Six Key Digital Transformation Strategy Steps Explained

Apr 07 2020

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Six Key Digital Transformation Strategy Steps Explained

Let’s face it: digital transformation is hard. With so much at stake to create a digital powerhouse that drives customer engagement, process efficiency and innovation, why do some companies fall behind? And this is not true for the novices- head honchos, market leaders, and investors’ handpicked, are getting trampled too with the force.

A recent BCG report highlights that 70% of digital transformation efforts fall short of their business expectations.

If failure is not the option in this competitive landscape, then why successful digital transformations are rare? What’s the recipe for success? To get things right for all your digital initiatives, a clear digital transformation strategy is needed to achieve a spot always ahead of your competitors.

What is a Digital Transformation Strategy?

A digital transformation strategy is defined as a digital blueprint that leads businesses to address key challenges presented by the mix of physical, digital, and human worlds. At the base level, the strategy includes a short or long-term plan aiming to redefine the way a business operates and how they cater to their customers.

Related: How To Create A Digital Product Strategy When Technology Changes Fast

The COVID Accelerator

Investments in digital transformation efforts have started building momentum since COVID-19. Organizations have transitioned to new business models to support flexibility, productivity, and cost optimization. All crucial aspects of businesses are being digitized, like shopping experiences, remote learning, medical assistance using telemedicine, etc. The pandemic hasn’t been easy for any business, but those that are accelerating with a digital mindset have achieved exponential growth.

For instance, New York Road Runners (NYRR), a non-profit running organization, has achieved 400% growth through digital transformation efforts. Started off with optimizing operational performance and technical infrastructure with respect to event planning, race logistics, customer experience, the company used COVID as a catalyst to build a base for the virtual running community. Icreon has helped the organization in various migration processes and workflows to run operations smoothly.

There are other big organizations namely Walmart, Amazon, Uber, Nike, Stubhub, Mariott, Domino’s Pizza, that have already disrupted the market in their specific domains. In fact, a McKinsey global survey of 800 executives, unfolds that 85% of companies have accelerated digital transformation.

The top five benefits of anticipating change through digital transformation include improved operational efficiency, faster time to market, the ability to respond to changing customer needs, reduced product development cost, and improved product quality.

How do Successful Organizations Transform their Services?

No doubt that the rapid development, evolution, and advancement in technologies have driven the digital economy forward. But undergoing a transformation is about more than adopting new technology and modernizing existing systems. To move toward a digital future with promising opportunities, companies require an agile and cultural mind shift that put end-user experience at the forefront.

Might Helpful: How Mid-Market Companies Use Customer Experience to Develop Industry-Changing Competitive Advantages

According to Gartner, more than 125,000 organizations surfaced digital projects live in 2016 expecting to see growth in revenue more than 80% by 2020. However, Forrester report suggests that only 27% of organizations found success with their digital transformation strategy to rollout new digital initiatives.

So where to start? What are the critical digital transformation strategy steps to begin with? Here are the following 6 steps that will help you take your digital future to the next heights.

Establish Strategic Direction and Vision Towards Transformational Goals

To set digital transformation up for success, it is important to establish the strategic direction and vision backed by quantified business outcomes. A great place to kickstart is to put focus on long term plans for the future. Along with this plan, businesses should really keep in mind the experience that they wish to create for their brand, internal and external customers. The strategy must be translated into defined actions included in the roadmap that addresses the need of the business use case and other important aspects like technology, workforce, and organizational capabilities. This also strikes a discussion among C-level executives, which is again a crucial step to the cultural shift that goes in parallel with the digital transformation plan.

Key takeaway: Digital Transformation is not a single time project; it is a big enterprise level project that lays the foundation for your company’s future. Create a strong foundation by identifying your business needs and goals to achieve a competitive edge that will inspire new business opportunities.

Get Ready for Culture Change

It’s not technology only at the heart of digital transformation, it’s humans who play a critical role in the journey. Companies should not limit decisions to the C-suite only. In fact, they should develop a team mindset by including representatives across the value chain such as IT, Operations, Sales, Marketing, Design, etc. With an all-inclusive approach from different key stakeholders or middle management, companies may no longer be challenged by defending functional siloes and power bases. Keep in mind that there will be resistance along the way; leaders need to nurture the cultural changes inside the organization where everyone adopts an agile operating model and thrives to achieve transformational goals. A motivated purpose combined with organization-wide transparency is a powerful way to effectively activate change management.

Relevant: How a Change Management Consultant Can Help a Business

Key takeaway: As transformation rolls out, it will definitely affect employees’ efforts. The key is to identify threats to people’s careers that transformations can pose. And start building the capabilities at the middle-management level to count on the desired outcomes.

Deploy High-Caliber Talent

Companies often underestimate the skills and expertise of internal teams required to execute digital transformation projects. In fact, only 40% of companies stated that they are backed by a dedicated digital transformation team. This fact indicates a clear lack of preparation for the majority of businesses to achieve the desired outcomes.

Effective leadership at the top plays an instrumental role in shaping up talent. Successful companies in this foray pay attention to the transformation leadership team, appointing the best people with the highest potential to lead the project. The role could be anything from an expert CDO or CSO to a team of skilled, outside specialists that are required to execute the project.

Key takeaway: Show visible commitment to the organization by filling up the gaps with the right talent. Ensure effective team composition to drive new thinking and manage the talent dynamically to sustain and refresh through constant reskilling and training.

Adopt Agile Mindset to Navigate Change

Leadership must govern the agile mindset while executing the transformation project. This means engaging with teams to actively steer decisions, gaps, and set priorities by playing a leading role as an effective escalation point of contact. Leaders should work with an active mindset to adjust priorities on the basis of changing needs. This way, the top executive team reflects resilience and reinforces commitment towards a singular vision.

Leaders must drive agile behavior organization-wide to sustain behavioral changes and processes. Above that, agility supports the organization to work in a cross-functional manner.

For example, XPO Logistics, a leading freight transportation company in the US, adopted an agile mindset to break siloed functions. Earlier, facing the misfit challenges in the modernization journey, the company partnered with Icreon to revamp their logistics operations. As a digital transformation strategy consulting provider, Icreon team worked from the ground up to create a digital roadmap that would modularize their business. As the team worked on a mission that shared the same target of having a well-integrated system (logistics as a service), the organization began to deliver results much faster.

Key takeaway: The top leadership team should be committed to resolving any setback and ensure that the teams are working in a cross-functional way. They should listen to the challenges and concerns of teams and take action to resolve escalated issues.

Gather Feedback and Keep Refining

At this point, we have a clear agenda and an organization-wide teams alliance that supports it, a business use case, and strategic partners for a digital transformation project. To move further, it is important to define key performance indicators (KPIs) for each digital initiative. Make sure that all parties should know about their roles and are accountable for what needs to be delivered.

Organizations should create a clear mandate to monitor progress and tackle roadblocks coming into the project. They should define detailed operational metrics associated with strategic intent. Have forums in place to track outcomes on a consistent basis at both program and initiative levels. At the same time, they should create a strong feedback loop including each stakeholder to make sure that every member of the team is learning from each other as the transformation strategy goes further.

One fine example could be of a leading contemporary art gallery in America. The art gallery teamed up with Icreon to continuously monitor their transformation progress as the team ramped up their digital initiatives to create efficient operations and excellent customer experiences. The digital assessment was done to align business future needs and KPIs were set to meet those needs. The Icreon team helped the company to develop company-wide measures of productivity toward agreed-upon milestones. With continuous outcome tracking, the organization is digitally ready now to deliver commerce-driven experience.

Key takeaway: New objectives may come along in the digital transformation journey, being willing to accept those changes and adjust according to the results are the keys to success.

Adopt Modular Technology and Data Platform

To support the development and scaling of the strategic use case, it is imperative to choose enterprise-level, modern fit-for-purpose technologies, and data platforms. And these technologies and data platforms can range from microservices and containerization tools to modern Microsoft Power and AWS platforms respectively.

CIOs implement these technologies and data hubs by following best practices for modularity, flexibility, and scalability along with continuous learning and delivery. Each part of the technology should be aligned with business priorities to achieve successful digital transformation. The focus should be on both short and long-term objectives. DevOps agile method should be followed for incremented deployment, adapting to changing business needs and delivering value incrementally.

Key takeaway: Design for frequent agile upgrades through DevOps environment to support use cases in the transformation roadmap. Focus on IT infrastructure like modular, microservices architecture to well manage data that meet futuristic business needs.


The only way to sustain the competition and evolve is to embrace digital. And to build this digital future, businesses need a strategic roadmap in place. Creating a successful digital transformation strategy will drive business value, increase business efficiency, optimize performance, improve customer experience, and help businesses scale to new heights.

Ready to transform your digital future? Discover how Icreon’s Digital Assessment Tool unfolds opportunities by measuring your current and futuristic business goals.