- Companies are having some success in digital transformation, but each year more than 80% of these projects fail, a Couchbase survey found.
- More than half of digital transformation projects are overseen by a company’s IT team, suggesting the need for an approach that involves more corporate leaders, including CFOs.
- “CFOs are very well positioned to be part of a strategy team leading digital transformation," Peter Finter, Couchbase CMO, told CFO Dive. "When it comes to an intimate knowledge of operations, identifying opportunities for efficiencies, and evaluating ROI, the CFO is a key player."
Almost three quarters of executives surveyed by Couchbase said they’ve improved the end-user experience by digitally transforming some portion of their operations, and just over 20% said the transformation has been so great it revolutionized the way end-users engage with the company.
Digital transformation can take on many forms. For some companies, it might mean transferring from premise-based software to cloud-based operations, either for internal operations or external consumer engagement, or both. For others it might mean using robotics or AI to make processes more efficient, accurate, and informative in the data that's generated. Internally, many transformation projects involve automating all or part of the accounting and finance function to free up staff to do higher-level analysis and less data input.
"Digital transformation is the integration of new and often times emerging digital technologies into all areas of a business," said Finter. “'Cloud' is a good example of innovation. It’s actually been around for a long time, but nobody was ready for it. Over the years, security concerns have been alleviated, and today, we see many technologies — including databases — now running in the cloud."
But most projects haven’t gotten off the ground, the survey showed.
- 86% said they haven’t undertaken a project because they’re too complex, they‘re bogged down by a legacy system, or they don’t have the resources or people to pull it off.
- Of those who’ve undertaken a project in the last year, 81% said it failed or is delayed or had to be scaled back.
- 42% said they were behind schedule, or at risk of falling behind, with their most significant digital transformation project.
- 73% said their project fell short of being transformational.
Whatever the project, there appears to be a growing recognition that CFOs are often the best positioned executives to guide digital transformation in partnership with tech chiefs and their teams. That's because finance chiefs can bring a perspective on integration that works across divisions.
"As a CFO, you play a critical role in helping your company succeed in its digital transformation," Jason Lin, CFO of Centage Corporation, said in a CFO Dive opinion piece last month. "It's up to you to obtain a big picture of your operations and customer touch points to identify synergies and drive value. It's impossible to assess — and ultimately benefit from — a digital transformation without the financial component that you oversee."
The Couchbase survey showed 52% of projects are led by IT, which means company executives are not as involved as they should be to increase the chances of success. "The C-suite is not guiding projects and strategy that should have a major impact on the business," the report said.
“Transformation is ultimately achieved by the right application of people and technologies, so enterprises must have the technical and business skills to make it truly successful. It needs to be driven by the entire organization as a strategic imperative, not left in the sole hands of the IT team," Couchbase CEO Matt Cain said.