Three in four IT leaders see opportunities for success in past digital transformation failures

Budget issues, lack of flexibility, and unmet expectations cited as top causes of digital transformation failure.

More than three quarters (77%) of UK IT decision makers (ITDMs) believe digital transformation (DX) project failures can better equip them to make their next endeavour successful, according to new research from Citrix.

The Vitreous World survey – which consisted of 500 UK-based IT decision makers within organisations employing over 250 people – questioned leaders on their previous experiences with major digital transformation projects, including whether the initiative went to plan and was considered a success.

The survey found that 43% of ITDMs had learnt from their previous experiences of digital transformation programmes and understand how they can now use that to their advantage moving forwards. Nearly a third (29%) even said the failure led to the identification of a new business requirement or focus.

Defining failure

When asked what constitutes a ‘failed’ digital transformation programme, respondents were divided. Exceeding budget (41%), a lack of flexibility to suit business requirements as they change (37%), and the fact it did not meet internal expectations – or expectations were not set properly in the first place – (35%) were the top responses. The project not getting finished (35%) or being delayed/extending past the projected timeline (34%) were also cited as additional factors.

While overall experiences with DX programmes seemed to vary, more than half (51%) of ITDMs indicated that they have been ‘burned’ before by projects that didn’t go as planned or didn’t deliver. On the other hand, 41% of respondents who have only worked on one major DX programme said that while it did not go according to plan, it still turned out to be successful.

“It is useful to understand that while most IT decision makers have worked on a failed digital transformation programme in the past, many recognise the experience was still of personal value to them and represented a significant opportunity in their careers,” said Mark Sweeney, regional VP, UK & Ireland, Citrix.

If at first you don’t succeed

Despite many respondents facing challenges with DX programmes in the past, the vast majority feel positive about their current initiatives. Almost all (92%) ITDMs reported feeling confident that the DX project they are working on now will deliver against the expectations of the board and/or c-suite.

Understandably, the more DX projects ITDMs have been a part of, the more confident they are likely to feel in their current or next programme. For those with experience with just one DX project, 20% of respondents reported feeling ‘very confident’ in current or future programme delivery. At the top of the scale, for those who have run 10-13 DX programmes in the past, this rose to 65%.

When respondents were asked if they would rather work on a challenging but ambitious DX programme, or a programme that is more manageable with a higher chance of success but less ambitious, the majority opted for a challenge (69%).

“While no-one will aspire to be associated with failures, it is beneficial to know that IT leaders recognise the learnings they can take from previous projects that didn’t go to plan. Decision-makers must continue to take these experiences with them, trusting in their skills and the technology available today to continually undertake new programmes for the benefit of their organisation.”

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