Debunking 3 Myths About Digital Transformation

The nonprofit and education leaders I work with each have a different definition of “digital transformation.” As with any industry buzzword, there are disagreements – and misconceptions – about what it means. At Salesforce.org, digital transformation means integrating technology into your organization in a way that enhances your ability to […]

The nonprofit and education leaders I work with each have a different definition of “digital transformation.” As with any industry buzzword, there are disagreements – and misconceptions – about what it means.

At Salesforce.org, digital transformation means integrating technology into your organization in a way that enhances your ability to deliver on your mission.

Many organizations and institutions have already started their transformations. I’ve written previously about how to quickly assess your organization’s progress along that path. But for those who are talking about digital transformation for the first time, there are a few common myths that may feel like obstacles.

Let’s break down the three most common myths I hear and learn how digital transformation can supercharge an organization’s ability to make change in the world.

At Salesforce.org, digital transformation means integrating technology into your organization in a way that enhances your ability to deliver on your mission.

Myth #1: “Digital transformation is a distraction from our mission.”

When leaders tell me transformation isn’t mission-focused, I ask how their organization or institution is currently delivering on its mission. Is the work happening efficiently? How will the organization grow to reach and serve more people? How does it measure its impact?

Digital transformation helps teams improve in each of those categories. It’s far from a distraction. It’s a vital component of effectively delivering results.

Robert Morris University’s mission is to help students become engaged, productive, and successful citizens. Technology is a key enabler for RMU, helping the university understand and serve the needs of its community. As RMU President Dr. Chris Howard puts it, technology is one of the key enablers that pushes the university toward its goals: “[We want to be] the most agile, professionally career-focused university in the country. We have the DNA, the mindset, the technology, and the partners to do that.”

Myth #2: “Digital transformation creates extra work for employees.”

Leaders sometimes believe that as technology does more to support their organizations, employees will have to work more, too. In fact, the opposite is true. When technology does more of the heavy lifting – more data analysis, more personalized communication with constituents, more automation – employees have more time to tackle the bigger challenges that require human brainpower.

That’s not to say transformation happens without people. Employees need to participate in establishing goals, plans, and governance, especially at the outset. But this upfront investment of time pays dividends for years to come.

When Texas Tech University set an ambitious goal of increasing enrollment by 33%, the team knew technology would have to play a big role in their efforts. As part of their transformation, TTU implemented automation to eliminate time-consuming manual work, which helps admissions counselors focus on making stronger personal connections with prospective students. They also deployed data to optimize how they spend their time and effort. Julian Olivas, Director of Communications and Marketing for the Division of Enrollment Management, says, “It’s revolutionized the way we work.”

Myth #3: “Digital transformation is a one-time process.”

I’ve had leaders tell me “We just finished our digital transformation. We’re done!” But given how quickly the world changes, there is no finish line in transformation. The good news is that once your organization has navigated the process of technological change, it’s less overwhelming to keep evolving.

Healthier Kids Foundation’s first transformation happened when it shifted its mission from ensuring children had access to health insurance to focusing on preventative healthcare and education. At that point, the team needed to improve its case management and fundraising work. With that experience under its belt, the Foundation was able to quickly change gears and prioritize connecting families to crisis support when COVID-19 upended its direct service operations. Today, Healthier Kids Foundation is continuing its transformation, working to build a data-driven solution for finding new opportunities to better support more children.

For organizations that haven’t yet started their transformations, the first step is to align around a focus area, a vision, and a timeline for making change happen. Making that first move is the hardest part. Once a team has started on its journey and can count a few early wins, the momentum only builds. At organizations where transformation has become part of the fabric, the question becomes: What next?

Join us at Salesforce.org’s Week of Learning, where you’ll hear tips from experts and peers who are leading their own transformation efforts about how to make this work successful at your organization or institution.


About the Author

Greg Perlstein, Digital Transformation Lead for Salesforce.org
Greg Perlstein
Digital Transformation Lead for Salesforce.org
Greg Perlstein is a digital transformation lead for Salesforce.org, working with customers to chart their paths to greater social impact. Prior to joining Salesforce.org, Greg was a senior director at DoSomething.org, the world’s largest nonprofit for young people and social change. Greg holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and has over a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector.

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