Review: Succesful Digital Transformation

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:

  • 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.