Digital transformation
6 min read
22 August 2023

What is a digital transformation strategy?

Kelly van der Horst
digital transformation

Digital transformation remains a key objective for many CEOs, harnessing the opportunities created by technology to deliver fundamental business change alongside a range of associated benefits, including improved profitability, innovation, competitive advantage and even business survival. While technology is the enabler, digital transformation is about changing businesses and the way people work; it is about reinventing processes, shifting culture and changing behaviours, not just about rolling out new tools.

The nature of digital transformation can look very different from organisation to organisation in terms of the areas that are transformed, the benefits that are delivered and the pace of change. The technologies used are also never uniform. Because the experience of digital transformation is unique for each organisation, it is important for senior leaders, IT functions and other key stakeholders to define and follow the right digital transformation strategy for their needs.

We are frequently asked, “What is a digital transformation strategy?”. In this post, we’re going to answer this question, explore how to create your strategy and some of the elements you will need to include.

What is a digital transformation strategy?

A digital transformation strategy is the plan that organisations need to define and follow in order to achieve digital transformation. At a very high level, this means working out where you are, where you want to get to and how you’re going to get there.

It’s worth stressing that a digital transformation strategy is about fundamental business change; saying you want to achieve 100% adoption of Microsoft 365 and defining your roll-out plan as such is not a digital transformation strategy in its own right, even though it might be a critical part of how you deliver your business change.

A digital transformation strategy would cover factors like how you’re going to use technology to improve customer service, or how you will deliver faster go-to-market times for new services, and so on. It should also cover real-world implementation details such as the associated change management needed.

What are the elements of a digital transformation strategy?

There is no consensus on what you need to cover in a digital transformation strategy, but it may typically include some of the following:

  • An assessment of where you are, and your current state of digital maturity
  • The headline business benefits you want to achieve, such as increased profitability, enhanced collaboration and product innovation
  • A diagnosis of any issues, blockers, hurdles and challenges that might be encountered or need to be solved
  • Some of the fundamental principles and pillars of your strategy, for example ‘improving the employee experience’ or ‘moving to the cloud’
  • A high-level plan of how you are going to achieve the transformation and what needs to happen to do so, with a more detailed roadmap if possible
  • KPIs and criteria for success
  • Mission and vision statements that help encapsulate all of the above.

Five steps to a digital transformation strategy

There is no standard methodology on how to write and articulate a digital transformation strategy. How you do so may depend on various factors, including the drivers for your strategy, the stakeholders you are working with and whether you need to create an associated business.

Five typical steps to a digital transformation strategy are:

1. Involve stakeholders and establish a plan for the strategy formation

Identify the stakeholders who need to give input into your strategy and sign off on it. This might include your senior leadership, your IT function, your Chief People Officer or Head of HR, and so on. Get them to agree on a format, methodology and timeline for the strategy, for example, whether it is a document or presentation, how they will give their input and who will ultimately approve it.

2. Gather data and carry out research

Typically, you will need to gather data and carry out research to inform your strategy. This could include ensuring you have a thorough understanding of your users and their pain points, what other organisations are doing in this space and knowing the “art of the possible” from platforms such as Workspace 365.

3. Work on your analysis and get input

Once you have your data inputs, it’s time to carry out your analysis. Crunch your numbers, identify trends, work out any pain points that need to be addressed, identify opportunities and consider dependencies. Here, you may start to articulate your strategy. Get input from your stakeholders to incorporate their views and agendas too, ensuring buy-in. Remember, essentially, this is about working out where you are and where you want to be.

4. Define your vision

To bring people with you on your digital transformation journey, it really helps to define a compelling vision of where you want to be. What is the end state for the digital transformation (at least for now)? This needs to be well-articulated, and the benefits must be clearly spelled out. In some digital transformation strategies, this could also reference KPIs that indicate success.

5. Work on the details of the journey

Finally, you need to cover some of the details of the journey to make it tangible and achievable. This can be anything from a very high-level roadmap to a more detailed potential project plan.

Five essential pillars of a digital transformation strategy

There are many important elements of a digital transformation strategy. Here are just five essential pillars to consider.

1. Digital employee experience

The overall digital employee experience delivered by the transformation is very important. An efficient, intuitive, coherent and well-designed experience is key. Without this, your digital transformation may be less successful because your users simply won’t adopt the tools you have rolled out. Here, a digital workspace like Workspace 365 can be a valuable part of the digital employee experience.

2. Supporting the future hybrid workplace

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the way we work, with remote working dramatically scaled-up. Nobody expects us to return to exactly how we worked before the pandemic, and future patterns of increased remote working are very likely. A digital transformation must address these probable future working patterns.

3. Change management

Digital transformation is about change, and that is not always easy for everybody to acclimatise to. Any digital transformation must address change management aspects including training, support, digital literacy and more.

4. Organisational culture

Organisational culture has a huge impact on your digital transformation – pace of change, the focus of that change, even how you deliver change management efforts. Culture is a wide-ranging term, but it can take into account leadership, priorities such as innovation and collaboration, the willingness of employees to try new ways of working, the importance of customer service, values and a range of other factors. Essentially, a digital transformation strategy needs to be very well-aligned to your culture, or it may not succeed.

5. Security and compliance

Security is paramount. Regulatory, legal and other compliance issues such as GDPR are crucial, and a digital transformation strategy must address them.

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