On unveiling its top 10 predictions for 2016, IDC urged enterprises to ‘transform or die’, noting that digital transformation will drive ‘everything that matters in IT’ in the coming years. It’s a strong message and it came through loud and clear.

Even for the public sector, digital transformation is high on the agenda for this year, as made clear by the government’s recent digital strategy announcements.

For many businesses, however, what they’ll be left with is a ringing in their ears as a constant reminder of the long and winding – and somewhat daunting – road that lies ahead.

When businesses set off on the path to digital transformation, rather than rushing out the door, it’s best – as with any journey – for them to have considered: what route they plan to take; where they can stop off along the way to take stock and refuel; and how long they plan to be on the road. As part of the forward-planning process, it’s also crucial for them to have noted any roadblocks that might cause them to stall.

To help businesses prepare for their journey, I will mark out what I believe are the five main inhibitors to digital transformation – so they know where they’re headed and what to avoid.

Manual processes

Automation is a huge opportunity for digital enterprises – and a chance for the back office to move away from archaic manual tasks, which naturally slow the pace of business to ‘human speed’ and increase the likelihood of errors. With automation, they can instead benefit from more streamlined, reliable processes that take place at the ‘speed of digital’.

Manual processes limit what you can get out of your other enterprise-wide investments, even if you’re confident they’re cutting-edge and absolutely in-line with your digital transformation strategy.

Without automation driving the back office, you’re constantly having to physically connect processes (many of them mission-critical) that span the rest of the business, for example, platforms and apps used across different departments or business units in various geographic locations. Typically, this leaves you with little remaining resource to focus on the bigger (dare I say more important) ‘digital enterprise’ picture – how you can use technology in innovative ways to gain competitive advantage.

Monolithic systems

Many businesses today are guilty of trying to preserve legacy systems for too long, thinking ‘well it hasn’t died yet, so I’m going to let it run on’. Often these systems will have involved a huge upfront investment many years ago and so organisations sweat them to the point of them becoming detrimental to the goals of the business.

There are two problems I see here: firstly, it’s a well-known stat that around 80% of IT budgets are currently spent ‘keeping the lights on’ – leaving very little room for investment in the true innovation that really drives digital transformation.

Secondly (and it’s a biggie): any monolithic system that a business runs is taking away from its ability to digitally transform simply because the system often becomes the reason a business can’t move forward. Think of it this way – adding an app to an old network in a bid to become more nimble and competitive, is like dressing your car with a spoiler when what it really needs is for you to look under the bonnet and service the engine.

As well as freeing themselves from the clutches of out-dated databases and PBX systems, businesses also need to get out of the ‘rip and replace’ mind set, and instead work to give new functionality to users as and when they need and want it. It’s not about upgrades, it’s about applications and introducing features for subsets through snap-ins.

Information siloes

We all know the value of Big Data and the potential for data science to dramatically change the business landscape, especially when it comes to the customer experience and being able to create a 360 view of the customer. But what use is all this data if it can’t be shared and utilised across the business?

Digital enterprises rely on a level of transparency between departments such as marketing, service and sales, to deliver the experience that customers expect today. Without it, the business as a whole has a very disjointed view of the customer and, as a result, service falters and the company becomes blind to up- and cross-sell opportunities.

What we need today is blueprint for how departments can share information appropriately, creating a matrix of information to drive the openness and collaboration needed to create that transforming ‘single view of the customer’.

Mobility

Any business working towards becoming a digital enterprise needs to have mobile at the very centre of its strategy. I read recently that Forrester Research expects mobile to become the fastest-growing channel among all digital channels for brands to engage with consumers (38 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)).

To keep pace with the rapid speed of 21st Century business and compete with those organisations already bolstering their investments in mobile technologies, mobile has to become a top priority and it must sit right at the heart of every business decision you make.

Security

Cybersecurity is perhaps the most talked-about topic in our industry at the moment, due mainly to recent high-profile instances where organisations’ networks have been compromised. It will also continue to dominate business strategy when it comes to technology. In November last year at the Black Hat conference in Amsterdam, Haroon Meer, Founder of Thinkst, stated in his keynote that the future looked “grim” but there’s a lot you can do to change this. It starts with a digital security strategy.

For organisations working towards digital transformation, the first step in creating a digital security strategy is understanding exactly what it is that a potential ‘hacker’ would be interested in. From there, you are in an informed position to build your strategy from the ground up. Also, bear in mind the inhibitors I’ve discussed today – as a key component of any digital business, security should be automated, flexible, holistic and mobile, but above all agile. Remember that complexity does not equal security.

By Aaron Miller, EU CTO at Avaya