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Is digital transformation software making people sad?

A survey conducted by the software company BiZZdesign and The Open Group has revealed that while businesses are eager to jump into a “digital transformation,” they may not necessarily be happy with the software support available to make that transition happen. It also found that business culture is often a major inhibitor to business transformation — a barrier that could potentially be broken by making key changes to processes and cultural mindsets within the organization.

Part of the survey, which also had support from the University of Twente and the Association of Enterprise Architects, focused on the tools that enterprises are using to enable a significant digital transformation. It also sought to determine how happy they were with those tools — a finding that had mixed results, as Peter Matthijssen, senior consultant at BiZZdesign, explained in a webinar about the study and the process of digital transformation.

Responses indicated that about 85% of businesses are using app and solution integration software for business transformations, and about 80% are using enterprise architecture software. About 80% of those using app and solution integration software indicated that they are at least fairly happy with how well it supports their efforts. But when it came to enterprise architecture software, it seems that this number drops to just over 50%. The webinar did not dive further into specific complaints businesses had, so it is uncertain whether this frustration is stemming from problems with the software, a lack of the skills needed to manage the software, costs — or all of the above.

Matthijssen noted that the cultural and process barriers that inhibit an organization’s ability to become what he calls an “adaptive enterprise,” one that is able to use technology to make rapid, continuous changes to business processes and adapt to changing market conditions. He said that often organizations let “business as usual” get in the way of making a digital transformation, meaning that the money and time dedicated to everyday tasks and managing legacy systems simply stops any business transformation efforts in its tracks. Matthijssen also said that many organizations experience what he calls a “lack of organizational commitment.”

“I think here there is a large cultural part — where we can’t get the people on board to move in this new direction,” he said.

Matthijssen did offer numerous pieces of advice for organizations looking to improve their ability to transform, many which revolve around the idea of changing corporate culture. One piece of advice he gave urges businesses to simplify their systems and businesses policies. He illustrated this with a mythical anecdote about the U.S. spending millions of dollars to create a pen that could write in space when Russian astronauts were able to accomplish the same goal with a pencil.

“A lot of organizations have those very expensive pens when they could do the job with a pencil,” he said.

Another piece of advice Matthijssen shared is the idea of embracing what he calls a “culture of failure” where organizations embrace project failures and shortcomings as part of the transformation and learning process. He stresses that this failure does not have to occur on a large scale, and encourages that organizations should aim to “fail on a smaller scale” and use each failure as a learning experience.

Other pieces of advice Matthijssen offered included reducing legacy complexity and “bridging” the gaps that may exist between software and business professionals within an organization. By reducing legacy complexity organizations may be able to avoid the “innovation squeeze” that occurs when money that organizations want to put into a digital transformation end up overtaken by legacy costs. And bringing the disciplines within an organization, he said, will allow organizations to pursue digital transformation by bringing ideas together and empowering personnel. He encouraged participants to “use the wisdom of many, not the power of one.”