you build it; in this blog series, we chose to highlight two very similar digital transformation projects – completed successfully as reported by project stakeholders – with very different results of implementation.

While Company A resulted in continued struggles, potentially reducing productivity or, at worst, risking key personnel leaving as a result of the modernization effort, let’s dive into Company B and see how they fared:

Company B is a healthcare manufacturing company specializing in customized, 3D-printed guides for spinal screw placements. The technology was excellent, and the company was experiencing explosive growth. Cases to manufacture had nearly doubled in a year, and the spreadsheet they were using to manage the 8 step and 35 sub-step process was bursting at the seams. The spreadsheet had so many automation points that it took 30 minutes to run, and ran every hour – resulting in a continuous 30-minute copy-and-paste frenzy to get any requested information out of the system in time.

FortyAU spent the first 100 hours of the 1200-hour project working closely with operations stakeholders, documenting the process, suggesting and implementing efficiencies, creating wireframes, mock screens and detailed requirements. This process provided all end-user stakeholders input, oversight and, most importantly ownership of the final solution. All of this took place before the first line of code was ever written.

Because of the detailed documentation, discovery, design and planning phase – there were no major changes or pivots during the development phase, which was completed ahead of schedule and budget. The remaining time was used for tweaks and minor changes identified once the product was used for their operations, thus optimizing it even more.

Once the planning phase was complete, there was no need to spend additional time on cultural integration of the product; the operations team was trusted and empowered to build the product to their specifications, with FortyAU acting as facilitator to understand the options and power of digitization.

The question was not if they were going to be using the product, the question was how and what modern features to take advantage of.

This approach, compared to the approach with Company A, resulted in a much more successful result in client engagement, product feedback and functionality, and business outcome. The ability for project stakeholders and executive leadership to drive participation of all users of the product early in the development process – or even earlier during discovery and design – builds collaboration and commitment to the final product.

Additionally, the willingness of executive management to cede control of operational processes to their expert practitioners during major digital transformation efforts will always reap rewards in alignment, ownership, and engagement.


The fact remains – most major organizational transforma-tions fail. However, when they succeed the results can be spectacular. The frequent failures typically result not from a bad technology strategy, but because the actual people involved fail to fully embrace the new tools and processes.

Tech leaders need to understand that solutions built to dis- rupt their competitors often wreak havoc internally on their teams as well. Most employees and organizations thrive on predictable, efficient and reliable processes to execute and deliver for their customers. In many ways, “disruption” is the last thing that everyday employees are looking for.

However simply supporting the status quo, and never tak- ing on risk, will eventually lead to obsolescence. The best organizations need to leverage the transformative, power- ful benefits tech solutions can bring without alienating the very people they are intended to help. Leaders today have to live in this tension and skillfully navigate the promise of digital transformation while seeking to reduce internal dis- ruption and chaos.

For more information on how to skillfully navigate change initiatives, please reach out and see if FortyAU may be the right partner for your organization.

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