At its core, a digital transformation is all about taking the business you have today and helping it evolve into the organization you WANT to be running tomorrow through a newer and more innovative approach to technology. It’s a way to modernize your infrastructure, improve user experience, and create a bold new company culture — all at the exact same time.
It is possible to get this all wrong, however, and the results could be disastrous if you’re not careful. By understanding the top five causes of digital transformation failure, you can take steps to avoid them at all costs.
The Myth of the “We Can Do It Ourselves” Mentality
One of the most admirable things about the entrepreneurial spirit is the idea that “we can do it all ourselves.” After all, the mentality that “there’s no better person for the job than me” is a big part of the reason you are where you are right now. It’s why businesses thrive and enjoy a tremendous amount of success because of it.
It also, unfortunately, happens to be another one of the major reasons why digital transformations fail.
This is especially true when it comes to technology partners, who a lot of people make the mistake of viewing less as an organic part of the execution strategy and more like an afterthought. Make no mistake about it: they are NOT passive third parties who are going to come in when you tell them to, do what you tell them to, and leave, never to be heard from again.
If your digital transformation is going to succeed, you can’t be afraid to ask for help — and that’s especially true in terms of finding partners to come in and fill a few of the tech-related gaps that you may have. These partners need to be a part of your execution strategy from the moment you start working on it and they need to be willing to stand by your side and lend a helping hand every step of the way.
Scaling Too Quickly is Just as Bad as Not Scaling at All
Most of the time, the types of people who initiate changes want to see results as quickly as possible. This is all well and good — unless you’re trying to implement several changes at once as you would be in a digital transformation. It’s impossible to control everything at that type of speed, so don’t even try.
Instead, slow down and pay attention to those little details. Digital transformation is BORN from those details. Scale and transform processes one-by-one and just remember — there really is no need to rush.
The Bottom-Up Approach
Another one of the reasons why many digital transformations fail has to do with the Bottom-Up Approach. That is, the advocacy for the digital transformation process begins with one or maybe even a select few employees who love the idea of automating processes, implementing new technologies, or changing the company culture in some appreciable way.
This is all great — but it requires them to essentially work their way UP the organization, getting buy-in from all key stakeholders along the way. While it’s likely that they’ll be able to get a lot of their contemporaries onboard, they’ll almost never be able to achieve 100% support — thus dooming a digital transformation initiative before it ever really had a chance to get off the ground.
By far, one of the major reasons why a lot of digital transformations fail comes down to siloed activity and especially siloed information. Never forget that a true digital transformation is all about allowing a business to evolve from its very core — so anything less than an “all hands on deck” approach simply won’t suffice.
But if one department is engaged in activities that another is totally unaware of, how are they supposed to work with and complement one another? How will Department A be able to understand that what they’re doing will have a very real impact on Department B? If information is siloed because departments and individuals still want to use their own systems, how is any type of collaboration supposed to take place at all?
Thankfully, avoiding this type of situation altogether is easy — you just have to make sure that you have the right tools and resources in place before your digital transformation begins. One of those will undoubtedly be an information management platform, with M-Files being among the most prominent examples. Here, it doesn’t matter where critical information for your digital transformation happens to be stored — M-Files automatically works with many different repositories to bring everything together. All data is available via a straightforward interface that everyone in a business can access — thus allowing information to flow freely across your enterprise during a time when that is desperately needed.
Unclear Goals Always Create a Resistance to Change
Finally, we arrive at the idea of unclear goals — a problem that a lot of people don’t realize even exists until it’s far too late.
If your only goal for your digital transformation is “embrace new technology” or “gain a competitive advantage,” that really isn’t as specific as you think it is. Before you begin your digital transformation, you need to sit down and think about what you’re really trying to do. Are you trying to bring about a strategic initiative that will help your business reach a new level of revenue? Is there some other type of specific, precise business goal you have in mind? Are you trying to take advantage of process automation, remote working, or something of that nature?
It doesn’t actually matter what it is — so long as the goal itself is clear at the beginning of this process. Unclear business goals are also unfortunately the ones that you’ll have the most difficult time explaining to your employees — meaning that it’s going to be hard to get them on board, too. This almost always creates a resistance to change that is difficult to course correct from, which is why you’d want to avoid this type of situation in the first place.
In the end, don’t forget that digital transformation will impact both the experience you’re offering to your customers AND your company culture in one fell swoop. If you make the types of mistakes as outlined above, you run the risk of damaging both, at once. But if everything goes off the way it should, you’ll have the makings of genuine competitive advantage in both fields that will serve you well for years to come.
Low code, which emerged onto the technology scene in 2014, has taken the application development market by storm. Enterprises across all industries are rapidly adopting low code solutions, especially following the unprecedented demand for digitization in 2020as a result of COVID-19. A recent Gartner survey estimated that by 2024, more than 65% of application development will be done on low code platforms and 75% for both IT application development and citizen development initiatives.
Practical Application: Understanding the Scope of Low Code
Imagine you’ve successfully purchased and implemented a low code solution, investing a significant amount of money and time into achieving your digital goals. What can you do to make sure your success isn’t just a one-time thing?
Especially at a time when most organizations are thinking about cost efficiency and practical efficacy, you must consider ways to scale your low code solution and increase your ROI.
Drive standardization through rapid application delivery
The rapid application delivery capabilities of a low code solution are integral to large-scale digitization, standardization, and governance. The ability to quickly develop applications enables data access and integrity, privacy, security, integration, and more. By quickly developing applications and updates, you can set a standard model for workflows and execute processes in a uniform way across different parts of the organization. You can even incorporate feedback from current users to develop quick fixes for future projects
Optimize results through integration
Avoid building all your applications and workflows natively using your low code platform. Instead, seamlessly integrate with other tools and technologies to fill business gaps and specific requirements that your low code solution cannot address. Maximizing external tools enhances the overall productivity of your operations and eliminates the need to expend your resources on building a similar tool internally
Use the right mix of technologies
To ensure that you are getting the maximum return on your low code investment, you must use an appropriate mix of technologies, rather than relying on a single tool. Think of ways to incorporate a variety of new-age technologies into your operations, especially the more complex processes. Strategically augment your low code solution by implementing robotic process automation, dynamic case management, rules and decisioning engines, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and more
Capitalize on citizen developers
Tap into your non-IT talent and expand their skillset by training them to use your low code development tools to create applications and updates. Share the IT team’s workload with your citizen developers, allowing your IT to merely oversee application development and focus on more complex issues. Additionally, commit to creating a community platform, like a developer forum, to quickly collaborate with all types of developers on best practices, ideas, and resources
Respond to the unexpected
Quickly respond to unforeseen changes, problems, requirements, and more by leveraging the agility and scalability of your low code platform. Create a customized solution for any business need, without sacrificing on speed or quality. Deliver results within days, or even hours, rather than waiting months for application and workflow updates
The future is, unequivocally, based on low code. And as we continue to navigate the unprecedented in 2021, it is imperative that you optimize your investment and get a bang for your buck!
The sheer volume of information being created on a daily basis by the average business is staggering. In fact, it’s been estimated that more data has been created in the last two years alone than in the entirety of human history leading up to that point. Contained inside that data is the insight that officials need to make better and more informed decisions about where their company is headed — but this can be a difficult point to get to when wading through all that data becomes an overwhelming uphill battle.
This is also one of the major reasons why metadata is so important. At its core, the term metadata refers to a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. In other words, it’s that brief description you write or those keywords that you use to quickly determine what is in a document before you open it. Metadata is incredibly useful if used properly — but that, too, becomes a challenge as an enterprise grows in scope and scale.
In no uncertain terms: the information that businesses create is ultimately only as useful as the metadata attached to it for categorization purposes. Without the right metadata structure in place, critical insight and other information is hard to find on the best of days. Not only that, but this creates additional problems like data being classified improperly, data that lacks a clear relationship to similar important data, a system that isn’t set up to support process-driven workflows, and more.
From that perspective, metadata is absolutely as important as the data itself. This is true for a number of reasons, all of which are worth exploring.
Why Metadata Matters
Maybe the biggest reason why metadata is so important comes down to the primary role it’s supposed to play. You’re classifying important insights so that you can understand what the content actually is, rather than just what it is named or where it’s located. In fact, when skipping out on the metadata, it’s like leaving money on the table.
Think about it within the context of the metadata attached to song files on popular music services like Pandora, Spotify, or iTunes. Here, you get more than just a file name when you search. You get the name of the artist. You get the genre of music the song falls into. You get the name of the album, the year it was published, related songs from the same or similar artists, and more.
Without all of this metadata, you would just have a massive cesspool of millions of songs and no way to find the ones you actually want. If you were looking for that great song that you always loved hearing on the radio but only knew it by the (incorrect) name Teenage Wasteland, you’re going to have a really difficult time finding what you’re looking for. But if you know anything else about it — like the fact that it was recorded by The Who and appeared on the album Who’s Next, it would be a matter of seconds before you found your treasure Baba O’Riley, the first track on the album and one of the band’s biggest hits of all-time.
Within the context of your business, metadata functions in much the same way. If you know even a little bit about what you need, or how it’s related to something else, you can always find what you’re looking for. But without that underlying metadata structure, you’re really looking at little more than countless files sitting on a hard drive somewhere that you don’t really know how to extract value from. Once that information has been “located” using the metadata, that effort comes with the added benefit of making that data even easier to find later.
Another one of the major reasons why metadata is so important is because you can use it to easily relate a particular file to other essential information. With the right information management platform at the heart of your efforts, even if data is stored in different data sources, you can still find absolutely everything you need relating to a project or another file just by using the metadata itself. Say a project has ten important files associated with it, all of which are spread out among network hard drives, Salesforce, SharePoint, OneDrive, and similar services. You either need to know exactly what is stored where and go looking for it every time. With a document management solution like M-Files, you can use the metadata to gain access to what you need instantly.
The Importance of Metadata for Your Organization
But really, the major benefit that metadata brings to the table involves how it impacts the way you and your employees are able to complete important tasks on a daily basis.
If metadata is collated across the enterprise by way of an overarching information management system, it enables other important features — like workflows to automate business processes and dynamic custom permissions for information security. So not only do you have to spend less time (and less money) on information security and worrying about critical information falling into the wrong hands, but manual, repetitive business processes can be automated. This saves a tremendous amount of time for your average employee, as every minute they’re NOT spending trying to locate an important file is a minute they’re spending actually acting on the important information inside. This in turn brings with it the most important benefit of all: unlocking the maximum productivity potential of your entire workforce, all while allowing them to work smarter, not harder, along the way.
The maintenance team at Century Aluminum was fighting an uphill battle from day one.
“The philosophy has been, ‘It’s what goes out the door that counts,” said millwright Linda Sibley in this interview with Reliable Plant, “not how well the machinery is running.”
Pumping out product, equipment health be damned, was obviously not a sustainable model. It fueled a culture of reactive thinking, leading to lots of breakdowns, data shortages, low morale, and much more.
“When you are in such a reactive mode, it’s next to impossible to do much planning. It’s all about putting out fires,” said maintenance planner Todd Harrison.
Needless to say, there was a hunger for change. But despite the maintenance department’s best efforts, the preventive maintenance program struggled to get off the ground. The reason progress stalled could be linked back to one thing: Poor maintenance planning and scheduling.
Probably one-third of the PMs are no good,” said maintenance manager Jim Doeffinger. “We waste time doing irrelevant PMs.”
No one wants to constantly take two steps forward and one step back. That’s why this post will go in-depth on best practices and simple frameworks for strong maintenance planning and work order scheduling.
How to get really good at maintenance planning
There are two ingredients you need to be really good at planning work orders:
Clear goals for maintenance that align with the goals of the organization
A way to prioritize maintenance activities based on your goals
All your work processes, schedules, training, and SOPs flow from your goals and priorities.
“You really need to go back to the fundamentals of the organization and find out what they’re objectives are for maintenance,” says Charles Rogers, a Senior Implementation Consultant at Fiix with over 33 years of experience in maintenance and reliability.
Four steps for aligning maintenance goals with business goals
A handy four-step process will help you align the organization’s goals with your maintenance plans:
Confirm the goals of your organization. Your business may be looking to accomplish something really specific, like decreasing the cost-per-item. Or the goal might be a little less tangible, like entering new markets.
Link maintenance KPIs to business goals. If reducing the cost-per-item is the big goal, maintenance could focus on reducing downtime and maintenance costs. If entering new markets is the target, you might want to standardize maintenance processes so they can be repeated at other sites.
Choose your maintenance metrics. Set up metrics and benchmarks so you can track progress and measure success. For example, if you want to prevent unplanned downtime, you might track faults found and fixed through PMs on critical equipment.
Plan maintenance activities to hit your targets. Let’s say your aim is to find problems with critical equipment before they cause failure. In this scenario, you have to figure out what your critical equipment is, how often it should be inspected, and what needs to be included in work orders for those assets.
How to get really good at maintenance scheduling
“Some people think a lot of scheduled maintenance is good and more is better,” says Charles.
“Those people are wrong. Doing PMs for the sake of filling a quota is costly and often increases the chance of breakdowns.”
The number of failed inspections per PM is the true mark of scheduled maintenance success, says Charles. Every problem you catch during a PM is an asset failure avoided.
And that’s the secret to really good maintenance scheduling: The constant tweaking of PM frequencies to find the right balance between too often and not often enough.
How to optimize preventive maintenance frequencies
The PDCA model (Plan, Do, Check, Act) is a framework for finding the right PM schedule over time:
Plan: Create a baseline for PM frequencies by looking at recommended guidelines, repair history, criticality, and usage patterns for an asset.
Do: Follow your plan consistently for accurate results.
Check: Look at failure metrics for each asset to determine if your plan is working.
Act: Fine-tune your PM frequencies based on your findings. Increase the frequency if an asset is breaking down between PMs. Reduce the frequency if your PMs don’t find failures or if the number of breakdowns between PMs is low.
Warning: This process is not quick. It takes a while to go around this cycle and implement improvements. But you will see improvements, including longer MTBF intervals, fewer labor hours, and fewer costs for spare parts and supplies.
How to convince people that maintenance needs to be done
“We would fight operations just to get a little bit of maintenance on a machine,” says Jason Afara, a Solutions Engineer at Fiix, remembering his time as a maintenance manager.
Although the tension between maintenance and operations isn’t going anywhere, a maintenance plan and maintenance schedule can’t reach its full potential without buy-in from production.
“This is where maintenance departments usually fail because they don’t have data to back up their asks,” says Charles.
“You have to be able to prove your case and show evidence that if you don’t do maintenance on schedule, there will be much worse consequences at some point—probably sooner than later.”
Creating a culture that chooses preventive maintenance over reactive maintenance doesn’t happen in a day. It can take years and a lot of conversations with everyone from CEOs to operators for it to stick.
Scheduling around seasonality and sudden production changes
In a perfect world, plans would never change and your maintenance schedule would run like clockwork. But we don’t live in a perfect world. The holiday season can lead to a huge spike in orders. A global recession could completely dry up demand.
When things shift at your company, your maintenance must shift too. One way to stay flexible is with your maintenance schedule. This doesn’t mean abandoning all the plans you’ve put in place. Actually, it’s the opposite, says Charles.
“This is when it’s super critical to understand your asset criticality and asset priorities,” says Charles.
Knowing the needs of each critical asset is what helps you create schedules and justify maintenance windows required to ensure healthy equipment.
“It also becomes very critical to understand how assets need to be shut down and started back up so that they function as best they can in those situations,” explains Charles.
Plan work orders that cover all the nuances of each equipment and each task. Build airtight SOPs with this information so delays don’t make stopping and starting equipment even harder.
Everything you just read in three sentences
Having crystal clear goals for your work orders will give you a clear direction for all your decisions around maintenance planning and scheduling.
Never set your maintenance schedules in stone and always keep looking for ways to optimize each work order so you’re doing it at the right frequencies.
If you had to make a list of some of the major reasons why an information management project might fail — particularly those that are a part of full scale digital transformations — a lack of executive buy-in would undoubtedly be right at the top.
Getting the blessing of your company leadership is about more than just securing the funds needed to execute the project in the first place. True digital transformation requires a culture willing to embrace what is about to happen. It requires people to be able to see the very real benefits they’ll get at the end of these efforts. It relies on everyone being on the same page and moving in the same direction at all times, all while mitigating the common risks as much as possible along the way. This isn’t just difficult to achieve without total buy-in from executives and other key stakeholders.
It’s largely impossible.
But thankfully, all hope is not lost. Getting your executives’ blessing for your information management project is actually a lot more straightforward than you might think it to be. You just have to keep a few key things in mind along the way.
More often than not, it comes down to an issue of communication: one where you’ve thus far been unable to explain the true value of what you’re proposing. Other times, company leaders are simply not in a position to clearly see the end result quite yet. They know what you want to do but are less sold on the “why” of it all.
Regardless, these are things that you can absolutely control with the right approach. However, it may require an adjustment from the way you’ve been doing things up to this point.
Frame the Information Management Project Properly and Establish a Vision that Justifies Its Own Existence
You need to make sure that you’re framing the project in a way that makes financial sense as quickly as possible. Any type of information management project is capital investment — to say nothing of how much work people are going to have to put in. Rather than letting your executive team get hung up on the costs, emphasize the value that they’re getting in return.
Yes, the project might cost $X to complete. But if you save $Y per month and are projected to see a return on investment in a year and a half, suddenly you’ll have a much easier time making your argument.
Regardless, you need to make sure that you’re establishing a vision for the project that justifies the change. The destination has to be worth the journey it takes to get there, so to speak. No matter what type of project you’re talking about, boil everything down to the two core essentials:
Here is what we need to do, and
Here is what we’re going to get in return.
So long as “what we’re going to get in return” is more beneficial and valuable than the effort required for the project itself, you absolutely have the makings of a transformation that justifies its own existence. At that point, executive buy-in is as simple as communicating those points as clearly and as succinctly as possible.
Maybe cost-cutting is an important topic that your leadership is focused on. In that case, you would want to go into more detail about how legacy information management solutions (and all of the frustrating data silos that they create) are enormously expensive. If critical data is trapped in a single solution, it isn’t being moved freely across an enterprise. The people who need access to that insight don’t have it and they’re usually missing opportunities and making poor decisions as a result of it.
Not only would you be able to save on labor by replacing that legacy system with something new, but the new system itself would be cheaper by default. Suddenly, you’ve made a far more compelling argument in favor of your project that speaks directly to the heart of what your management team is focused on.
If revenue generation is the topic of the day, you could point out how your new information management project would allow you to eliminate manual tasks through automation so that employees can focus all of their attention on the most important matter of all: their clients. By creating an environment where technology can execute all of those manual tasks (while also eliminating human error), everyone will be able to provide a better customer experience with a seamless flow of information between departments and to your customers.
It doesn’t actually matter what your executives’ number one priority happens to be. The two above examples could easily be talking about the same project; they’re just taking two totally different approaches to the discussion. So long as you figure out what is most important to your executives and steer the conversation in that direction, you’ll have a far easier time getting everyone on board.