Today, IT strategies are business strategies, and investments into new technologies always have a business case behind them. Global spending on digital transformation is expected to reach nearly $2 trillion by 2022 as organisations gear up for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

According to Accenture, digital technologies could generate R1.4 trillion in additional revenue in agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing and financial services by 2026.

Fewer than 3/10 succeed

However, digital transformation is not easy. McKinsey estimates that fewer than 30% of digital transformation projects worldwide succeed. And when they fail, the resultant monetary and productivity losses can be devastating.

So, if organisations are compelled to digitally transform to remain competitive, and many digital transformation projects never realise their intended value, what is a business owner to do?

We work with African businesses daily to help them bring their digital transformation projects to life. Over the years we have seen where companies get it right, and what strategies are shared among the most successful digital transformation projects. Use this checklist to ensure you realise the full potential of your digital transformation project.

A checklist for digital transformation success

Step 1: Start with the customer experience. Eighty percent of CEOs believe they’re delivering a superior experience. Only 8% of consumers agree. Most organisations make assumptions about how their B2B and B2C customers rate the perceived value they receive from goods and services. Every organisation needs to leverage the tools available to eliminate the experience gap between the customer experience organisations think they offer, and what experience the customer actually has. No organisation should even embark on a digital transformation project until they’re clear about how that transformation will enable them to deliver better experiences.

Step 2Make sure you can draw meaningful insights from the granularity of data at the volume and speed at which it is being generated. Digital transformation projects must include capabilities to synthesize and draw insights from data across all internal and external sources – operational data, customer experience data, social media, sensors on devices, any kind of data that is available.  All too often, organisations dive into new technologies without a clear strategy of what they want to do with all the data those technologies will produce. Know how you want your data to be organised. Have proper governance processes in place. The value of data can be quantified as the product of the amount, quality and usage of the data.  High volumes with maximum usage are of zero value if the quality is questionable. Be sure to understand the steps toward safeguarding data quality and invest in data management platforms that support these end-to-end.

Step 3: Pay attention to the people who will make or break the success of your digital transformation project. Your teams are going to be instrumental to the success of your project. Having the correct mix of skills within high-performance cross-functional teams will enable you to execute on your strategy and fill the new roles that will inevitably be created during the transformation project.

It’s no secret that there is a global shortage of ICT talent, and that organisations are in constant competition for skills. Make sure you have a clear view of your organisation’s short and long-term needs based on the transformation strategy and put creative measures in place to attract and retain the skills you need.

The most successful digital transformation projects also have full buy-in and support from the C-suite. IT is no longer a function relegated to the IT department: CEOs need to understand the potential of new technologies and how those technologies can be deployed to achieve the business vision. There is no place for business apathy in today’s digital age.

FinallyExplore your choices. There is an array of options over how technology is deployed and consumed. Organisations owe it to themselves to explore choices that bring them the scalability, agility, and improved decision making that will make them more competitive. Cloud computing is a powerful tool to achieve this, but it’s about more than cloud: it’s about having choices on how to take the digital transformation roadmap forward.

Take care to choose the right partners and service providers, too. New models of collaboration mean tactical, contractual relationships with vendors simply don’t deliver the business benefits you want. Ideally, vendors and partners should be extensions of the organisation, with common goals and shared success metrics in place. Partners that offer value-based outcomes typically provide better strategic support and on-going value than those with more traditional models of engagement.

Digital transformation projects require a clear picture of the value you are trying to achieve and the customer experiences you need to deliver, the ability to draw meaningful insights from trusted, quality data, a committed team with top-level support and buy-in, and smart choices and collaboration across technologies, partners, vendors and strategic advisors.Getting it right puts you in the realm of some of the world’s most innovative and successful businesses. Get it wrong, and you join the swelling ranks of those projects that failed to make a meaningful positive impact on the organisation and its internal and external stakeholders.

Isabel Papadakis is Head: Africa Industry Value Advisory at SAP Africa. Views expressed are her own.