Review: Succesful Digital Transformation

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Written by: Henny Portman

In the book Successful Digital Transformation – A Survival Guide for Managers and Executives by Marc Beijen, we get a nice and practical overview of different possible and mutually reinforcing digital transformations that you can use when formulating your own digital transformation.

The book starts with a consideration of the digital revolution in the 21st century. What challenges lie ahead for organizations, what does this require from managers and executives, and what are the motivations for starting your own digital transformation. The author describes six clusters of drivers:

  • Emergence of new markets and business models
  • Customer needs and expectations are fundamentally changing
  • The changing relationship between man and machine
  • New technological developments offer new opportunities
  • Growing regulatory, privacy and ethical requirements
  • The increasing value of data.

To put the digital transition in perspective, the author uses a phase model containing three phases: past (product focus), present (customer orientation) and future (creating relevance and an excellent customer approach). This phase model shows that there are actually two different digital movements or phase transitions. The movement from phase 1 to phase 2 is aimed at changing from a product-oriented to a customer-oriented experience and thereby simplifying products, processes, systems, working methods and control. The second movement from phase 2 to phase 3 is aimed at realizing the company of the future (renewal, disruption and transformation). Phase 2 cannot be skipped but can/must be kept as short as possible with the right strategy.

Next, we get five chapters describing five digital breakthroughs or themes. These breakthroughs occur in both the first and second phase transitions. Depending on the organization, all five themes will occur to a greater or lesser extent. The five themes or digital breakthroughs are:

  • Data-driven organization: a data-centric organization uses facts and not gut feelings to manage.
  • Smart, digital processes: (re)design, streamline and digitize business processes, with advanced technologies dramatically improving performance.
  • Brilliant customer experience: delivering the right customer experience is a ‘business capability’, an ability that the organization possesses, consisting of a combination of knowledge, competencies, techniques, processes, and technology.
  • Agile and resilient organization: A powerful IT function that can help the organization take a prominent leadership role and ensure that the organization becomes fast, nimble, and agile.
  • New digital business models: Traditional organizations focus primarily on revenue and profit; platform organizations focus on attracting more producers and consumers.

The final choices of themes are reflected in the organization’s digital strategy. In addition to the themes, you’ll find the business strategy, drivers’ analysis, architecture sketches, a digital fitness scan and the digital roadmap. The author clearly outlines the framework for business transformation. For each theme or digital breakthrough, the author zooms in on the vision (why is it important?), the problems and challenges, capabilities (what needs to be ‘in place’ to become successful here?) and action (how and when will you do it, what actions are needed?). This is further explained with appealing examples.

The final chapter bridges the gap between digital strategy and execution. Here, the digital transformation is seen as a spiral of change cycle containing the steps digital strategy, change, run and learning & adjusting. Finally, several success and failure factors are discussed:

  • Digital transformation = business change
  • C-level ownership
  • Change under architecture
  • Work incrementally on business value as well as  digital capabilities
  • A good start is half the battle
  • Holistic thinking, autonomous action
  • Take a situational approach
  • It is also behavioral change!

Conclusion. The book is a smooth read. It gives a good and practical picture of the various possible and mutually reinforcing digital transitions (data-driven organization, smart digital processes, brilliant customer experience, agile and resilient organization, and new digital business models) and shows that organizations are going through two digital transitions (from traditional business to customer orientation and from customer orientation to the new world). 

What I find less highlighted is what such a digital transformation requires from management itself. We see many transformations fail and the culture or the missing mindshift in the organization is often to blame. I think this is an important task for management. 

The author further indicates that he was inspired in his phase model by McKinsey’s “Three horizons of growth model”. I would say that it is more in line with Marshall’s Right shifting model and that the ‘Three horizons model’ is translated into his three buckets of initiatives (maintain, growth and innovation).

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the book is highly recommended for managers and executives to organize their thoughts and formulate an answer to the necessary digitization battle.

Read all reviews and blogs by Henny Portman on his personal blog.

Order the book here!

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