March 29, 2021

15 Common Factors That Can Hinder Your Business’ Digital Transformation

getty Digital transformation can have an incredible impact on improving a business’ operations, productivity and…

Digital transformation can have an incredible impact on improving a business’ operations, productivity and overall bottom line. However, the process of transformation isn’t always a straightforward or simple one.

As the experts typically put in charge of digital transformation in their businesses, tech leaders are the first to see the barriers standing in the way of success. While some of these hurdles are external and beyond the organization’s control, others have been put or left in place by the business itself.

So what obstacles can businesses eliminate that would smooth the path of digital transformation? Below, the members of Forbes Technology Council share 15 common internal roadblocks to digital transformation and how to overcome them.

1. Outdated Authentication Measures

Outdated fraud and authentication measures, such as knowledge-based authentication and device fingerprinting, can harm the customer experience and be counterproductive to fighting fraud. By instead authenticating the link between the device and the person using signals inherent to the device, the customer experience improves and fraud efforts can refocus on high-risk interactions. – Robert McKay, Neustar, Inc.

2. Outdated Hardware

Upgrading infrastructure is table stakes for digital transformation. But it’s a mistake to cling to outdated take-use-dispose hardware models assuming you’ll scale faster and spend less. New circular economic models are changing how we design, use and reuse hardware, yielding financial and sustainability advantages that make digital transformation much more seamless. – Aidin Aghamiri, ITRenew

3. Vendor Lock-In

Businesses must recognize that “vendor lock-in” is very real and very prohibitive to meaningful digital transformation. Organizations that rely on legacy system software or proprietary data formatting can be easily discouraged from making progress in new digital initiatives. Tech leaders must push for products that are open source and introduce integration solutions to bridge the gap. – Brian Platz, Fluree

4. Lack Of Clarity And Understanding

The specifics or the areas of focus for digital transformation are different for every company. Lack of clarity and understanding across the company on what digital transformation is and specifically means to the company is a huge obstacle. How do you achieve success when everyone has a different understanding of what digital transformation is? – Ken Piddington, U.S. Silica Company

5. Old Infrastructure And Bureaucracy

Common obstacles to digital transformation are decades-old software, outdated IT infrastructure and a bureaucracy that’s maladapted to digital coordination. All of these prevent a speedy adaptation to customers’ evolving digital needs. – Paul Colangelo, Avenu Insights & Analytics

6. Unstructured Goals

Without having a clearly communicated and shared vision of what the organization will look like after the transformation, no one will be able to help achieve the transformation. You should have a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) for five years, five to 10 objectives for each year and three to four rocks for the quarter. Less is more. – Patrick Emmons, DragonSpears, Inc.

7. Resistance To Cloud Solutions

Some leaders still insist on on-premises solutions as opposed to cloud-hosted solutions, which can accelerate digital transformation. Some workflows that can be digitized face friction from end-users who have always done things the old way and are worried about their past active data (in spreadsheets, for example) being accessible in the new, digitally transformed way. – Havell Rodrigues, Adjoint Inc.


Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?


8. Complacency

Some of the common obstacles that I have experienced and seen in business lean toward complacency. First, ensure you have the right people in the right places. Lead change with a team that’s willing and open to change. Second, replace outdated processes, systems and applications—this seems to be a huge challenge when moving forward with digital transformations. The mindset of the business and the team is key. – Brandi Ward, Reagan Family of Companies

9. Lack Of Confidence In The Team

The one common obstacle we see raised over and over again in businesses is a lack of confidence in the ability of their people to adapt, transform, learn and grow. We see fears of “change” and “change management,” education, and training among the biggest reasons businesses choose to stay with the status quo. – Tony Safoian, SADA Systems

10. Getting The Wrong People Involved In Decisions

It is more difficult in a virtual environment to collaborate on transformations even though there’s an increased need for a faster and more dramatic transformation. Transformation cannot occur successfully without all relevant groups represented. This starts with strategy and continues through execution. If any input is missed, cracks in the transformation can occur. – Matthew Lieberman, PwC

11. Reverting To Old Habits

The most common obstacle that we put in our way is attempting to revert to our old, familiar habits rather than evolving and embracing change. Another challenge we find is related to business processes. No amount of new technology can overcome corresponding changes in the business process. Technology initiatives are not just about the technology—they’re about people and processes. – Kartik Sakthivel, LIMRA LOMA LL Global

12. Refreshing Legacy Systems To ‘Save’ Money

Increasingly, IT departments are forced to choose between refreshing legacy hardware or offloading their infrastructure management to a third party by embracing cloud services. Those who choose the former often find themselves saddled with more sunken costs that can drag a business down at a time when it needs to increase agility. The answer is to be strategic rather than simply cost-conscious. – Jeffrey Ton, InterVision

13. Internal Perceptions

The biggest barrier to digital transformation can be internal perceptions that it is always complex and requires significant internal resources. To get internal stakeholders on board, tech leaders should first prioritize investment in quick, easy, pre-built tools that don’t require any internal tech skills to get started or manage, such as integrating new channels to connect with customers. – Andrea Giacomini, Mitto

14. Trying To Change For The Sake Of Change

While digital transformation is a part of business today, change for the sake of change can be disruptive. Businesses need to spend considerable time examining the need for change and its implementation to ensure the cure isn’t worse than the disease. Digital transformation is a requirement in business, but it must be carefully planned. – Micheal Goodwin, Server At Work

15. Employee Resistance

The main obstacle to digital transformation can be employees’ resistance to change. Digital transformation changes processes and alters people’s jobs, so it is critical to not only communicate the vision, roadmap and milestones of the transformation but also to address how employees’ jobs will evolve. Demonstrate that the change will be beneficial to the company and to them, as well. – Juliette Rizkallah, SailPoint