Three Things Many Companies Get Wrong About Digital Transformation

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Today’s CEOs face unprecedented pressure to become more digitally focused. Yet it can be challenging to translate digital opportunities into an actionable, winning strategy. To complicate matters, common misunderstandings in the marketplace may skew a leader’s perspective. In this article, we’ll debunk a few of these disruptive myths.

1. Myth: Digital strategy is separate from business strategy

Too many companies have a separate digital strategy from their overall corporate strategy. This may explain why, according to Forbes Magazine and others, 84% of digital projects fail to achieve their objectives. Digital is a mindset shift that must be embedded into a company’s DNA; it’s a new ‘way of working,’ with an emphasis on agility, transparency, collaboration, and experimentation.

Many industries compartmentalize digital, viewing it as only relevant to certain aspects of their business. In retail, digital is often equated with marketing and social media, ignoring the potential benefits to planning, merchandising, and supply chain. For many of our B2B clients, digital means creating new products or implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA), without proper consideration for its impact on client engagement, experience, and sales. This strategy can make for missed opportunities.

Our solution is our Digital Maturity Index (DMI)™. This proprietary benchmarking tool looks at capabilities across the value chain to identify gaps and opportunities, which helps our clients assess where digital will bring the most value. The result is an integrated business strategy that properly aligns digital to relevant business initiatives.

2. Myth: Digital is expensive

There is no set cost for entry into digital. Today’s open source technologies do not require the same high upfront expenditures or the long implementation times of yesterday’s ERPs. The key is to start small and grow spending incrementally, building on proven success. You can make plenty of headway even if your current technology infrastructure is not fully modernized. Overbuying could be the biggest mistake, because if you buy more than your organization knows how to effectively use, by the time your workforce becomes capable, the digital systems and technology could be outdated. Spend a little, learn a lot. Spend more to learn more.

We created our Digital Investment Sequencing™ algorithm and methodology to help clients identify when and where to place their bets to best drive success. Digital done right is not only cost efficient, it is often self-funding.

3. Myth: Digital is about cost savings

Companies that have successfully integrated digital into their operations understand that the goal is not about saving money; the journey is more one of holistic reinvention, sharpening focus on those areas of the business that could benefit from digitization. Case in point: Sprint reorganized its product management team, investing in an AI expert to ensure a data-driven approach to building customer experiences and is starting to see gains. Sprint’s Chief Digital Officer Rob Roy aptly notes that “many companies start off thinking of digital as a means for cutting costs.” Digital transformation must be a more holistic undertaking.

Some of the most effective digital transformations have come from the blending of old and new. One example was Levi’s partnership with Google to celebrate its iconic trucker jacket’s 50th birthday. The company designed a wearable technology version of the jacket that made it possible to control one’s iPhone from the jacket sleeve. Sales of the jacket jumped 40% that year. Digitization for digitization’s sake will not necessarily drive the business. Digitization that helps your business do whatever it does better, faster, and cheaper is definitely worth the effort.

Data-driven decision making, one of the core tenets of digital, enables a business to quickly understand which investments are working. Using data to properly measure impact enables us to hear the voice of the consumer and focus on the most impactful metrics. This approach means trying new tactics, testing and learning from results, and allowing for failure. Effective digital integration requires a flexible, ever-changing roadmap. As Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has said, “the only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility.”


While digital presents massive opportunities for growth, profits, and capability building—common misconceptions can lead to failed initiatives and new complexity. Winning companies holistically integrate digital across the value chain, make smart investments that deliver ROI, and continuously unlock value from digital to retain competitive advantage.

We’d love to open the dialogue and hear from you. What has been the most impactful way that you have accelerated transformation? We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments with #run2digital.

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



This article was written in collaboration with Nick Kramer, Vice President, Digital & Analytics, SSA & Company. To learn more, please contact Nick at nkramer@ssaandco.com.

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