What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is one of the most crucial and important trends impacting  different businesses, industries and sectors. As technology continues to evolve, organisations must adapt and leverage digital capabilities to stay competitive in the modern business landscape. This article will provide an in-depth look at what digital transformation entails, why it is so critical for business success, and how to measure the impact of digital transformation programmes and initiatives.

What does Digital Transformation mean?

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, leading to fundamental changes in how the business operates and the value it delivers to customers and employees. It involves leveraging technologies like big data analytics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, automation and more to create new business models, improve processes, and enhance the customer experience.

Some key characteristics of digital transformation include:

  • Adoption of digital processes and tools across the organisation
  • Data-driven decision making
  • Focus on the customer experience
  • Breaking down internal silos
  • Collaboration through digital channels
  • Experimentation with new technologies
  • Developing digital products and services
  • Empowering employees through technology


Types of digital transformation that companies pursue:

Customer experience transformation
Using technology to improve customer engagement, customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy throughout the customer journey. This can include initiatives like omni-channel integration, personalisation of content and interactions, and making self-service options.
Operational transformation
Leveraging digital technologies to enhance efficiency, agility, and productivity throughout. This can involve automating different types of business processes, streamlining operations, and applying data analytics insights to drive decision making.
Business model transformation
Using technology to develop new revenue streams, launch innovative/new products/services, or disrupt the industry with completely new concepts. Examples include subscription models, digital platforms, and data monetisation.
Cultural/organisational transformation
Establishing a culture of innovation and experimentation across organisations, embracing agile methodologies, and empowering all employees through new technology.


Why digital transformation is important

There are several key reasons why digital transformation has become so critical for businesses today:

  • The impact of digital – Digital technologies are transforming how organisations conduct business across nearly every industry and sector. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality and more are opening up new opportunities for businesses, while also disrupting traditional business models. 
  • The need to meet changing customer expectations – Today’s consumers are increasingly tech-savvy, always-connected to various devices, and expect highly personalised, seamless experiences when interacting with brands and digital platforms. Companies must transform accordingly to align with these rising expectations. 
  • Increasing competitive pressures – Startups and other digital disruptors are using new and emerging technologies to reimagine traditional industries and redefine market segments. Incumbents need a comprehensive digital transformation strategy to remain competitive amidst these new innovative competitors. 
  • The opening of new markets and opportunities – Digital technologies and advancements can help organisations to expand into new markets and business models, develop innovative new product offerings, and identify underserved customer segments. 
  • The benefits of improved efficiency, agility and decision making – Becoming a digital focused organisation can drive immense change and  improvements in efficiency through automation, while also enabling greater agility, real-time data insights, and faster decision making.

Digital transformation can have a tremendous positive impact for businesses across all types of different industries when executed successfully. Those organisations that fall behind face significant risks of lost market share, reduced profits and potential obsolescence in a digital world.

How to measure success of digital transformation

Since digital transformation efforts impact many parts of a businesses operations, it’s important to identify relevant metrics and KPIs to track progress, demonstrate ROI, and highlight areas for optimisation and  improvement. Some examples of metrics to measure digital transformation success include:

Customer metrics
Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer satisfaction rates, engagement scores, customer retention/churn rates, conversion rates.
Operational metrics
Process cycle times, cost reductions, productivity gains, inventory turns, supply chain optimisation.
Financial metrics
Revenue growth, profit margins, return on digital investments.
Innovation metrics
Technology adoption rate, speed to market for launching new digital products/features.
Cultural metrics
Employee adoption/proficiency with new digital tools, collaboration levels, employee satisfaction.
Market metrics
Market share within key target segments and sectors, brand sentiment/awareness, competitive benchmarking.


The specific digital transformation KPIs utilised will vary depending on the organisation and industry in question. Metrics should focus on demonstrating tangible improvements for organisations in customer experiences, operational efficiency, financial performance, innovation and market position. Robust measurement provides the feedback needed to continuously adapt and refine an organisation’s digital transformation journey.

Key Components of Digital Transformation

There are a variety of fundamental components required to digitally transform an organisation. While each company’s digital transformation roadmap will be unique to them, most digital transformation strategy and action plan will focus on these core pillars:

Digitising the Customer Experience

Being able to optimise the customer experience through digital capabilities is often the number one priority of digital transformation programmes and initiatives. Key focus areas include:

  • Creating a seamless omnichannel experience – Integrating channels like mobile, web, in-store and others, so customers can transition seamlessly between channels and receive a consistent experience throughout their journey. 
  • Using data to personalise interactions with customers – Leveraging data analytics and insights to customise engagements and personalise the experience to each customer’s preferences and context. 
  • Empowering customers with self-service solutions – Providing DIY solutions and automated tools to give customers more independence. This provides the ability for customers to self serve and carry out tasks without the need for interacting with the organisation.

Opening Up New Market Opportunities

Digital transformation can enable companies to tap into new markets, customers and revenue streams:

  • Expanding into new markets with digital capabilities – Using technology to deliver products and services to new geographical markets or customer segments which were previously unreachable. 
  • Developing new digital products and services – Creating innovative product offerings and services that are natively digital, data-driven and take advantage of latest technology advancements. 
  • Leveraging data to identify and target new customers – Analysing customer data to discover unmet needs and identify new customer profiles to target with future products and services.

Enabling Innovation

Becoming a forward-thinking digital organisation requires fostering a culture of innovation and experimentation amongst the workforce.

  • Creating a culture that empowers innovation – Establishing clear and inviting processes, leadership approaches, and values that fuel innovation across the company and different departments. 
  • Experimenting with emerging technologies – Proactively piloting cutting-edge technologies like AI and IoT to build new capabilities across the organisation. Leading from the top down.

Increasing Operational Efficiency

Digital transformation enables phased improvements in productivity, agility and decision making:

  • Leveraging data to optimise operations – Using analytics, IoT and other data sources and tools to streamline supply chain management, forecast demand and optimise production
  • Improving decision-making with data – Basing key organisational decisions on insights derived from advanced analytics and data modelling tools.

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Digital Transformation Strategies

Each company will need to develop a tailored strategy to digitally transform their business. However, there are some best practices that can be adopted the most which successful digital transformation efforts have in common: 

Developing a Digital Transformation Roadmap

A clear roadmap helps align stakeholders and guide effective execution of the digital transformation strategy. Key steps include:

  • Defining the vision– Where does leadership want the organisation to go on its digital journey and what does this look like? What is the ultimate vision for the organisation moving forward?

  • Conducting an assessment of the current state of the organisation – What are the company’s current digital capabilities and gaps that need filling? How ready is the culture of the organisation to change?

  • Identifying key objectives and priorities moving forward – Which initiatives and milestones will drive the most value for the organisation on the digital journey?

  • Outlining the required initiatives, technologies and changes – Detail the investments across people, processes and technologies that are needed to digitally transform the organisation moving forward.

  • Establishing governance and a timeline for execution – Define the decision making processes, teams and planning needed to drive rigorous implementation of the roadmap throughout the entire organisation.

Investing in the Right Technologies

Digital transformation requires careful technology planning, investment and consideration to be a success:

  • Assessing the current technology landscape – Creating a list of all existing tech assets and evaluating their readiness to support the digital transformation of the organisation.

  • Selecting the right technologies – Choose technology platforms and tools that align to strategic priorities within the organisation which can scale across the enterprise. Evaluating the options available will ensure the best possible technology and tools are adopted.

  • Planning the technology rollout – Prepare for technology rollouts and integrations in a phased, agile manner to reduce impact on the business and ensure the technology is correctly adopted.

  • Budgeting for tech investments – Developing a multi-year budget to adequately fund critical technology initiatives over time is an important consideration to make before investing in the technology. Stay flexible to support emerging tech as time goes on and ensure you organisation is always prepared.

Building a Culture of Innovation

Digital transformation hinges on people. Cultivating an innovative, agile culture is key to the success of digital transformation programmes:

  • Empowering people to innovate – Give your workforce permission, time and resources to experiment with new ideas, technologies and tools which may enhance their capabilities.

  • Fostering collaboration and transparency – Break down silos that stifle innovation and growth. Democratise data and encourage insights and knowledge to be shared across teams.

  • Providing training – Invest in training and retraining the workforce on digital skills and emerging technology tools and techniques. Be sure to do this regularly as technology advances and becomes more widely used across the organisation. 

Partnering with the Right Ecosystem

An enterprise transformation requires both internal and external stakeholder collaboration to be successful:

  • Identifying key external partners and stakeholders – Who are the technology advisors and vendors involved who can provide key solutions and insights to the organisation?

  • Cultivating strategic partnerships – Forge relationships with hand-picked partners and organisations who can support critical parts of the transformation journey throughout.
  • Fostering an ecosystem of collaboration – Connect and collaborate with partners through co-development, knowledge sharing and joined innovation initiatives to ensure all parties are aligned to the project objectives and outcomes.

Digital Transformation Examples

Looking at real-world examples from other enterprise organisations highlights the many shapes and forms digital transformation can take across customer engagement, operations, products and innovation:

Customer Experience Transformation

Leading companies use technology to revolutionise customer experiences:

  • Amazon Go – Amazon Go stores enable shoppers to enter, grab items, and walk out without going through a checkout or scanning items to a basket. This technology uses AI, sensors, computer vision and other technology to automatically detect purchases and bill shoppers through their Amazon account. This creates an incredibly convenient, seamless customer experience and is currently being rolled out across the US with over 20 locations now available.
  • Netflix – Netflix analyses billions of data points about viewing behaviours and patterns to power its recommendation engine for its customers. This engine produces personalised suggestions and recommendations for each subscriber, based on their viewing data to help them discover new relevant movies and TV shows, which improves customer satisfaction and the customer experience.
  • Airbnb – Airbnb’s mobile app and end-to-end digital web platform lets users view, book, communicate with hosts, check-in and more. Centralising all aspects of the stay into one digital experience provides convenience and transparency, while also providing a more seamless experience by removing third party suppliers and hosts.


New Market Opportunities

Digital innovation opens up new markets, customers and revenue streams:

  • Uber – By digitising ride-hailing through a mobile app, Uber created a new market that disrupted the taxi industry and changed urban transportation forever. The digitised model enabled rapid global scaling across multiple countries and regions. 
  • Tesla – Tesla used digital technology to help drive the mainstream adoption of electric vehicles across the globe. Tesla’s investments in AI, batteries, automation and more made electric cars more desirable and accessible for everyday consumers. 
  • Airbnb – Airbnb’s online marketplace created a new opportunity for homeowners and property owners alike to earn income by renting out their properties to travellers looking for hotels and accommodation while travelling abroad and nationally. Airbnb’s digital platform helped expand the travel accommodations market and open up a new way to book travel accommodation for consumers.



Breakthrough emerging technologies are enabling innovation:

  • Waymo – Waymo (an Alphabet company) is a pioneering organisation who provide self-driving car technology and services, combining AI, sensors, mapping and other innovations to develop fully autonomous vehicles. This innovation could have a profound impact on transportation forever and the way individuals travel. 
  • Blockchain – Blockchain technology provides a decentralised, distributed ledger for recording transactions and contracts. This opens up innovative applications from cryptocurrencies to supply chain tracking. These advancements in blockchain technology continue to push the boundaries of what is currently possible and are opening up new opportunities in finance and other industries. 
  • Crispr – The gene editing technology Crispr enables rapid, low-cost and precise DNA editing. Although in its early stages, it is fueling cutting edge innovation in fields from medicine to agriculture.

Operational Efficiency

Digital technology unlocks step-change gains in efficiency and productivity:

  • General Electric – GE utilises sensors and data analytics across their organisations for predictive maintenance on industrial equipment like aircraft engines and wind turbines. This minimises the downtime of their equipment and cuts maintenance expenses by solving issues early and preventing further damage and repairs being needed. 
  • Starbucks – Starbucks uses mobile ordering and payments to speed up service delivery and reduce bottlenecks in their stores at high-traffic locations. Customers can order ahead of time, book a time to collect their order and then walk in to pick it up without the need to wait. 
  • Walmart – Walmart employs computer vision and sensor tracking in its warehouses and stock facilities to gain real-time inventory visibility over their entire product catalogue. This enables Walmart to optimise stock levels and inventory across its thousands of stores effectively.


Digital transformation will grow in importance as technology continues to rapidly advance. Companies that fall behind in digital adoption, risk competitive disruptions and the potential loss of market share. However, embracing change too quickly can also bring risks – transformation efforts often fail due to poor planning, lack of commitment, change resistance and more.

Here are some tips for successful digital transformation:

  • Ensure leadership commitment to provide consistent vision and investment to scale the transformation across the enterprise and lead by example.
  • Take an iterative, agile approach – break initiatives into phases for faster learning and adaptation while minimising the risk of impact to current operations.
  • Engage with employees across the organisation and aim to reskill these teams to drive digital adoption from the inside out and ensure new technologies are being used effectively. 
  • Track progress metrics and be prepared to keep initiatives focused on driving quantifiable business value, while continuously iterating your approach based on feedback and data.

The future competitive landscape will undoubtedly be shaped by pioneering organisations who harness emerging technologies and adopt new business models to maximise value for customers and outpace their rivals. With a comprehensive strategy, commitment to execute, and above all a key focus on customers, forward-looking organisations in every industry can digitally transform their organisations to thrive in the next era of business.