4 Unlikeable but Critical Facts About Digital Transformation

BY Rich Farrell | May 10, 2019


Disruptive technology has the potential to disrupt markets, behavior, and processes models. According to Brian Solis, the three concepts of disruptive technology are:

  • Iteration: doing the same things better
  • Innovation: doing new things that create new value
  • Disruption: doing new things that make the old things obsolete.

How does a company cope with all this disruption? Digital Transformation, or DX as the kids call it these days. DX has been a hot topic since Cap Gemini coined the term a few years back, but it is not just technology coming to the rescue. Getting the right answers for your DX strategy requires asking the right questions. Every business vertical is nuanced so a DX strategy that works for a process manufacturer might not work for a retailer. Also, be wary of thinking DX is only for tech startups and uber disrupters like Uber. DX is affecting everyone that is connected to the internet and has become a global norm. Your customers will not wait for your business to catch up. To stay relevant, you need to craft and implement a DX strategy for you, your employees, clients, markets, and customers.

There are many DX strategies, models and guides out in the world. How do you know which one will work for you? I had a mentor once tell me that for every difficult problem, there is an easy to understand answer that is direct, simple, and terribly wrong. DX is a complex issue and requires complex answers, serious consideration, and deep thought. Here are four unlikeable but critical ideas to consider during your DX journey: fix the last tactical mile, there is a common thread in all successful DX implementations, DX it is not just a technical project, and you must lead DX from the top.  

The first ugly sister is fixing that troublesome last black-friday-buy-credit-card-34577mile. Keeping the end user and customer at the forefront of your strategy and implementation is key. The real value and differentiation of your business and your DX implementation will occur at the customer and end user touch points. While I am not advocating that you center all of your attention on customer experiences alone, it is important to remember that the goal of DX is to close the gaps between your organization’s objectives and your customer’s needs. Here is a fun fact: 88% of companies report undergoing a digital transformation. However, only 25% have mapped the digital customer journey and have a clear understanding of new or underperforming digital touchpoints. Don’t be a footnote in a case study; do the hard work and map out an actionable strategy that reaches all the way down into those crucial touchpoints.

The second less attractive sibling is that there is a close-up-colors-design-940271common thread in successful DX. It turns out we are all unique, just like everyone else. Even in chaotic systems, if one looks long and hard enough, subtle patterns begin to emerge. In our disruptive world, a McKinsey article way back in 2013 nailed the common threads of companies undergoing successful Data Transformations:

Even to the untrained observer, DX is more than just digitizing your paper or doing the same old things better. It is a thoughtful strategy that cuts across information and decision silos. Successful DX creates information (and not just data) channels to the last tactical mile. 


The third ugly duckling is that DX is much more than an IT project. If DX is to be successful in your company, it cannot be completely outsourced to the CIO and/or the IT team. Transformation is an all hands initiative and is too important to be relegated to an individual department. Successful DX is centered upon human interactions and putting people at the front of all considerations. Additionally, if DX is implemented in a vacuum without involving employee/customer concerns or informing stakeholders, a mutiny could ensue. At the very least, expect friction and outright resistance if DX is shoved down their throats without conditioning them for big changes.

pexels-photo (1)Finally, the fourth idea is uglier than homemade soap to some heads of organizations but critical. DX requires buy-in and hands-on involvement from the very top. Like any new activity or undertaking, your colleagues, workers, end users, and stakeholders will follow the CEO’s lead. Any change or disruption to an organization requires a leader to show the way. The CEO must consistently be in front of the effort from kick off to steady state sustainment. Successful DX requires a strong leader that will break down
information silos and close the chasm between expectations and realities.

Failures in DX occur when digital strategists and executives invest in digital transformation without insight or purpose. Don’t be a cautionary tale in the DX literature. At LTA, we have former CEOs, CIOs, and CFOs that have been at the forefront of DX for years that can provide that crucial insight and purpose. LTA’s leadership can help you craft a thoughtful DX strategy and our seasoned consultants can be the trail boss for your DX implementation.

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