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Three pitfalls of digital-transformation funding

Oct. 22, 2018

Funding should be an easy sell, right?

Digital transformation creates new value opportunities for customers, employees and shareholders. It empowers decision-making and enables rapid and decisive action. With all the value that digital transformation provides, funding should be an easy sell, right?


The secret to getting buy-in is in aligning the deepest needs of the organization with the benefits that digital transformation provides. Toss out the spreadsheets and think in terms of enablement rather than cost. Here are three common funding pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Pitfall 1: It’s all about the return on investment

While smaller funding decisions are based entirely on ROI, an organization-wide digital transformation initiative is different. Get approval for funding by communicating the value of the initiative based on non-ROI factors. Think about the impact digital transformation will have in terms of strategic business imperatives: 

BIS' Dan Rotelli

Revenue-generating activities–Digital transformation is as much about keeping the lights on as it is about dealing with disruption from non-traditional competitors. Everything the organization does to generate revenue will benefit. Talk about the impact of digital transformation on the entire customer journey and the back-office systems that support it. You may even uncover some new ways of monetizing existing activities.

Customer, prospect and employee perception–Think about how digital transformation will affect how your organization is perceived. Pitch the idea of ensuring that customers and prospects will see the organization as forward-thinking and a better investment. You’ll gain and retain greater talent when employees see that the organization is relevant and growing.

Outpacing competition–Digital transformation is much more than just new technology. It empowers your organization to do what it does better, while ensuring you are focusing on the right things. The seven most dangerous words in business: “That’s the way we’ve always done it” are a sure sign that competition is about to break through the front door. Show how digital transformation will maintain your competitive edge.

Pitfall 2: Digital transformation is a project

Digital transformation is more journey than project. What you need to sell is the idea of a continuous effort –a movement along a path of increased operational effectiveness. Show how digital transformation will help fuel the organization’s innovation and core competencies. Convey the idea that digital transformation isn’t a thing, rather it’s a way of doing business.

Spend time with end users and managers to uncover the deeper impact digital transformation will have on the work they perform. Weave your discoveries into the story of the digital-transformation journey you are telling. The goal isn’t to become a master storyteller, but to clearly convey the deeper benefits the organization will receive.

Your digital-transformation journey should line up with your organization’s core mission. Your goal is to show a journey that enables significant and progressive growth.

Pitfall 3: It’s all about the features

The goal of digital transformation is business enablement. Don’t focus on features and technical details when making a pitch for funding. Instead of talking about data analytics, business intelligence and transforming IT systems, talk about the benefits. Benefits sell. Focus on supporting your organization’s core mission and solving its deepest needs.

One helpful exercise is to ask yourself “So what?” Here’s how it goes: write down a core feature of digital transformation and ask yourself “So what?” Your answer is a benefit that just might get a lot of attention, such as drastically improving real-time decision-making, increasing profitability, controlling risk or delivering a more delightful customer-service experience.

Help decision-makers who hold the purse-strings see that digital transformation is all about achieving results by empowering rapid and decisive action.

Dan Rotelli is the CEO of BIS.