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In The Dark On Digital Transformation


by Sri Manchala, author of “Crossing the Digital Faultline: 10 Leadership Rules to Win in the Age of Digitalization and Uncertainty

When my company surveyed business and IT leaders worldwide, I was taken aback about how they were dealing with the urgent need for digital transformation.

Not only were most business leaders unprepared to drive a digital transformation, many failed to grasp even what the expression means.

We anticipated that some people might not understand the term, but not to this degree. Just 5% of more than 10,000 respondents understood the true meaning of digital transformation. Meanwhile, 51% thought of it as merely upgrading to new websites or online portals.

Digital transformation entails a whole lot more than building better intranets and websites. Instead, it involves harnessing data to truly understand customer behavior in a digital world. It includes reimagining products and services. It concerns delivering high-velocity, digitalized experiences across the value chain to all stakeholders, even if that means existing models need to be discarded in the process.

Since the pandemic began, it’s likely that a larger percentage of leaders have arrived at a more wholistic understanding of digital transformation,  but too many still struggle with the concept.

Here are just a few points that business leaders need to understand if they are to handle digital transformation successfully:

A company’s focus should be more on its customers than on the competition.

This doesn’t mean to ignore competitors completely. Leaders must certainly keep an eye on them, but only if they are better and more successful. However, it’s essential to continuously understand one’s own customers, launching new products and services while tracking data for sales, satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Technology does not enable digital transformation, people do.

Many companies turn to technology almost blindly to solve their problems. In fact, the high tech industry has marketed itself so well that people often fall into the trap of thinking that technology solves everything. One big reason why most transformational initiatives fail is because their human dimension is neither fully understood nor does it get the attention it deserves.

Digital leaders will be made, not born.

The skills required to succeed in the Digital Age are acquired over time and with constant practice. That means everyone has the same opportunity, but it also means they won’t find success using the established leadership personas. Instead, digital transformation requires a new persona that I call the “methodical innovator,” which is someone who embraces data and a systematic, outcome-oriented approach. As compared to a flashy and inspirational style, the methodical innovator persona is learned and acquired through practice.

There is no finish line for winners.

Don’t get comfortable, because digital transformations will be endless. What is cutting-edge today will be primitive tomorrow. To be cutting-edge, you have to keep innovating.

The success of a company in digital transformation depends on the ‘Digital IQ’ of its leadership. When they ‘get it’ as a team, everything falls into place. When they don’t, it doesn’t matter what a company does or how much it invests. It is bound to fail.


sri manchala

Sri Manchala, the ForbesBooks author of “Crossing the Digital Faultline: 10 Leadership Rules to Win in the Age of Digitalization and Uncertainty” is the CEO of Trianz, a highly specialized digital-transformation services firm headquartered in Silicon Valley and serving clients globally. Manchala shares data-driven insights on transformations and adaptive business leadership based on his two and a half decades in the technology industry, and leadership experience in the military and as a CEO.