Don’t Let Digital Obsession Destroy Your Organization

Companies and leaders must take a holistic approach to get digital transformation right.

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In 1816, French physician René Laënnec faced a problem. Traditional methods proved unsuccessful in diagnosing a woman with a heart disorder, so he rolled several sheets of paper into a cylinder, placing one end on the patient’s chest and the other by his ear. With that, the stethoscope was born.

Little did Laënnec know that his innovation — inserting an instrument between patient and doctor — would transform medicine. Over time, technical reporting from machines replaced traditional methods of deep inquiry in this same field. Human intuition and holistic evaluation increasingly took a back seat. What we now know as conventional medicine came to be about the disease, not the patient.

Today, there are innumerable medical technologies and specialists — and Big Pharma — available to help treat patients. However, while health care has provided immense good through its modern transformation, it has wrestled with several shortcomings, including making overly narrow diagnoses, addressing symptoms rather than root causes, and providing elaborate and expensive treatments. And these issues aren’t just contained to the health care industry.

Exemplified by the challenge of deploying effective multidisciplinary health teams, the shortcomings of health care transformation mirror the issues companies face in their digital transformations.

Too often, organizations with big digital appetites are focusing narrowly, overlooking chronic and systemic issues and making overly ambitious investments. You don’t have to look far in the business literature to see that we have a digital obsession.

Racing Into the Deep End With Digital

A decade has passed since the term digital transformation was coined, but it has taken a life-changing pandemic for digital capabilities to substantively alter how businesses operate. As a result, business leaders from every industry now feel the strategic necessity of investing in digital platforms, products, and services.

The upside potential is clear: With organizations slated to spend $6.8 trillion on digital transformation by 2023, they’re aggressively seeking to lower operational costs, accelerate speed to market, and unlock new opportunities. But companies also can’t afford to rush in blindly — the 70% failure rate (and associated costs) for digital initiatives is alarmingly high. Leaders and shareholders might crave near-immediate returns, but the path to digital maturity is an arduous one. Most companies’ digital capabilities, including cloud services, software development, cybersecurity, and the like, currently live in silos or are outsourced.

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