Businesses Must Avoid Digital Transfiguration Pitfalls

Bain & Company’s annual survey of around 1,200 international business leaders indicates that digital business transformation initiatives should prioritize longevity over speed. Truncated rollouts, although eye-catching, often fail to generate a truly lasting impact on operations. Bain & Company’s new report on the subject highlights the balancing act that businesses must navigate when hashing out the nitty-gritty of digital landscape transitions.

Companies have discovered that scaling their flagship digital services effectively entails reassembling technology infrastructures without losing sight of the core identity that makes the service unique. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of launching limited initiatives to protect foundational elements, but incremental changes can get lost in the shuffle. Finding the equilibrium is a blueprint for a dynamic transformation process.

James Anderson, a Partner at Bain & Company, said, "Despite launching promising digital transformation initiatives, incumbent companies continue to face old problems such as a cultural divide between IT and business operations. Companies must start analyzing the needs of their business and begin creatively executing on solutions that promote digital transformation across their entire operating model."

The report from Bain & Company analyzed companies with proven track records to identify four common patterns that businesses fall into in attempting to achieve this goal. Setting a solid baseline for digital infrastructure requires a fresh set of foundational capabilities. The proper implementation of analytics, sensors and predictive models from the get-go can make the prospect of starting from scratch less daunting.

Mismatched technology can make for woefully inconsistent initiative success. Encouraging digital projects can spring up in great quantities, but many will suffer a quick death at the hands of digital fragmentation. Unified technology models allow room for well-informed prioritization and initiative scaling. For companies shackled to outdated legacy systems, years of system accumulation can slow business to a crawl. In some cases, technology teams could isolate newer systems from legacy architecture and design an API between the two to facilitate communication and buy time to modernize the back end on a single-module basis.

If the disruption of business is widespread enough, companies can introduce a “digital attacker” — a new business entity that can handle situations the core business cannot. This pivot can create additional market value without legacy burdens. Overall, experiencing any of these patterns doesn’t preclude success for a company, as long as its resources match its ambitions.