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7 (More) Must-Read Articles on Digital Transformation

By Sam Malissa

Two years ago we shared a curated list of helpful articles for companies driving digital transformation. As 2020 gets underway we wanted to provide an updated list of some of the most useful pieces that have come out since.

The material in the first list is still applicable, but as more and more companies have embarked on digital transformation initiatives, we’ve all learned some valuable lessons.

Evangelists of digital transformation (that includes us!) are older and wiser. There’s a broader understanding among tech vendors and consumer-facing brands alike of just how huge an undertaking digital transformation is. You can’t do everything all at once, none of it happens automatically or easily, and the top priorities need to be human: your employees and your customers.

Unlocking Success in Digital Transformations

McKinsey / October 2018

Digital transformation has revolutionized many businesses. Sadly, there are plenty of companies who have made huge investments of time and money only to see the initiative fail. McKinsey conducted a survey of what has worked for the companies who have found success in digital transformation. They identify twenty-one best practices divided into five key areas.

Disruptions, Delusions, and Defenses in Digital Transformation
Boston Consulting Group / July 2019

In a similar vein but from the opposite angle, BCG uses the benefit of hindsight to learn about how digital transformations have failed and what leaders can do to insulate their organizations from these common missteps.

Digital Transformation is Not About Technology

Harvard Business Review / March 2019

This article makes several high-level points that we love about outlook and expectations. The writers start by emphasizing that you need to keep your business strategy in mind, which seems obvious enough, but many companies still get caught up in buzzy innovations and purchase a tool for vague notions of “speed” or “efficiency” rather than how it addresses their critical business goals. But more than anything else, the writers remind us that a successful change at the scale that digital transformation demands always has to be about the people involved, both inside and outside the company.

Thawing the Frozen Middle

strategy+business / November 2019

Following on the previous point about the critical role of people in the transformation, this article focuses on the oft-maligned middle managers. As the bridge between the decision-makers and the front lines, they can make or break any initiative, especially one as sweeping as digital transformation. The writers from PwC provide helpful insight on getting middle managers bought in and committed.

Digital Transformation Should Start With Customers

Sloan MIT Management Review / October 2019

The authors of this article make an important argument for triage since it’s impossible to tackle all aspects of digital transformation at once. Between renovating operations, business models, and customer experiences, they advocate prioritizing the results that customers can see. A focus on keeping customers satisfied and engaged is far more likely to keep the company competitive than overhauling existing internal elements that are already at least minimally viable. Make internal transformations proceed from the outside in, using the customer as the key source of metrics.

Top 10 Digital Transformation Trends for 2020
Forbes / July 2019

The author is right when he suggests that improvements in technical speed, scale, and capacity will have far-reaching implications, and also that AI-powered analytics will become more central to sharpening a competitive edge. But lists of trends are most useful as good guides for what to ask questions about since trends easily blur into buzzwords that can obscure things. Keep an eye out for these trends and dig deeper into them when they come up.

What is Digital Transformation? A Necessary Disruption
CIO / May 2019

As fans of myth-busting and sober analysis, we appreciate how this article starts from a place of skepticism around the overuse and abuse of the idea of digital transformation as a cure-all. The writer provides an experienced overview of digital transformation now that it’s been part of the conversation for more than a decade — a reexamination of what it means, where to start, and potential pitfalls.

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