Why Has Digital Transformation Stalled?
Tori Miller Liu

By: Tori Miller Liu on July 6th, 2023

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Why Has Digital Transformation Stalled?

Intelligent Information Management (IIM)  |  Content Migration  |  Digital Transformation

Research Indicates Digital Transformation Has Stalled 

After we received the survey responses for the AIIM 2023 State of the Intelligent Information Management Industry Report, I spoke to the report’s authors, Dave Jones and Theresa Resek, about a concerning statistic.  


Enterprise digital transformation (DT) efforts have stalled. Dave later wrote in the report “over 65% of organizations have achieved significant successes with DT, but that still leaves at least a third who have not.”  

It seemed that digital transformation was no longer the driver it once was ten years ago. Only 10% of respondents said digital transformation was an organizational information management goal.  


During the opening panel discussion at the 2023 AIIM Europe Forum in London, our moderator Dave Jones conducted an informal poll of the audience and discovered that 30% of the audience said their organizations had invested in digital transformation. However, no hands went up when Dave asked if anyone in the audience felt their organizations had “gone as far as you can with digital transformation.” 


Potential Causes of a Decline in Digital Transformation 

Operational Roadblocks 

We theorized in the report that digital transformation had been eclipsed by a focus on compliance, customer service, and productivity. The report noted several roadblocks to digital transformation, including lack of budget, lack of strategy, and an immature digital culture.  


During the AIIM Europe Forum panel discussion, Dave asked myself and my fellow panelists what we thought has caused digital transformation to stall.  


Expense of Remaining Use Cases 

Ron Cameron (President, KnowledgeLake, Inc.) explained that digital transformation initiatives attacked “easy things first”.  Now, all that is left is harder, more complex use cases. 


“Many of my customers are now focused on reworking old digital transformation solutions,” Ron said. “For example, they are migrating systems to the cloud.” Ron noted that pure cloud migration is now a big focus for reducing IT costs. 


Skills Shortage 

Another explanation for digital transformation stalling is a skills shortage.  


Ron noted that the skills needed for initial digital transformation, such as loading software on servers, have been replaced by new business-focused skills, like business analysis.  


Kay Young (Information and Records Management Lead, Food Standards Agency) agreed, sharing that her skillset has had to expand. “Information managers are still expected to do everything they used to do, but now there are new expectations as well,” said Young. Information managers are provided training in technical applications as well as teaching and enforcing governance.  


As information managers adopt more technical skill sets, the panelists noted that they are seeing a migration of information managers into IT.  


The Future of Digital Transformation 

Most buzzwords eventually lose their buzz. There are a myriad of reasons why digital transformation has likely stalled, but I wonder if the main reason is digital transformation simply fell out of fashion.  


Digital transformation was doomed to lose its buzz due to a lack of consensus and understanding of what digital transformation really means and its true value. We all likely read about 100 different definitions and explanations for what it is and why it’s needed. There was a great deal of focus on enterprises digitizing paper records and paper-based processes.  


My take is that digital transformation is much more than digitization.  


Digitization was a means to an end. The real goal and value of digital transformation is how it improves the way users interact with and access technology and data (i.e., user experience).  


Here’s my hope. I am ok if I never read or write the words “digital transformation” again, but I hope we keep the lessons we continue to prioritize the principles of digital transformation. Let’s continue to focus on improving processes and accessibility, reducing waste and redundancies, and delighting customers.  


Just like the little black dress in my closet, there are some staples that never go out of style.  


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About Tori Miller Liu

Tori Miller Liu, MBA, FASAE, CAE, CIP is the President & CEO of the Association for Intelligent Information Management. She is an experienced association executive, technology leader, speaker, and facilitator. Previously, she served as the Chief Information Officer of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and has 16+ years of experience in association management. Tori is a former member of the ASAE Technology Professional Advisory Council and a founding Board Member of Association Women Technology Champions. She was named a 2020 Association Trends Young & Aspiring Professional and 2021 Association Forum Forty under 40 award recipient. She is also an alumna of the ASAE NextGen program. She is a Certified Association Executive and holds an MBA from George Washington University. In 2023, Tori was named as a Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).