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16 great digital transformation resources for IT pros

David Weldon Freelance Writer and Research Analyst

There is little doubt that a growing number of organizations are expressing interest in digital transformation, if they haven't already started the journey. And the pandemic is accelerating the shift.

Digital transformation is the injection of digital technology into virtually every aspect of an organization, including its business processes and culture. Digital transformation holds the promise of improved business efficiencies, faster and more accurate decision making, better customer experiences, and new revenue opportunities.

These resources will help organizations still in the early phases of digital transformation, or those pondering the move, to understand the processes, challenges, and opportunities to expect.

Whitepapers, articles, and reports

An important first step in considering a digital transformation strategy is to search out relevant information on what leads to success or failure. Research firms are often a leading source for information on best practices among those organizations that are far along in a digital transformation effort or have successfully completed one.

This research can be invaluable in understanding what separates the leaders from the laggards when it comes to successful digital transformation.

'Unlocking Success in Digital Transformations'

Research firm McKinsey & Company offers a wealth of advice on the key elements to success with digital transformation in its global report on "Unlocking Success in Digital Transformations."

One of the most important messages from McKinsey is how challenging the process can be, why it is critical that business needs drive the effort, and what some of the most common pitfalls are. According to the firm, more than 80% of respondents to a survey reported that they have undertaken digital transformation efforts in the past five years, but fewer than one-third of those organizations reported success at improving their performance or in sustaining any gains.

McKinsey offers 21 best practice elements to aid organizations in their efforts. These characteristics fall into five categories: leadership, capability building, empowering workers, upgrading tools, and communication. These categories suggest where and how companies can start to improve their chances of successfully making digital changes to their business.

Fee: Free

'Dx: Digital Transformation of Higher Education'

Some digital transformation resources are targeted at business and IT execs in specific industries or sectors, and that is the case with the whitepaper "Dx: Digital Transformation of Higher Education," from Educause, a nonprofit organization that provides strategic advice and resources to educational leaders.

Educause offers several whitepapers and webinars on digital transformation, and this one looks at the challenges and opportunities that are unique to the educational setting, including challenges associated with the major culture changes needed for success. Those changes can be especially difficult in the educational setting, which has a reputation for being slow to accept change.

Fee: Free

The digital transformation collection

Consulting firm Deloitte offers a collection of articles and webinars to help IT and business leaders learn from their peers on digital transformation best practices.

The firm describes digital technologies as accelerators of innovation. They can improve efficiency, power new products and services, enable new business models, and blur the boundaries between industries. The overall theme of the various articles and webinars offered is to look at how leading companies are making this journey and what sort of gains they are achieving.

Fee: Free

'The 4 Types of Digital Transformation'

A number of writers have contributed to the knowledge base on digital transformation, and one of the more useful articles, published as a blog on LinkedIn, is "The 4 Types of Digital Transformation," by Andrew Annacone, managing partner at TechNexus Venture Collaborative.

According to Annacone, the four types of digital transformation are business process, business model, domain, and cultural/organizational. He says, "It is not digital disruption that impels companies to change, it is digital FOMO" (fear of missing out).

Technological change is nothing new, of course, but Annacone argues that the round of change inspired by digital transformation is happening at a rate faster than any before it. He helps business and IT executives understand where their organizations fall in terms of what is driving their transformation strategies.

Fee: Free

'The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation'

An important element in beginning a digital transformation initiative is to understand the various steps and milestones to expect in the process.

The MIT Sloan Management Review provides a detailed breakdown in "The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation." Written by George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, the report features in-depth research with executives at a wide range of companies and shows how managers can use technology to redefine their businesses.

The authors describe how organizations can use new technology investments to radically improve their reach and competitive standing. Examples include the use of digital advances such as analytics, mobility, social media and smart embedded devices, as well as improving their use of traditional technologies such as ERP to change customer relationships, internal processes, and value propositions.

Fee: Free

'Digital Business Transformation: Where Is Your Company on the Journey?'

If your organizations is in the midst of a digital transformation effort but needs insights on where it falls on the road map, "Digital Business Transformation: Where Is Your Company on the Journey?" from the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, may be for you.

In this article, authors and professors Donald A. Marchand and Michael R. Wade say that digital business transformation is happening on a scale and at a speed that managers find both threatening and promising. They attempt to ease fears about the process by providing a road map for creating and capturing value from digital tools and technologies.

Digital transformation is as much about organizational change as it is about technology, the authors say, and they offer a framework to help navigate this change and realize digital transformation's full potential.

Fee: Free

Case studies

One of the best resources about digital transformation is a strong case study example of how an organization went through the process and achieved gains.

Business and tech leaders can learn what motivated peers to pursue a digital transformation initiative, how they prepared for and managed the process, what challenges and obstacles they encountered, and what successes they achieved.

PwC's digital transformation

Business and tech leaders can learn how PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers) succeeded in its digital transformation efforts, in which it teamed with Salesforce, in this case study on PwC’s digital transformation.

The case study chronicles how, in 2016, PwC set out to establish a working environment that supported new ways of working across the entire organization and that ultimately provided powerful, quantifiable business value.

This case study example is useful for understanding the relationship between PwC and a third-party vendor at the outset of the initiative, during the process, and in evaluating success. It offers valuable lessons on how an organization can make such a relationship work to achieve the success desired from the digital transformation effort.

Fee: Free

Videos and webinars

Video resources can come in many formats, but among the most accessible and therefore useful are those posted to social media outlets, where they can be viewed anytime, anywhere. Most webinars live on long after their initial scheduled airing, and that is the case of the webinars listed below.

'What Is Digital Transformation?'

Presented by Ionology, a vendor of online courses, the video "What Is Digital Transformation?" presents a quick overview of what digital transformation is, the major mistakes businesses make when approaching digital transformation, and how they fix those mistakes. It provides a guide on where to get academic and peer-reviewed frameworks and where to start with any digital transformation project.

Fee: While the video on digital transformation basics is free, more advanced courses are available for a fee.

'Digital Transformation Initiative'

Organizations wanting to learn about the history and future of digital transformation efforts can do so with the video "Digital Transformation Initiative,” from the World Economic Forum.

The video offers a high-level view on the subject. Launched in 2015, the initiative offers unique insights into the impact of digital technologies on business and wider society over the next decade. 

Fee: Free

'Top Ways Digital Transformation and New Sourcing Models Will Help You Succeed in a Post-COVID-19'

This video looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting digital transformation strategies and how new sourcing models will help with success.

Offered by the Everest Group, the video discusses the characteristics that are allowing some organizations to survive and emerge from the COVID-19-shocked economy better than their peers. It also covers in detail how organizations can deploy business models that will be responsive to the new post-COVID-19 normal and can withstand future economic downturns.

Fee: Free

'Digital Transformation Webinar'

Another useful webinar video available on YouTube is entitled, simply enough, "Digital Transformation Webinar."

Sponsored by Cloud9 Insight, the webinar looks at the basic elements of a digital transformation effort, the best products and processes to get started, and what the top benefits of a digital workplace can be.

In addition to covering basic elements of a digital transformation strategy and why organizations adopt them, the webinar spends a great deal of time looking at best practices for success, and what the potential benefits are at the end of the process.

Fee: Free

Books and audio books

Books are always a top resource for learning about any technology topic, and digital transformation is no exception. 

Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction

In Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, author Thomas M. Siebel describes how the confluence of four technologies—elastic cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things—is fundamentally changing how business and government will operate in the 21st century. The title is available in hardcover and audio book formats.

Siebel guides listeners through a discussion of the game-changing technologies driving digital transformation and provides a road map to seize them as a strategic opportunity. He shows how leading enterprises such as Enel, 3M, Royal Dutch Shell, the US Department of Defense, and others are applying AI and IoT with stunning results.

Fee: $18.69 for the hardcover from Amazon; available for free as an audiobook with Audible trial

The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age

Every business begun before the Internet now faces the same challenge, how to transform to compete in a digital economy, says David L. Rogers, author of The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age.

Rogers argues that digital transformation is not about updating your technology but about upgrading your strategic thinking. Based on Rogers' decade of research and teaching at Columbia Business School and his consulting for businesses around the world, The Digital Transformation Playbook shows how pre-digital-era companies can reinvigorate their game plans and capture the new opportunities of the digital world.

Fee: The books sells on Amazon for $19.29 in hardcover format and $15.65 for the Kindle version.

Why Digital Transformations Fail: The Surprising Disciplines of How to Take Off and Stay Ahead

As previously noted, many digital transformation efforts simply do not succeed. In the book Why Digital Transformations Fail: The Surprising Disciplines of How to Take Off and Stay Ahead, author Tony Saldanha looks at some of the many reasons for this.

Saldanha led operations around the world and helped create major digital change at Procter & Gamble. In this book he explains that digital transformation failure is not generally due to innovation or technological problems. Rather, the devil is in the details: a lack of both clear goals and a disciplined process for achieving them.

Saldanha lays out a five-stage process for moving from digitally automating processes here and there to making digital technology the very backbone of your company. For each of these five stages, Saldanha describes two associated disciplines vital to the success of that stage and a checklist of questions to keep you on track.

Fee: The book sells on Amazon for $20.22 in hardcover, $24.05 for the paperback edition, and $16.99 for the Kindle version.

Digital Transformation: Build Your Organization's Future for the Innovation Age

Innovation in the face of major external change is critical for any organization's success, says author Lindsay Herbert in the book Digital Transformation: Build Your Organization's Future for the Innovation Age. But attempting to do so often leads to more questions than actions: Where do you start? How do you get the right resources? How should work be implemented? What data should you measure?

This book covers the end-to-end execution of digital transformation—from leadership-level strategy to on-the-ground team implementation. Most importantly, Herbert argues that true digital transformation only needs to happen once in an organization because, at its core, it means becoming more agile and adaptive to change itself.

Featuring the how-to of digital transformation devised from successes across every sector, Herbert breaks it down into five actionable stages. These stages act as a repeatable framework for continual innovation, allowing you to produce results immediately and grow change incrementally across your organization.

Fee: The book is available for sale from Amazon for $16.99 for the paperback edition of $14.87 for the Kindle version.

77 Building Blocks of Digital Transformation: The Digital Capability Model

This book is intended as a practical field guide that describes proven digital capabilities as the building blocks of digital transformation, including an approach to assessing and improving your digital capabilities to achieve successful digital transformation.

Written by Jace An, 77 Building Blocks of Digital Transformation: The Digital Capability Model is best targeted to digital practitioners. If you are not a hands-on practitioner, a better choice would be the book 77 Building Blocks of Digital Transformation: Simply Explained, written for a more general audience.

The book describes, in detail, 77 digital capabilities in terms of process, people, and technology elements. The model is comprehensive, making it best suited for those who desire to have a broad understanding of the entire scope of digital transformation and wish to obtain the cross-boundary, multi-disciplinary knowledge across business and technology.

Fee: This book is available for sale from Amazon for $19.50 for the paperback edition and $17.49 for the Kindle version.

Education and training

Business and tech execs anxious to get their nose out of a book and receive formal instruction in digital transformation processes and strategies can do so with courses.

Digital Transformation

This online instructor-led course, simply titled Digital Transformation, is offered by the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia and instructors from the Boston Consulting Group. Course participants will have lots of company: the online course has over 80,000 enrolled, according to the website.

The instructors talk about digital transformation in two ways. First is the pace of change and the imperative it creates for organizations. Second is the context for this transformation and what it takes to be successful with a digital transformation initiative.

The instructors—Michael Lenox, Amane Dannouni, Sonja Rueger, and Ching Fong Ong—all have hands-on experience at Boston Consulting Group.

Fee: The course is being offered for free for a limited time but early registration is encouraged.

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