Digital Transformation (DX): A Beginner’s Guide

Elements of Digital Transformation

1. Customer experience improvements

Organizations are using data from new digital platforms to gain greater insight into their customer’s needs. For example, social media channels provide demographic, geographic, and behavioral insights into what their customers like and don’t like. They also allow brands to communicate directly to their customers to resolve disputes and build lasting relationships. Another example is the growing use of chatbots on corporate websites. According to, 15% of American adults have used a chatbot and 37% would use one in an emergency.

Companies are also using digital transformation to increase top-line growth by utilizing the latest technology. They’re replacing traditionally paper-based methods in sales situations with mobile analytics solutions such as tablets to communicate customized 1-to-1 pitches.

Digital initiatives are also transforming customer touchpoints. For example, many fast-casual restaurants now utilize online ordering through an online portal or phone app. Customers can then go to a location and pick up their order without even speaking to a single employee. This increases sales due to convenience and shorter wait-times in line.

2. Operational Process Transformation

Process digitization decreases the amount of time and resources needed to maintain operations and to innovate. Many accounting departments have implemented digitized workflows for employees to self-service purchase order requests and invoice processing. The result is a streamlined approach to billing that saves valuable employee time and improves the accuracy of record-keeping.

Companies are also increasingly enabling workers with digital tools to improve collaboration, which decreases the need to be in the same physical location. Tools such as WebEx allow for screensharing and file collaboration across the globe while intranets like SharePoint create a central repository for business files and communications. Slack is another online collaboration tool that has over 8 million active users as of April 2018 and provides a simple way to create collaborative groups online within an organization.

Decision-makers can also streamline their operations with automation of data capture and analysis. IoT sensors can be used in location management systems to track deliveries and can also be used for inventory tracking in warehouses and store locations as well. When partnered with an optimized big data platform, predictive analytics can provide executives with the data they need to make informed decisions.

3. Business model transformation

Many companies are transforming their traditional businesses with digital modifications. Giant grocery market allows customers to order groceries online or through an app and then pick up in the store. They also work with a company called Peapod to offer grocery delivery to their homes for fee.

Some companies take this a step further and innovate new business models on top of traditional products. Carvana is innovating the car marketplace by offering customers delivery of a car purchased online instead of at a dealership. Customers can return the car at no cost if they’re not satisfied with the purchase.

Benefits of Digital Transformation

  • Cost reduction
    Streamlining operation processes reduces costs because it takes less time to accomplish the same tasks and provides timely, insightful data for decision making.

  • Improved customer experience
    Digital touchpoints supported by enterprise data systems enable customers to accomplish what they want, when they want, and how they want. This creates a data-rich, personalized experience that’s consistent at every touchpoint.

  • Consolidated operations
    Digital transformation incorporates agile digital systems, which take the place of legacy processes and systems for record keeping, decision making, and production. Systems can be consolidated, and tasks can be automated as new digitized systems are implemented.

  • Analytics
    More data can be captured, structured, and analyzed once systems are digitized. The increased volume and variety of data enables companies to create self-feeding decision-making systems which improve experiences and streamline processes.

  • New products/services
    Technology utilization is driving many new products and services. For example, General Electric is using 3-D printers to create fuel nozzles which are stronger, faster to create, and less expensive to produce.

  • Accurate market segmentation 
    Digital CRM systems and data integrations allow companies to view their customer databases like never before. They can take an incomplete customer profile and append data from third parties to see a more accurate view, as opposed to manual research to complete profiles. This is a key component to customers’ increasing expectation for personalization.

Challenges of Digital Transformation

  • Organizational resistance to change
    Digital transformation embodies change at the fundamental level to drive innovation. Many within an organization resist rapid change because it disrupts the way things have always been. This can be particularly difficult for workers who have been with a company for an extended period. There is also an element of risk for executive sponsorship because if a large-scale project fails, the blame will be laid on them.

  • Lack of vision
    It’s often difficult to see the path to disruption in the market when a company is only focused on itself and what worked in the past. Blockbuster is a perfect example of this, when at its peak had over 9,000 stores worldwide, but filed for bankruptcy in 2010 because it failed to see customer demand for streaming services like Netflix.

  • Inability to capitalize on big data
    Data is the driving force behind so many decisions and is quickly become a competitive advantage for companies in fast-moving industries. They must be able to effectively gather, clean, structure, serve, and analyze data to take advantage of this. Unfortunately, the complexity of fragmented data and in-demand skills needed to build these systems lead to ineffective data strategies. Some organizations also have trouble prioritizing the data they need and end up focusing on the wrong KPIs.

  • Legacy systems
    Old systems and processes may hinder the ability of an organization to implement agile processes to iterate on their workflows and products. Additionally, these systems may be so woven into the fabric of the company, that it requires costly changes. Systems must be updated on a continuous basis and regularly evaluated against alternatives.

  • Focus on process optimization vs. business model innovation
    Process improvement is vital, but business model innovation must be considered to ensure business survival. A lack of attention to competitors and changing customer needs will blindside companies, as seen with Blockbuster.