The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation

In-depth research with executives at a wide range of companies shows how managers can use technology to redefine their businesses.

Digital transformation — the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises — is a hot topic for companies across the globe. Executives in all industries are using digital advances such as analytics, mobility, social media and smart embedded devices as well as improving their use of traditional technologies such as ERP to change customer relationships, internal processes and value propositions. Other executives, seeing how fast digital technology disrupted media industries in the past decade, know they need to pay attention to changes in their industries now.

Where can you look for digital transformation opportunities? We interviewed 157 executives in 50 companies to find out. These companies are large — typically $1 billion or more in annual sales — and spanned 15 countries. To provide balanced perspectives, approximately half of the interviewees were business leaders such as CEOs, line of business managers, marketing heads or COOs, while the other half were IT and technology leaders.

The companies we interviewed are moving forward with digital transformation at varying paces and experiencing varying levels of success. Some are transforming many parts of their organizations while others are still doing only the basics. Others are encountering organizational issues or other challenges that prevent them from transforming successfully.

But one thing we found was clear. The best companies — those we call Digirati — combine digital activity with strong leadership to turn technology into transformation. This is what we call Digital Maturity. Companies vary in their digital maturity, and those that are more mature outperform those that are not.

Leading digital change requires managers to have a vision of how to transform their company for a digital world. So, where can you look? What digital activities represent good opportunities for your business?

Analysis of the interviews shows clear patterns. Executives are digitally transforming three key areas of their enterprises: customer experience, operational processes and business models. And each of these three pillars has three different elements that are changing. These nine elements form a set of building blocks for digital transformation.

Currently, no company in our sample has fully transformed all nine elements. Rather, executives are selecting among these building blocks to move forward in the manner that they believe is right for their organizations. In this article, we highlight some of the ways that companies we studied are changing these nine areas.

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