Why Quick Wins can Derail Your Digital Transformation…and 5 Ways to choose the right ones!

Recently I sat with a Senior Finance Leader of an FMCG to understand the challenges they face in Digital Transformation. They were doing everything by the book. A clear vision, a roadmap, a relatively high level of digital ambition, and an (almost) aligned Executive team. Despite that over the past 2 years, there was hardly any tangible benefit coming out of digitalization efforts. My cue in the discussion was when he said ‘…we have done a whole lot of pilots over the past 2 years’.

And that was the exact problem. There were too many ‘Quick wins’ or Pilot projects on their roadmap. In an attempt to start small, while being digitally ambitious, they ended up in a rather conservative space. Putting the majority of their bets on micro-projects has been diluting their efforts and investments.

There is nothing wrong with starting small or focusing on short 3-6 months project sprints at the beginning of a Digital Transformation journey. I am a huge advocate of this approach and have seen it work many times. However, a careful evaluation is needed before we choose any quick-win or kick-off an organisation-wide Pilot project shopping spree.

A number of organisations make this mistake. They focus their attention on too many small, function-specific pilots and quick wins. This approach has a number of problems. Firstly, it spreads the organisational resources too thin, resulting in a diminished focus on initiatives. Secondly, it encourages a siloed approach as every function try to push its own quick wins as a demonstration of success. Thirdly, the organisation ends up with a ‘spaghetti’ of disparate systems and tools. These pilots are generally too specific and myopic and hence cannot be scaled across the organisation. This eventually results in significantly increasing organisational ‘technical debt’. Research suggests that as high as 90% of pilot projects remain pilots due to their lack of scalability.

Here is a 5 layered framework you should apply while choosing Quick Wins and Pilot projects. This will help you in making these projects work in your favour and avoid cannibalization and hijacking of your Digital transformation roadmap.

Start small…think big

A quick win does not mean the smallest project in the shortest possible time. Nor does it mean the easiest thing to do…and it rarely is a ‘low hanging fruit’. A quick win is a project that has the biggest business impact with minimum resources invested behind it. This might seem intuitive but in reality organisations often overestimate the impact of quick wins and hence fail to prioritise them.

The best-in-class approach is to create an inventory of opportunities in the form of clear and actionable projects, resources required, and timeframe. A 4×4 quadrant bubble chart with ‘time required’ on the x-axis, ‘resources required’ on the y-axis and the ‘size of the prize’ represented by the bubble size works best.

Digital vs Process

The earliest quick wins are more likely to be process and operational efficiency driven as opposed to going Digital. Some of the major benefits can be extracted by simplifying core processes. Cost reduction, hours saved, and improved stakeholder satisfaction can be highly impactful when prioritising quick wins. These process improvement initiatives make them a rather appealing candidate for future digitalisation.

For example, minimizing interdependencies and handovers between different sub-processes and functions creates a huge impact in streamlining a book closure. For one CPG Company, removing interdependencies and starting work in parallel reduced 2 days from their book closure. Digitalisation then comes as a next step. Once the process is lean and repeatable, automating those are not only faster but more impactful.

Workflow automation

Finance processes are full of workflows. Invoice approvals, journal processing, Intercompany eliminations etc. to name a few. In almost any finance transformation, automating workflows is the most impactful use case.

A proliferation of low and no-code tools like Microsoft Power Platform and Google App Sheet has made this process fairly simple and democratized. You do not need full-stack developers anymore. Upskilling the existing team members as Citizen Developers is the best way to maximize the benefit. Based on our experience, moving a simple journal workflow from email to Power Automate or a similar tool can reduce the average approval, follow-up and tracking time of 1 journal from approx. 10 minutes to under 2 minutes. That is an 80% efficiency and hence an ideal quick win.


Quick wins sometimes work as a scaffolding for your Transformation building. Borrowing the concept of ‘Scaffolding’ from Adam Grant’s recent book ‘Hidden Potential’… it can explain the purpose of a quick win quite comprehensively. Similar to how you need scaffolding to enable workers to reach the higher parts of the building, a strategically placed quick win can ensure reaching new heights with your Digital transformation efforts.

Ask yourself these questions when selecting a quick win:

Integration: How can the solution from this pilot integrate seamlessly with existing tech and future systems?

Standardisation: Does the win provide an opportunity to establish enterprise-wide practices or data standards that can support larger goals?

Data Foundation: Does the pilot collect or improve data that will be crucial for more substantial transformation steps down the line?

Building Momentum

Stop thinking of a quick win as a technology or digitalisation breakthrough. The primary purpose of a quick win is NOT technology testing. For that, you have demos or test data. The quick win is about proving the “value” of transformation to your organization. Leverage these wins to break down resistance, gain buy-in from stakeholders, and engage the teams as scale.

First, clearly communicate the value delivered by each quick win. Relate it to larger strategic goals and quantify success and value realized whenever possible. Second, recognize and reward the teams involved visibly. This fosters a sense of accomplishment and encourages broader participation in future initiatives…something critical for the success of future transformation efforts. Lastly, evangelize the outcomes. Turn quick win champions into ambassadors for wider digital transformation. Their voices can be powerful in getting others on board and influencing peers.

Quick wins, when chosen thoughtfully, can be powerful catalysts for successful digital transformation. The goal isn’t simply to check off projects or populate a roadmap – it’s about making real progress towards your larger vision while building confidence and winning stakeholder support. Remember, quick wins are not about the immediate results, they are about preparing the right foundation and acting as a ‘scaffolding’ for a sustainable and scalable change. By focusing on impact, integration, and momentum, you turn quick wins into stepping stones that drive your finance organization into a truly digital future.