Digital Business Transformation: tales from the crypt!

According to several sources, be it large consulting firms, or Ivy League schools, Digital Transformation projects are the latest buzz and hottest topic for business globally, and especially in the Middle East. What goes unmentioned is the numerous failed initiatives, either complete failure, or pivots towards way less stellar goals and achievements – hence derailments for saving face, or abandonment after realizing a huge offset from resources versus aspired results.

I have seen and/or heard of successful, as well as, not so successful transformations. There are elements in every transformation story lines that begs for attention on the outskirts of such projects, but go ignored.

Here is a long list, which I am going to add to as I heard from more tales from the crypt! You will realize soon enough that many of them could be trivial, but many are more tricky. What isn’t trivially tolerated in western and multi-national business entities is unfortunately common practices that lead to pitfalls.

Business names are not revealed, but other unidentifiable attributes such as industry or approximate location are shared for context.

This compilation isn’t meant to be a snowball of negativity, but rather just a list of fails and cracks to watch out for while building the business case for a transformation program to increase the chances of achieving success. Lessons are equally as valuable as success!

So, without any further delay, here we go:

Procurement improprieties.

Vendor selection bias.

If your ERP vendor support lead needs five days to tell you the size of your ERP database. 

If your champion employees aren’t empowered to be business / data analysts. 

If anything above 3% of your inventory isn’t captured in your system. 

If stock movement isn’t 100% tracked by a system. 

If your ERP system isn’t flexible to define roles and responsibilities for your organization critical tasks. 

If you don’t have reporting to find bottle necks in each process automated by an ERP or any system. 

If only IT staff are allowed to create reports, you are the blocker not the enabler for transformation.

Inventory control looseness.

Hiring people with wrong cultural fit or due to low salary. 

If you want to deploy apps and some of your employees can’t spell project names. 


IT team under pressure as the norm all the time.

IT leaders not open or receptive to help from new blood. 

Take it or leave it attitude by IT.

ERP deployments aren’t digital transformation anymore. 

Master Data has many people with admin access. 

Master data is still on a proprietary platform under the mercy of a vendor. 

IT team won’t or can’t train employees properly. 

Change management team doesn’t exist. 

Benefit measurement team isn’t neutral. 

Process modernization efforts repeatedly fail resulting in a huge gap between people and technology.

Process documentation isn’t up to date.

Process owners don’t know they own a certain process. 

Process modeling and optimization doesn’t result in a re-organization. 

Process owners aren’t the business unit leader impacted by process performance. 

Performance management isn’t regular, frequent or takes follow-up assessments. 

ERP was selected prior to documenting and assessing business process readiness.  

Non-IT leaders selecting platforms without proper RFP.

“Yes” syndrome experienced often by IT. 

Finance team unable to measure at least 100 KPI’s about your business. 

Asset efficiency best practices aren’t followed 

If you start every tender response from scratch 

If you have job nationalization aggressive goals but don’t have any knowledge management and retention system 

If change agents / champions are silenced often in the org

If your website was last edited a year ago. 

If backbiting is the only way to win in politics in company culture. 

If you only trust your college buddies as senior execs in your company. 

If you value trust over performance 

If your technology vendors can only pacify your frustration with discounting or eliminating you license for a year or a few. 

If you end up building a system that you are the only customer using it. 

Home grown pride syndrome. 

Family owned business with feud between family members. 

Silent partners as a business model. 

Not having a single source of truth for a business 

Your SSoT and your ERP and other critical systems can’t sync / exchange info via secure APIs

If you still leverage scheduled import/export without APIs. 

If you are too proud or haunted by prestige to admit defeat / failure rather than embrace it as a pivot to start fresh and clean (lethal) 

If your ERP was configured with each business dept / unit as an entity – yep! 

If there is not visual linkage between your business process repository and all your systems especially ERP

If your OS and office suite software are pirated. 

If your vendors are obsessed with displacing one another rather than integrate and collaborate to support you. 

IT leaders think the users community is just unfit and wouldn’t examine their own approach to user enablement. 

Business-led IT is great but they should also get IT on the table rather than just hand them orders under threat of shadow IT. 

If your infra hardware is way beyond end of life and down times are the norm. 

Threshold to pain is way too low. 

If your processes’ efficiency isn’t measured, baselined and benchmarked against competitors or peers in your industry and tier. 

Cloud strategy is just prone to fear mongering of cloud. 

If leadership isn’t willing to reward the right behavior and contribution and to punish or terminate unreasonable resistance, especially for political and personal reasons. 

If a huge percentage of your workforce is illiterate (literally), and you aren’t willing to invest in very visual UI/UX. 

If your data and APIs don’t mesh, expect no magic. 

If your small competitors are eating your lunch, it is likely late but not too late to start transforming. 

If your vendors aren’t paid on time according to contract for ludicrous reasons. 

If delaying payments to vendors and subcontractors are your only way to ensure adequate project cash flow. 

If it took Your IT dept 9 months before they were able to get your some basic reporting from your project portfolio management software investment. 

If your project schedulers aren’t given straight answers about resource availability, no project management tool can help your organization. 

If unauthorized users can hack your master data to find their superiors’ salaries. 

If you interview vendors just to show action. 

If you interview vendors and you have no approved budget.

If your vendors can’t give you and stick to a delivery timeline and an ROI breakeven date. 

If you argue with and insult your vendors just because of vendor bias. 

If you manage to have your vendor selected based on bias and then stricken with delivering any transformation. 

If your vendor has too many options for your transformation roadmap but can’t help you select one choice. 

If the consultants doing the vendor vetting are also in working on getting a pie of the execution roadmap. 

If an employee is ostracized leading to a heart attack due to harsh shaming tactics. Culture of doom.