Grappling with the digital imperative, like it or not

I’ve been working closely with others at Gigaom Research on our research agenda for 2015, and one topic that has risen to the top is digital transformation. Other research — such as the MIT Sloan/CapGemini report Embracing Digital Technology, and Altimeter Group’s The 2014 State of Digital Transformation — make it clear that business leaders are seeking a new operating model of business — with attendant productivity improvements — by the application (or reapplication) of digital technologies and the restructuring of operations to better engage with customers, the company ecosystem, and the greater marketplace.

The evidence suggests that while there is widespread awareness of the immediate need for taking on this challenge — and indeed, many are already engaged with it — most companies don’t really know what’s entailed, and don’t believe they have the skills in place to make the transformation.

The MIT Sloan report characterizes this state of affairs as digital immaturity:

The beginners are only starting to grapple with the issues of digital transformation, and conservatives have intentionally deferred moving forward. Fashionistas are characterized — somewhat unfairly, I believe — as adopting new technologies but without an effective vision for how it all will hang together. Only 15% of leaders have that vision needed to turn the corner on digital transformation, and make it all work.

Brian Solis of Altimeter Group states that 25% have a clear understanding of what’s involved in digital transformation, but 98% report they are undergoing that transformation, whether they understand it or not. All elements of the business — from customer support to HR — are being rethought and reworked as pre-digital processes and approaches are being displaced or augmented.

So, this year we are going to dig into what’s going on in this vital area, and with special attention to the work technologies being applied, and the cultural impacts as operations are realigned in the new digital workplace.