Boost tech transformation ROI with digital adoption professionals

09 May 2023 7 min. read
More news on

With the success of a digital transformation strategy heavily dependent on staff actually using the digital tools that are deployed, a new breed of ‘digital adoption professionals’ is emerging to take tech-driven transformation beyond the IT department, writes Clarence Dent, ANZ Regional Vice President at WalkMe.

According to the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), digital transformation is lauded as the key path to increasing productivity – and customer and employee satisfaction – yet 70% of transformation efforts fail.

Even if they succeed, it can take years to actually get people to fully use the new digital capabilities and realise the expected value. Counter-intuitively, the AICD found that at the heart of most transformation failures are people, not technology.

Boost tech transformation ROI with digital adoption professionals

Today, investment in digital transformation continues to gather pace. WalkMe research revealed that the average company invests US$48 million annually on digital transformation projects. These projects range from transforming customer experience, driving supply chain and production efficiencies and breaking down internal barriers to unleash innovation through smoother work experiences for staff.

Therefore, as digital transformation becomes ever more essential for business, who is responsible for it must evolve if organisations are to get any lasting benefits. If businesses don’t rethink how the real world and the virtual world mesh together they will be unable to optimise products, acquire talent, manage assets or delight customers.

And digital isn’t only transforming business. The Australian Government has set its sights on being in the top three digital governments in the world by 2025, pledging an ongoing focus on building the digital capabilities it needs to achieve its policy outcomes.

Adopting technology is key
Reflecting the AICD conclusion that people make or break digital transformation initiatives, WalkMe’s study found that more than two-thirds (68%) of businesses have taken the logical view that success hinges on adoption of new technology by employees and customers. But enterprise software investment is only going to be successful if and only if employees and customers understand it without getting confused, and use it in the right way.

This raises the thorny issue of who should be responsible for driving and maintaining digital adoption? Currently, almost three-quarters of enterprises (70%) don’t know who’s responsible at their organisations. Unsurprisingly, the lack of leadership in this area means most respondents (60%) also don’t yet have a strategy in place for driving digital adoption.

The AICD, in partnership with OpenDirector, has been tracking the level of digital skills amongst ASX 200 directors. It found there is a low digital literacy in Australian boardrooms. In its most recent report, only 11% of company directors thought experience with enterprise-wide digital transformation was the most relevant director experience to navigate the current uncertain operating environment. This was despite most directors explicitly emphasising the best organisations should have an innovation mindset.

So, while at a top level, most enterprises recognise the importance of digital adoption, the lack of responsibility creates bigger risks. This is compounded by the lack of actual digital adoption measures companies and governments utilise. While they know adoption is crucial, fewer than a quarter (22%) of enterprises use adoption as a KPI for digital transformation success.

If enterprises aren’t measuring digital adoption, they can’t track how successful they are.

Success requires a new skill set
Forward-thinking companies are investing in a new type of professional, whose designated role is driving digital adoption: digital adoption professionals.

Digital adoption professionals can take on the challenge of making sure employees and enterprises make full use of the technology available to them in the face of an ever-evolving tech stack. People with the right skills will prevent businesses' digital investments from going to waste.

With research showing that enterprises eat the cost of almost US$100 million annually due to the inability to gain full value from their technology investments, the benefits of hiring such professionals are considerable.

These roles could be completely new positions for hire, or current staff could pick up the role alongside their existing duties. The exact title of these professionals varies, but the point remains the same: digital adoption can and should be professionalised and should involve a number of departments and processes.

In an ideal world, these professionals should work with a digital adoption platform to make it as easy and seamless as possible for employees across the business to use the wide variety of apps and software available to them.

Digital responsibility extends well beyond the IT department
Enterprises are planning to invest significantly in digital transformation over the next three years. According to the research, this will include a US$7 million average spend among small firms, US$22 million among medium firms and more than US$31 million among large ones.

Given this level of investment, IT departments can no longer take sole responsibility for the success of digital transformation projects. Spotting and flagging digital friction, opportunities to save money, and opportunities to reap the rewards from existing tech investments, is too much for IT alone – adoption needs buy-in from the top and for this new class of professional specialists to emerge to champion change.

The goal is transforming an entire tech stack of disjointed, confusing user interfaces into a consistent easy experience for employees so that they can be truly empowered to do their best work.

Fostering these new professionals as integral change management team members is now a priority, particularly given that Australian directors don’t prioritise the disruptive risk of emerging technology to the same degree as their overseas counterparts, according to the AICD.

Fewer than one in ten (8%) of all ASX 200 directors could be regarded as digitally skilled while only one in eight (12%) possessed STEM skills. With the typical board having nine directors, this means on average, ASX 200 boards are only now approaching a point of having at least one “digital director” among their membership.

Today, each director has a responsibility to know how technology will impact their organisation. Just as financial literacy is a core requirement for a director, so too is technology literacy.

Achieving maximum value from digital investments
It’s important to acknowledge that the success of a digital transformation strategy is heavily dependent on staff actually using the digital tools that are deployed. There is little point in investing in technology if it’s ignored or avoided.

The problem is only going to get worse. On average, the latest WalkMe ‘State of Digital Adoption’ report found that businesses add 17 new applications a year. Considering the typical enterprise employee already works with around 27 applications, it’s no wonder that surveyed organisations believe they only use 50% of their applications’ potential.

Effective usage can be achieved by taking a strategic approach to the challenge. Measurement of business impact should be regularly undertaken and dedicated roles established to drive continual progress.

The emergence and subsequent adoption of digital adoption professionals will help leadership teams deliver their digital objectives because they’ll elevate user and customer experiences and ultimately driving return on technology investments.

Read also