Run, Don’t Walk, To Digital Transformation

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Established companies looking to transform their business must go “all in” and start generating results quickly. This startup mindset is what incumbents compete against and it often poses a variety of challenges. Winning in digital does not come from slowly tweaking the margins of your business. It requires going beyond digital marketing to a holistic rethink of how your business model and enterprise can be enhanced through digital tools and technologies. And most importantly, leaders must shift from talk to walk—moving from strategies to action.

Bringing strategies to life is where companies often get stuck. Even the best of strategies are just words on paper if they can’t be operationalized. These failures, combined with competitors’ successes and pressures from digital insurgents, widen the digital divide.

Despite these challenges, we are seeing emerging best practices that shed new light for incumbents trying to transform their business models. In partnership with a few of my colleagues at SSA & Company, we codified these insights into a simple, three-pronged philosophy.

So, what does it take for leaders of established companies to win in the digital world?

Key questions to ask:

  • Have you benchmarked the external landscape of successful digital companies within and outside your industry?
  • Does your company have a mechanism in place to continuously seek and spot the ‘next big thing’?
  • How effectively does your organization connect emerging digital and technology trends to changing customer preferences and behaviors?


2. Inside-Out: Define How Digital Can Drive Your Business. Consider how digital capabilities propel or constrain your business strategies. Define your points of competitive advantage in the digital world. Then, augment your business strategies with digital models and capabilities. When SSA & Company works with clients looking for a deeper dive on, we apply our proprietary Digital Maturity Index (DMI)TM tool. DMI analyzes over 40 different digital capabilities across core dimensions, such as organizational alignment, customer engagement, product innovation, and operations. The relative importance of each dimension varies by industry and company. We find a consistent need across industries and companies for leaders to align the organization around the digital strategy, develop plans to operationalize them in market, and then prioritize initiatives to deliver best and fastest results. In prioritizing the work, many organizations struggle to understand the relative ROI of digital investments. Leaders must be able to examine the quantitative and qualitative tradeoffs in order to maximize ROI from each investment.

Key questions to ask:

  • Have you assessed your company’s digital capabilities relative to competitors and—more importantly—your overall business strategy?
  • Do you have sufficient strategies to guide your work and do you have focused action plans to bring these strategies to life in market?
  • Do you have an effective mechanism to prioritize and sequence your digital initiatives for maximal returns?


3. Culture and Capabilities: Build the Mindset, Talent, and Capabilities to Embrace Transformation. Culture and capabilities are core to any business transformation. Building an agile culture and keeping pace with fast-changing digital capabilities define success in our increasingly digital world. Leaders must focus on building the right culture and capabilities to activate their company’s digital ambitions. Legacy thinkers using legacy frameworks in legacy cultures will fail. Generic digital approaches may get you in the game but will not build competitive advantage. Digitally-enabled programs, customized to your company’s culture, will help drive your strategic plan and bring it to life with excellent execution. Successful leaders align teams, change mindsets, and build skills and competencies required to maintain momentum and grow in a fast-moving and ever-changing marketplace.

Key Questions to ask:

  • Are you building an agile and data-driven culture?
  • Can your leaders across the organization clearly define and measure success on digital initiatives?
  • What is the current state of your leadership and organizational digital capability? How does your capability compare to that of best-in-class digital capabilities?

Successful digital transformations are rooted in bringing the outside in, getting the inside out, and building the right culture and capabilities to best compete in our increasingly digital world.

What ideas, lessons, and success stories do you have for accelerating business transformation through digital? Get the conversation going by sharing your thoughts with #Run2Digital

deb2Deb Henretta is Partner at G100 Companies and spearheads SSA & Company’s Digital Transformation practice.

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