Ten Pillars of Successful Digital Transformation

Ten Pillars of Successful Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a crucial step for any company that wants to be able to compete in the marketplace of the future. With ever-shifting customer expectation, prioritising digital skills and solutions is key to keeping up. But despite knowing that digital transformation needs to occur, many struggle to see success from their digital initiatives. This article goes through the 10 pillars that ensure digital projects succeed for the long term.


How to plan and implement digital transformation projects that work, using 10 basic principles, including leadership buy in, clear target setting, investment and talent acquisition, introducing agile ways of working, and creating a digital first culture.

As businesses scramble to keep up with ever more complex customer expectations, there is a clear need for businesses to digitise services. Digital transformation to keep up with both shifting customer value and rapid competitor advancements is no longer optional for companies who wish to compete in the marketplace.

Many organisations now realise that they need digital solutions to improve customer service, optimise internal operations, and move towards sustainability. But this is often easier said than done, as many businesses don’t have the internal digital expertise or experience to plan and deploy the necessary changes.

While they watch disruptors enter the market with new and innovative ways of delivering customer value, they are still analysing what their customers value.

1. Buy In

Digital transformation programmes can improve company performance and bottom line for the long term, and yet according to McKinsey & Company, just 16% of organisations who undergo some form digital transformational programme see a successful outcome with sustained changes for the long term.

That’s not surprising, however, when considering how often digital transformation projects are implemented from the top down, without the buy-in of senior management. By bringing the entire management team on board with decision-making around digital challenges and changes, the implementation of changes, allocation of budget and resources, you’ll be gaining both champions for the project and giving them accountability.

If your leaders truly understand both the potential of the changes, and the need for them, you’ll end up with a smoother transition process that’s far more likely to stick.

2. Targets

Once you’ve gained buy-in from your senior team, and you know you’ve got your people on side, setting targets and communicating them company-wide has to be the next step on the digital transformation journey.

Using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), an outcome-based management framework, you can set goals with measurable success criteria for each area of responsibility within the transformation project. Together as a team, you can identify the key milestones and time-bound outcomes that you’d like to achieve, bringing low-hanging fruit to the forefront in order to build momentum and keep motivation high.

OKRs will help to make sure the team is given regular opportunities to feedback on progress, and keep everyone working towards the same goal, while being able to focus on their own measurable contributions that are driving the programme forward.

If digital transformation is aiming increase the company’s customer value proposition, targets should be aligned to each source of value creation, including where there have been cost savings, improved performance, increased customer satisfaction, automation, personalisation, or journey improvements.

3. Investment

Doing digital transformation ‘on a budget’ isn’t a great option for most companies. Having a good amount to invest in new technology and the right people and processes to implement and run it is going to be crucial to success, and in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the transformation, new expertise will be needed within the business to keep abreast of market innovations and continued shifts in customer value and expectation.

This investment is often the factor holding companies back from making the changes that they need to futureproof their business, but without it, the long-term health and financial security of the company is put at risk.

4. Key Projects

Momentum is so important to successful transformation programmes. Having key projects to keep people working towards the larger goals will give your teams the motivation to push for the outcome. These key projects should be short-term, measurable, and have a defined positive impact on customer experience or service.

These smaller, interim projects will act as a boost to employees, who will be able to see their impact in smaller ways, sooner, but they will also act as a boost for customers, who will be benefitting from the changes being made without having to wait until the entire digital transformation process is complete.

5. Talent

Having the right people in place to deliver true digital innovation is critical. Companies undergoing digital transformation need a team of people who can spot trends in the marketplace and seize opportunities for change. A high-quality Digital Leader who can coordinate the transformation can ensure that there isn’t duplication, that skills are utilised in the right places, and that the whole team is pulling in the right direction.

And on the ground, it’s crucial to have engaged people with the capabilities and motivation to undertake continuous improvement. This requires a two-pronged approach – developing an EVP that attracts the best digital talent in the marketplace and creating upskilling training programmes for existing employees.

6. Agile

gile working may be a new concept to organisations undertaking digital transformation. More than just a project management methodology, agile is a way of thinking. It requires agile teams to be flexible, focused and work at speed around shorter planning cycles. It also helps employees to see their role as they deliver value.

As a project management framework, agile working enables small teams to accomplish rapid iterations of customer-focused projects. It puts speed and autonomy at its core, optimising and dividing tasks so that they are done in units that are small enough to be modifiable, flexible and fluid. Agile needs digital transformation to prioritise customer value, and as phases of work are short and frequently reassessed, they can quickly adapt if that value changes

7. Culture

Prioritising digital transformation across an organisation that hasn’t previously embraced technology will require a significant culture shift. And the only way a company can undergo a shift of that magnitude is to begin with education, at every level. All employees from board members to frontline staff, need to understand the goals of the business, why these changes drive towards those goals, and what role they play in reaching them.

Research by McKinsey has shown that, in a financial services context, 46% of executives feel cultural change is their biggest barrier to pursuing digital strategies. It’s for this reason that internal marketing and communication is going to be as important in digital transformation projects as external marketing.

8. Sequencing

The resources any company has to undertake large-scale digital change are going to be finite. But in a time when many organisations are facing the pressure of recession, those resources are more squeezed than ever. Some will use this as the reason not to pursue large-scale digital change. But in so doing, they run the risk of finding it harder to adapt to the changing landscape and therefore struggle to compete in a leaner marketplace.

Another way of approaching transformation when resources are scarce is to employ sequencing the initiatives, allocating resources to projects that will bring quick returns and can scale fast. This way, when those earlier projects succeed and deliver financial returns, it becomes easier to invest in more ambitious initiatives.

9. Digital Capabilities

An organisation that wishes to undertake successful digital transformation must develop digital capabilities. This will require technical upskilling, training in analytics, adoption of new frameworks, and the ability to implement digital strategy using agile development. That’s a considerable amount of employee education to bridge the gaps in their digital skills.

It may be a good idea to undertake digital capability assessments before beginning transformation projects or introducing agile methodology to the business. These can in turn inform digital and IT literacy programmes and can help identify the tools employees may need to build their digital capabilities for the future.

10. Operating Model

Understanding that your operating model will change as a result of your digital transformation is crucial. No matter where a company chooses to start with its change agenda, if it is planning to truly move into the digital age in a way that will enable it to keep up with evolving consumer value, it will need to make fundamental changes to its operational model. That’s both how it runs itself, and how it delivers its products and services to its customers.

Organisations moving to a digital future will need to move away from traditional business models and find more creative and innovative ways to deliver value. This will likely include increased collaboration, both internally, across departments that may traditionally have been siloed, and externally with companies that might have once been considered competitors, that have a different set of capabilities that lead to a mutually advantageous partnership.


Digital transformation brings with it massive opportunities for organisational improvement – increased profits, audience growth, reduced inefficiency – but there are some important things to get right on the journey if companies want to feel the long terms benefits of the methods and technologies they put in place. This will require clear and achievable goals, top-down communication, carefully managing employee expectations and education, and attracting the right people to build agile teams and handle agile development.

Embracing new ways of working isn’t easy, especially for well established businesses, but becoming future proof is going to require some significant changes for those who falling behind their more innovative and disruptive competitors. Using these 10 pillars will help to navigate those changes to a successful conclusion.

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