What's Derailing your Digital Transformation Experience?


“Digital Transformation” is quite the hot topic these days. Everybody has a different definition of what it means and what it entails. Whether you’re a small business or a multinational enterprise, digital transformation done right is critical to gain and/or maintain a competitive advantage in your industry. 

In our work with clients, we’ve seen companies fall into five common traps when aggressively pursuing digital transformation. For some of you reading this, one or more of these scenarios may be eerily familiar because it's happening right now, or it's a not so distant memory. 

The Bait & Switch

You’ve made a strategic decision to commit time, human capital, and budgets to revamp how you apply technology across your business to create the most significant impact on your most important audience – your customer. 

You’ve talked to the biggest, the best, and the brightest consultants and firms in the tech business. They’ve all sent in their top teams to show you what they offer, how it fulfills the vision you have—and with their cumulative decades of experience—why they are the best team to hire. You evaluate the various proposals and groups and make your selection. The deal is signed, and it's time to execute the proposed work.

Except, there's just one small flaw: the team you met and the group that comes to execute are not the same. Instead, it's several early-career technologists who don't have the same level of technology experience or business understanding of the pros who sold you their services. Now what? In most cases, you're locked into a signed contract that may be more expensive to break than to proceed as planned. Whether you opt to go forward or not, the project stalls, and often fails.

The Takeaway:  It should be evident the transformation team you talk to and the team that executes needs to be the same, but there are countless examples of digital transformation projects failing because the promise and the execution didn't match up.


When a company looks at a major digital transformation project, it’s important for them to realize It's not just about the technology. The technology is only one component of the solutions Level 11 brings to the table. The team you meet and the one that executes is the same. We bring an internal team of discipline leaders with deep experience in User Experience Design, Systems Architecture, and Front End Development in mobile and web applications. This approach, which we think about as an apex experience, results in innovations that are only possible through a comprehensive, collaborative framework from beginning to end as demonstrated by social proof. While to some, we might seem more expensive on the front end -  in reality, we get it done right the first time, saving both time and money.


The Budget Buster

You have a vision for your company's digital transformation, and a number in mind for how much it will cost to execute the plan. Your internal IT group thinks the amount is sufficient. They begin the work, hiring an external consulting team to fill in any knowledge and experience gaps.

Things looked like they were humming along and then suddenly – your digital transformation project comes to a grinding halt. Why?

Yes, they followed the plan exactly. Yes, there was a lot of knowledge and experience guiding the process. Except, as implementation proceeded, your IT team and their consultants realized they couldn't get from A to Z on the path planned, and to make the necessary changes will escalate the cost of the project beyond what was budgeted. What looked reasonable and straightforward turned out to be more complex and cost-intensive than anyone anticipated.

At this point, you have a few choices. You can put the project on hold until additional money becomes available. "Rob Peter to pay Paul" by taking dedicated funds away from some other internal project, putting both projects at risk. Scrap the entire project because you realize by the time you get back to work, technology will have moved on and whatever you've done so far will be obsolete. No matter which you choose, the project becomes an albatross. Whether you wait or proceed, you're going to spend more money than you hoped to get it done right. 

The Takeaway: When you think you can do a lot for less, think again. Even when your internal IT group believes it can be done for less, check your numbers twice, then at a minimum double your budget to compensate for the overlooked and unexpected needs which always crop up.


What we’re able to do at Level 11 is de-risk your transformation program by starting with a team of crack professionals who have multiple billion-dollar transformations under their belt. If you look at our competition, you will see large brands who cobbled together a set of fractured companies and capabilities via acquisition, claiming to have done it all. Don't believe the label. We’re going to tell you right from the start exactly what the project you have in mind will cost. We’re going to uncover all the hidden things that cause budget overruns before we begin. Although we may appear more expensive on an hourly basis, with Level 11 you will only take the journey once. Measure twice, pay once.


Compromising Your Brand Standard

Can your brand afford an inferior experience? For decades now, as your company has grown, you created silos within your organization. It made sense to organize into vertical groups – it was easier to manage and to hold people accountable for performance. The vertical silos created a very structured and hierarchical company – clean and neat. It worked fine in the pre-digital era.

Now, you're aiming for digital transformation, and all that turf is getting in the way. You have individual executives, units, and departments guarding their territory, protecting their internal fiefdoms, jockeying for control, and jeopardizing every effort to move your customers and employees to a more satisfying and seamless digital experience. What's even worse is the consultants you've hired are also mired in the silo effect and are reinforcing the hierarchical division inherent in siloed organizations.

In essence, the silo effect is compromising your brand standards, preventing you from providing the best customer and employee experience possible. It costs you valuable relationships with the two best brand ambassadors you have, derailing your company's digital transformation efforts, and directly hitting your bottom line. Can you afford the cost of customer recovery and replace your lost talent cost-effectively? Is starting your digital transformation project over really an option?  

The Takeaway: The digital era, along with economic globalization, ushered in the flat organization – less hierarchy and structure and more collaboration and cross-pollination. Digital transformation done right is the difference between a group of solo performers on stage together fighting to be heard, and the beauty of Beethoven's Fifth played by a well-conducted orchestra. 


Your brand cannot afford anything other than an apex experience - one that elevates your bottom line and your brand. No matter where you are in your digital transformation, working with your internal team, or external consultants - if they are not pushing the envelope and breaking through the siloed approach of the past, then your brand and your bottom line are taking the hit. You may be working with big names but are you getting the results you want? At what level are they producing - three, four, five, maybe higher? In our book, that’s not enough. Our name, our brand says it all - Level 11. We were very intentional when we chose that name and it’s not just our name - it drives how we think and how we work - our quality, our accuracy, our speed, the elevated expertise of the team we bring to the project. From day one, we aim for an apex experience - level 11 - from beginning to end.


Execution Is Everything

Just like we mentioned in our first trap, you've gone through the vetting process to find the perfect consulting team to work with on your digital transformation project. Your consultants sold you on a great program of innovative technology solutions. The picture they paint make it all look effortless – at least on paper. You're going to find out just how difficult it is to go from paper to reality when your consultants arrive and ask the big question, "What do you want us to work on?"

Wait – this is what you're paying them to do – implement the vision. You've given them the big picture you want to achieve, the budget they need, and the internal technology and management resources to get the job done. You expect the consulting team to take charge and move the project to a successful conclusion. Your internal IT team does a "we told you so" and becomes a further impediment to the process.

Instead of moving forward, you have to manage a war between your consultants and your internal technologists. You have to lead the technology partner every step of the way – so they're not a true partner at all. Your internal IT group are balking at every turn because they are doing double duty – managing their daily projects and picking up the slack with the external consulting team. Pretty soon, your digital transformation dream has turned into a nightmare.

The Takeaway: The road to real innovation may seem easy to design and execute. It’s not. Great ideas are just great ideas until someone who understands how to do digital transformation right, can bring them to life. 


True innovation is not easy to design, and even more so, it is difficult to execute. Piecing together off-the-shelf "solutions" yields cobbled together experiences and solutions: they feel disconnected, underwhelming, and broken. A unified apex experience cannot be realized through this approach, and results in a loss of time, money, and resources, ultimately leaving a negative impact on your brand and the very experiences for the people you want to create stronger loyalty with - your customers, your employees, your vendors.  

Digital transformation at scale is not trivial. Bringing in experts who have delivered multiple digital transformation projects does not mean your internal team is not capable, it means you would rather execute transformation done right the first time. It's not paying to reinvent the wheel, but instead to springboard from existing and proven solutions. You get that when you trust your transformation journey to a team who has been key to multiple, billion-dollar programs, with the social proof to show who really led the innovation and will de-risk your delivery. Our team has and continues to deliver the most innovative apex experiences at scale for some of the largest companies in the world. Level 11 delivers your vision of transformation, done right.


Jargon, Jargon, & Buzzwords

You’re ready to stick your toe in the waters of digital transformation. It's not a new idea to you because no matter whether you're a CMO, CIO, CTO, CXO, CEO, COO, CFO, CLO, or some other chief, you're familiar with your industry jargon. When it comes to technology, you likely know the basics like UI, UX, SEO, and more. Of course, if you're working daily with technology, you're pretty familiar with the deepest terminology and so reading a proposal from an external technology consulting firm is pretty straightforward. The big problem is in selling the jargon-filled proposal to the powers that be – often a CEO, COO, or CFO.

While your CEO likely envisioned the digital transformation project along with your CMO or CXO, and the CIO or CTO agreed it's technologically a "go," it's your CFO and COO who must give the go-ahead to leadership that the project is financially and operationally feasible.

Except there’s just one small problem, your CFO and COO may not have a level of technological understanding to evaluate the project. The jargon-filled proposal has become an endless exercise in analysis leading to paralysis. 

Everyone who understands what has to happen is ready to pull the trigger, but the executives who can are stuck. They know the value to the brand; they don't get the technology process. As a result, they can't pull the trigger. The project lingers until it fades away, putting your company further behind the digital transformation eight-ball.

The Takeaway: If you're not a technologist, you're never going to know or understand as much as those on your team who are. Pulling the trigger is about confidence in your ability to wade through the jargon, without letting it bog you down, and trusting your team and yourself.


Customer experiences in digital transformation have become the buzzwords right now. Digital transformation - what does that really mean? You may think you are doing digital transformation, but exactly what are you doing and why do you think it’s digital transformation? If you’re like most people, you’re likely in the trough of disillusionment thinking that launching a new app using your internal teams is digital transformation. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, that’s a good way to think about digital transformation. The app is just a small part of the picture that can become so much more when you go deep into the innovation available to create a scalable apex experience of digital transformation.


Bonus: Sometimes Expectations Can Be More

Maybe you’re already working through a digital transformation project using a platform like Salesforce or Adobe, or a provider like IBM’s Blue Wolf. You liked what you saw when your internal IT group or your external technology partner showed you the possibilities for moving digital transformation forward using a big-name brand.

No analysis paralysis here, you jumped right in. Now, you're at the end of the project, and it meets your initial expectations. However, for some reason, there's a nagging question in your gut. "Is this all there is?"

It sounded like so much more when your IT group or technology partner described the bells and whistles of heading down this path. The numbers were good, and it was a no-brainer. You set your expectations high, and now you feel a letdown – like there should be more, but there isn't.

Maybe, just maybe, there is more you can get from your technology in a situation like this. However, you'll never know. Why not? Because your IT leader has already turned down a conversation with another external technology consultant, saying, "Oh, we already have that covered internally, and besides, we're already working with XYZ consultants."

The Bonus Takeaway: It’s great that you’ve got this covered internally and you’re working with XYZ consultants. Maybe, just maybe, there is a way to get more out of the technology platforms you already use - you just have to pose the right questions to the right team.


At Level 11, we’ve worked with all these technologies, the internal teams managing them, and the external consultants designing and implementing them. We want to ask you this, “Are you getting what you thought you were getting out of your involvement with such technologies? Do you wish it was more than what you're getting?” If you answered no to either or both of these questions, then let’s talk about it - there’s so much more that we can offer to take you from where you are today to a truly scalable apex experience.



See yourself in any of these digital transformation traps? At Level 11, we see them all the time in both small companies and in multinational enterprises. They can derail even the best internal IT groups and external technology partners. We look at your digital transformation through the lens of the result you want to achieve and what it will cost to take you there. Our goal is to get transformation done right – the first time.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you’re working on a digital transformation project and it smacks of any of these traps, give us a call at 1 (855) 585 1118 or email us via our contact form.

Have a digital transformation project that’s gone sideways a bit and not sure what to do next? Take a look at our thoughts about how to “Get Your Project Back on Track”.



About the Author

Mark Hadland is Founder and CEO at Level 11. Mark provides the leadership for market positioning and strategy, business development, service and solution offerings, client delivery and quality oversight. He is skilled at climbing mountains, both literally and figuratively, as well as delivering large-scale complex programs, rescuing challenged projects, repairing client relationships, reciting lines from Spinal Tap, solving technology problems, addressing organizational issues and growing businesses.