Being a digital thinker doesn’t automatically make you successful at digital transformation, according to research published today.

A survey by Censuswide focusing on business leaders at both public and private sector organisations found that 95% regarded themselves to be ‘digital thinkers’ and 84% said they had the required digital skills to oversee digital transformation projects.

However, only slightly over half, 54%, believed that the digital transformation projects they had commissioned had been financially successful, suggesting that skills and mentality alone are not enough to get results.

“The research highlights that while business leaders are confident in their own abilities to oversee digital change, the reality is that many projects are failing to deliver the financial benefits,” said Michelle Shelton, product planning director at MHR, an HR and payroll provider that commissioned the survey.

“One of the key drivers for implementing digital change is to deliver cost savings and revenue growth but this is only achievable if people with the right skills, including a strong financial awareness, are spearheading the change.”

Why skills aren’t enough to make digital transformation successful

While an understanding of the financials is undoubtedly key to any successful digital transformation project, Shelton argued that the appropriate engagement of wider teams and departments is vital to making them a reality.

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“Ahead of carrying out a digital transformation project, it’s important to collaborate with all departments to create a joint strategy and establish a change team responsible for delivering the change,” he advised.

“By adopting a collaborative approach organisations can leverage the skills and expertise of its people, and gain a true understanding of its current operation to establish a clear vision for the future.”

In particular, he sees HR as key to the digital transformation process.

“Digital transformation projects will almost certainly fail unless you take your people on the journey with you. Subsequently, any change team should naturally include HR,” said Shelton.

“As stewards of company culture, HR professionals can ensure any changes are successfully embedded and embraced by its people, and play an active role in helping create more a ‘digital savvy’ workforce by recruiting new talent to plug any skills gaps and arranging training for existing employees to support the adoption of new software.”

Read more: Six digital transformation tips to avoid a “digital veneer”