Barriers to Digital Transformation –

Choosing what technology to use is a difficult enough task for consumers, but with enterprise IT the stakes are higher – and the picture murkier, writes Jason Walsh


Image: Shutterstock/Dennis

A recent study published by enterprise software company IFS found that large enterprises are finding that their digital transformations are being held back by a surprising problem: an inability to define and measure the value of software investments.

Or maybe it’s not so surprising after all. Putting aside the fact that the definition of “digital transformation” has expanded, like blancmange, to become nebulous to the point of meaninglessness, how exactly should one quantify the return on investment in software, or even technology in general?

We know it matters, and we know that when technology is deployed for the right reasons and in the right way, there are measurable benefits in terms of efficiency and profit margins. But getting to that point requires a deep understanding of both the technology and the business in question, and that’s an obvious hurdle.


Simply put, information technology is a broad field made up of many specializations, and someone with a deep technology background does not necessarily understand the business world.

Also, given how IT permeates our daily lives, it can feel like the water we’re swimming in, but the reality is that much of our engagement with technology happens at a fairly superficial level.

Even the tech-savvy are unlikely to understand some basic enterprise technologies. Few IT people have ever encountered a mainframe for example, yet the entire financial system is built on them. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is pretty self-explanatory, but many of us have never come across it. Meanwhile, enterprise resource planning (ERP) runs entire businesses, but is opaque to most of us, so how can it be measured?

Add in deep technologies like containerization, and suddenly businesses are drowning in a flood of jargon, leading to a kind of impostor syndrome where people make decisions—or outsource them to consultants—with only a vague understanding of what a successful outcome would actually look like. This is an obvious recipe for failure (and, cynically, the need to have someone to blame may explain the popularity of hiring consultants to develop strategic plans).

But perhaps holding back on digital transformation, or at least some of the less popular aspects of digital transformation, might be a good idea. AIB told the Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Committee this week that its plans to shift account holders from branches to fully digital services were now “off the agenda” following a revolt from its customers.

In its defence, AIB was probably the victim of a wider discontent with the digitization of many essential services in society. While digital service delivery is highly desirable, there is a clear and growing frustration with businesses using technology to package a retreat from customer service.

One way to measure the success of enterprise software then might be “does it make our customers happier or does it make them angrier?”

Read more: Blog Blogs digital transformation IFS

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