July 1, 2022

Common Barriers to Digital Transformation and How to Overcome Them

What are the common barriers to digital transformation for businesses?


Digital transformation seems like an obvious goal for any business, but sometimes its easier said than done. There are plenty of barriers to digitalization, but that doesnt mean you should give up on your efforts to make your business more modern and efficient.

But what would you say if someone asked you what the biggest barriers are to your digital transformation? Would you know where to begin in identifying and overcoming these hurdles?

Lets take a look at some of the most common reasons people give when they arent making progress towards modernizing their business, and how to overcome them by focusing on why its important and what you have to gain from achieving it.

Identifying the Common Barriers

Here are 8 common barriers to digital transformation and how you can overcome them so that you can have the business you need in todays rapidly changing world.

  • Fear of Change

The potential for employee resistance to digitalization is one of its biggest barriers. Thats because change can be hard, but with a little planning, you can ensure that your company begins making progress towards its goals sooner rather than later.

There are three main things you need to communicate in this part: how your employees jobs will evolve; what your employees can expect in terms of training; and how they will be rewarded for their effort.

The key is communicating these details clearly, effectively, and early on so that employees start seeing how their work will evolve alongside your organization. If youre not sure where or how to start communicating, begin by holding forums in which you solicit ideas from groups of employees at different levels of seniority within your company or organization.

  • Inadequate Executive Support

According to studies, almost half of company leaders lack confidence in their own abilities to direct digital transformations. Often, those same execs arent fully educated on why or how these changes need to happenand arent convinced theres value in making them.

Its up to CIOs and other senior-level staff members to provide leadership with actionable strategies they can sink their teeth into and demonstrate how digital transformation will benefit not only employees but also customers, shareholders, etc.

To do that you must first clearly understand your industrys needs (brought about by shifts in technology trends) as well as the technological capabilities of your organization.

  • Lack of a Clear Vision

The digital world moves fast. For organizations that dont have a clear vision of where they want to go, keeping up can seem impossible. And if you dont know where you want to go, how will you know when you get there?

It all starts with a vision for how your organization will look in three years (or five years) once it has gone through its digitalization process. This could mean transitioning into an entirely new industry or going after a completely different customer base. The first step is being able to clearly articulate that visionand a lack of it is often one of those common blockers standing in your way.

  • Insufficient Resources

When starting to transform your company, you should be prepared for an initial period of uncertainty as your employees figure out how to transition their processes. During that time, youll likely have limited resources at your disposal, meaning youll need to pick which digital projects will make your firm a success.

Having too many digital projects in progress can lead to miscommunication between departments, meaning key initiatives might not be implemented effectively or on time.

To prevent miscommunication between departments and issues with project management, gather all of your staff for an offsite meeting where everyone is able to discuss their responsibilities moving forward. Additionally, any new hires can get up-to-speed by being fully integrated into all facets of your organizations strategic vision from day one.

  • Bureaucracy and Workflow

Even with a solid team, getting everyone on board can be tough. Businesses must change how they work to ensure that their employees will use new technologies effectively.

Even if leadership is fully committed, it might be hard for employees who are used to outdated ways of doing things, such as an outmoded project management process or complex reports.

If youre hoping your whole team will learn how to install a USB 2.0 ethernet adapter driver or learn a new system, its important that you break down each step of your modernization plan into smaller chunks so that people can get comfortable with new ways of working one step at a time.

  • Poor Communication

Most companies that havent yet made big strides in digital transformation arent doing so because their teams arent on board. They have bought into their own hype. A failure of leadership, therefore, can be seen as a barrier between corporate vision and goal achievement.

Having an open, honest conversation with your team will help break down any wall that might exist between you and your goals. Your employees are as invested in your success as you are or they should be if they care about their careers. Be honest with them about what challenges you face moving forward and brainstorm ways to overcome them together.

  • Buy-In at All Levels

Organizations need buy-in at all levels in order for digital transformation initiatives to be successful. The commitment of executives is critical, but its not enough. Even if they support improvement efforts, company-wide shifts have a hard time taking hold without employee buy-in.

Only with widespread engagement can employees see new ways of working as ways of improving their own efficiency and making their jobs easier. Executives must therefore set an example by embracing their own transformations, treating new technologies as productivity tools that make work easiernot as shiny objects to distract them from what really matters: creating value for customers.

  • Technology Choice

One of the most common barriers to digitalization is technology, but that doesnt mean you need to throw your hands up in defeat. There are many obstacles standing in the way of your successful transformation, but with a little brainstorming and careful planning, you can overcome them all.

Digital transformation isnt an easy process, but with the right amount of work and the right technology, it can be achieved.

Overcoming the Hurdles

Everyone wants to be digital, and everyone talks about it. But is your business prepared to overcome the hurdles that go with digital transformation?

If you are uncertain, here are some ways to begin with:

  • Invest in the right talent

While changing your technology wont be easy, its a whole lot easier when you have great people around you. If your organization is filled with people who are afraid of change or just arent open to trying new things, then implementing digital transformation will be that much harder.

While a leadership team filled with innovators can bring great ideas forward, they will likely not succeed without a motivated team behind them. That is why businesses should look to hire people that embrace technology and want to learn something new every day.

Finding these professionals doesnt necessarily mean that you need more tech-savvy employees; rather, you need folks that understand what digital advancement can do for their organization no matter what business line they work in.

  • Encourage internal collaboration

A key part of digital transformation is moving away from siloed, departmentalized projects toward solutions that require collaboration across teams. More often than not, youll find yourself relying on input from people in departments youve never worked with before. That takes timeand not everyone has it.

If digitalization is a priority for your organization, then one of your jobs will be to encourage collaboration and avoid complacency. Provide leadership by developing clear expectations and ensuring that critical deadlines are met.

  • Prioritize time for training

You dont have to do it alone when it comes to digital transformation. Make sure your team is trained in new tools, strategies, or processesand offer a bonus for doing so. Youll get more people on board with your mission, and get them there faster.

Training will also help you spot holes in your strategy; for example, are you neglecting a department that would benefit from digitalization? If training goes smoothly, then give employees some time off from their usual jobs so they can build new skills on company time. Then assign them work that requires those skills.

Giving them permissionin addition to compensationto work on something beyond their usual job description will keep them motivated while helping you meet business goals.

  • Create a culture of innovation

For any business looking to move forward with digital transformation, its important that there is a clear vision for what success will look like. If you dont know what you want your organization to achieve, how will you measure whether or not youve been successful?

Before starting your project, work with your team and management to come up with a list of goals that reflect success. How can digital make your organization more competitive? What areas of operations can be streamlined by integrating technology into existing processes?

Also, think about why you are undertaking digital transformation in the first place; do you feel threatened by competing organizations? Are their new technologies emerging in your industry that might benefit from integration into current systems? Think carefully about these questions before getting started.

  • Know what you want to achieve

The purpose of digital transformation is simpleyou want your customers to be happy. Why? Because happy customers are loyal customers. And that means theyll do business with you, return again and again, and recommend your company (and maybe even sell your products) without you having to ask.

What kinds of things make people happy? Simplicity is a good place to start: asking yourself what pain points drive customers crazy and coming up with ways to solve them.

  • Budget for it!

Typically, digital transformation is a costly endeavor. However, that doesnt mean it has to be. At larger companies, digitalization projects can cost hundreds of thousands of dollarsand even those are often considered a small change for successful strategies.

Startups and other smaller organizations may lack such budget-busting budgets, but dont let that hold you back from developing a digital presence. Consider bootstrapping your way into smart business practices with practical solutions such as easy-to-use web forms or step-by-step instructions for your customers instead of expensive applications (and dont forget mobile app alternatives). You can also reduce costs by partnering with outside entities.

  • Measure your progress

One thing thats often overlooked when starting a business is simply making sure you keep track of your progress. That way, if something isnt working, you can tweak it along the way to get back on track.

An easy way to measure your progress is by establishing benchmarks at different phases of your businessand you can do so with ease using software and tools to create checklists for things like hiring employees or creating financial forecasts, then update them as new processes are added or goals are met. This process provides data transparency in areas where it was previously hard to gauge success without measurable analytics.


The digital transformation of business has brought huge changes to the way we do things at workand its going to continue doing so in the future.

Digital transformation isnt just about marketing and communications, though; it has the potential to impact every department in the organization, even Human Resources and Operations, often in ways that are not yet fully understood or appreciated by most people in those departments.

Understanding what digital transformation can mean to your business, as well as how it might affect other departments in your company, will allow you to identify where barriers to transformation existand how you can overcome them.

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