10 Things Digital Transformation Leaders Do Differently

In a new MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press report, Aligning the Organization for Its Digital Focus, nearly 90% of more than 3,700 business executives, managers and analysts from around the globe say they anticipate their industries will be moderately or greatly disrupted by digital trends. Less than half, however (44%), believe their organization is adequately preparing for this digital disruption.

Waiting to see what happens next is becoming increasingly risky business. We only have to look at brands such as Blockbuster to know why digital transformation is now becoming an imperative rather than a choice.

In the report survey, respondents were asked questions to gauge their organization’s digital maturity: 32% of the 3,700+ fell into the early stages of digital development; the majority (42%) ranked in the middle in the developing stage; while 26% claimed the most advanced digitally maturing status.


The survey questions also uncovered certain traits consistent with the most mature companies. Here are 10 things digital transformation leaders do differently:


  1. They cultivate a dynamic culture. Approximately 80% of respondents from digitally maturing companies say their company culture actively encourages risk taking and agility, compared to just 23% of early-stage companies.
  2. They integrate their digital strategy with the company’s overall strategy. Nearly 90% of digitally maturing organizations take this strategy stance compared to 38% of early-stage companies. They plan ahead, looking at what’s happening now, what might happen in the future, and then focus on what their organization must do to adapt to remain successful. More than 50% of respondents from digitally maturing companies create strategy looking out over a time horizon of greater than two years, compared to 34% of early-stage companies. Overall, survey respondents say the top objective of their digital strategy is to improve the customer experience, a terrific tie to run between digital and overall.
  3. They hire leaders who are change agents. Digitally maturing organizations consistently look for managers and executives who can inspire cultural and organization-wide change and collaboration. Key attributes of these leaders, say respondents, include having a transformative vision (22%), being a forward thinker (20%), having a change-oriented mindset (18%) and collaborative skills (22%). 
  4. They attract, engage and retain talent with their digital focus. Seventy-six percent (76%) of employees at digitally maturing companies say their organization empowers employees with resources and opportunities to develop their digital knowledge and skills, compared to 14% of early-stage organizations.

    Seventy-one percent (71%) of digitally maturing companies say they attract new talent based on their digital vision, (versus 10% of early-stage companies). And in terms of retention, 30% of leaders in organizations where they lack opportunities to develop their digital acumen say they are planning to find new jobs in less than a year.

  5. They aspire to be something more. For example, Zappos claims to be a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes. CVS aspires to be a health care company with pharmacy services, retail stores, and health clinics. They think beyond the level of today’s products and services. 
  6. They break down departmental barriers. Leading companies work to eliminate silos, encouraging and fostering collaboration across people and processes. When asked about an organization’s ability to respond to digital disruption or digital threats, the top concern proved to be internal issues such as lack of agility and cultural complacency.
  7. They invest in innovation. Leaders is the most mature category were more than twice as likely to be investing in innovation than the laggards, 87% to 38%.
  8. They drive decisions with data. Leaders were also more likely to use data over instinct in making decisions or before moving ahead. Overall in the survey, respondents ranked analytics as the technology that was most important to their organization this year, as well as in the next 3 – 5 years.
  9. They plan to disrupt rather than be disrupted. Leading organizations don’t try to make existing products and business models fit the future. More than 80% of digitally maturing companies plan to develop new core business lines in the next three to five years in response to digital trends. 
  10. They embrace and aspire to “digital congruence.” This newly-coined term describes the point at which “culture, people, structure, and tasks are aligned with each other, company strategy, and the challenges of a constantly changing digital landscape.” 

This final bullet proves the most challenging for the most organizations, keeping the digitally mature in the minority for now.

In this same survey, respondents rated “too many competing priorities” as the biggest barrier impeding their organization from taking advantage of digital trends. Organizations must decide whether they will view digital transformation as just one of many competing priorities, or as their one priority with which they will compete, realizing their future may depend on it.


Learn More About Digital Transformation

In a new interview, Constellation Research analyst and best-selling author Ray Wang covers top trends that are impacting digital transformation, the technologies needed to be successful, who should lead digital transformation initiatives, the impact on sales, customer service, IT, finance, marketing and much more. 

Need to get start or want to move farther along?

Click here to access the entire interview.


R "Ray" Wang is the Principal Analyst, Founder, and Chairman of Silicon Valley based Constellation Research, Inc. He's also the author of the new best-selling book Disrupting Digital Business, published by Harvard Business Review Press, as well as the business strategy and technology blog "A Software Insider’s Point of View" which provides insight into how disruptive technologies and new business models such as digital transformation impact brands, enterprises, and organizations.  

His Silicon Valley research firm, Constellation Research, Inc., advises Global 2000 companies on the future, business strategy, and disruptive technology adoption.