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3 Digital Transformation Myths to Leave Behind in 2019

By  Bertram Schulte | 1.14.19

The hunt to achieve digital transformation spans across all industries and businesses – from Fortune 500 companies to startups. While digital transformation is not the new kid on the block anymore and many organizations have goals and strategies for approaching it, there’s often confusion and ambiguity for what digital transformation means for customers, partners, and employees. Misunderstandings and misconceptions around what digital transformation can do for a company and how and when companies plan to undertake the process can cause friction and roadblocks on the path to success.


Digital transformation is not a one-size-fits-all process — it looks different in every industry, and at every company. Because of this, many myths have swirled up around digital transformation that can prevent businesses from reaching their goals. If you can overcome these common misconceptions and clearly communicate what digital transformation means for your business, you will be in for a successful and progressive 2019.  


Myth #1: Innovative tech is what digital transformation is all about


This is one of the most common myths I’ve seen – the idea that if companies upgrade their technology, they are suddenly “digitally transformed.” Indeed, innovative technology is crucial for digital transformation, but it isn’t an end result or a standalone solution.


What really drives digital transformation when it comes to implementing new technologies is the buy-in and willingness across the company to accept and support the change. You need to take a close look at digital processes, as well as corporate policies that are already in place. Your executive team should agree on a clear vision with concrete, long-term goals before prescribing a course of action from the top down. Once this is complete, it’s on you and your executive team to take responsibility for making the shift across the business.


Myth #2: Software and tech companies are the only ones that need to digitally transform


While it may be true that embracing digital doesn’t need to be a top priority (yet) for the cash-only mom-and-pop shop across the street, digital transformation absolutely spreads much farther than tech and software companies. Any company operating today that’s looking to engage with customers will benefit immensely from digitally transforming their business.


Take a look at the retail industry – Walmart decided it would take matters into its own hands before it became victim to the booming online retail industry. Over the past few years, Walmart has kept up with digital innovator Amazon by updating its online return policies, diversifying its online offerings as well as updating its mobile app to improve customer experience.


An even more unexpected industry embracing digital transformation is hospitality. You might remember the fiasco that befell Carnival cruises back in 2013 when an engine fire aboard the Carnival Triumph left the ship adrift at sea without power for four days before it could be towed back to shore. Moving forward from this, and with former Disney executive John Padgett as part of the C-suite team, Carnival set out to drive a digitally transformed experience for cruise-goers. The Ocean Medallion, announced in early 2017, was the result. A quarter-size wearable, that can be worn in compatible wristbands, necklaces, etc., the Ocean Medallion does everything from cutting down on wait times to board ships to tracking activities and experiences you enjoy to letting cruise staff know your name and location. Carnival implemented a digital transformation strategy to give cruise-goers something they hadn’t had before – a simple way to create a unique and personalized experience aboard a ship of thousands.


Myth #3: Digital transformation can wait


I’ve said this before – you shouldn’t put the carriage before the horse when it comes to updating technology and embarking on your digital-transformation journey. However, technology is constantly evolving, and the longer you wait to get started the harder it will be.


A study from Tech Pro Research shows that 70 percent of those surveyed said their companies either have digital transformation strategies in place already or are working them. In spite of this percentage, digital transformation is still facing key challenges – one being implementation of these strategies. I have heard many times that digital transformation can “wait until later,” but the truth is, it can’t anymore. Perhaps these efforts could have been a slower evolution a few years ago, but the constant evolution in technology means today is the day to start. At this point, it’s the only way to keep your competitive edge and move ahead.


Across all industries, it’s never been more important for business executives and frontline employees to start planning and executing their digital transformation journey. The traditional ways that business has been done continue to be challenged by digitally-native and savvy operators entering every market and industry. In 2019, it’s important to leave old misconceptions behind and focus on the execution of digital transformation strategies to keep your business moving.

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About the Author

Bertram Schulte serves as chief digital officer (CDO) for SAP, running the digital business and helping provide customers one seamless experience across all digital channels. Since May 2017 he has overseen digital customer strategy for SAP across sales, customer success, support and marketing, and has enabled and exemplified the digital transformation of SAP. Find him at @bertramschulte and on LinkedIn