Digital Transformation is Not a Destination

4 min readApr 25, 2024

By following four core pillars — digitize, optimize, transform, and adapt — you can ensure a successful digital transformation.

According to new data from the Harvard Business Review, 89% of large companies around the globe have a digital and AI transformation underway. But those companies have only captured 31% of the expected revenue lift they hoped to see, along with a mere 25% of anticipated cost savings.

This is part of the reason why digital transformation can be so daunting. There’s always the fear that this undertaking will waste time — and, just as crucially, money. There are very valid concerns that you’ll fail to see the returns you seek on your digital transformation investment.

But as intimidating as it may be in the short term, digital transformation is necessary for operations that want to thrive in the long term. By following the four core pillars of a successful digital transformation — digitize, optimize, transform, and, most importantly, adapt — you can help ensure all your hard work doesn’t go to waste.


Digitizing here is exactly what it sounds like: it’s going digital. If you have any paper or manual processes, turn them into online forms. Doing so will improve efficiencies and security; paper isn’t secure and can easily get left around the office or accidentally taken home, something that won’t happen with digital files.

It’s not just the security, though that’s a significant factor. It’s also the ease of access. A digital file can be shared with anyone quickly, making it much more difficult to lose. With digital information, you can also avoid the problems that can arise in personnel shuffles and restructuring — finding that pesky form can be as easy as typing in a search term.


Okay, so you’ve moved from paper printouts to digital files. Now, it’s time to streamline and strengthen those existing digital processes.

One way to do this is by automating your systems. For example, if you’re overseeing a medical practice, pre-appointment patient forms can be emailed before each visit, with invoices and discharge forms automatically generated and sent out afterward. You can further increase performance by approving documents by default as they come in unless there’s something out of the ordinary, rather than individually approving each one regardless of its contents.


If we look at the digital transformation of the automotive industry, Digitize was the shift from horses to cars; Optimize was where we got our first fuel-efficient vehicle. As for Transform? This is where we add backup cameras, lane assist, and pedestrian detection. Transform is the step where you can identify opportunities to improve revenue or add new revenue streams.

Let’s say your swim school is undergoing a digital transformation. Swimmer registration has moved online; now, waivers and forms go out automatically. The Transform pillar would email any first-time swimmer — as identified by your digital systems — a deal on goggles or a swim vest. It’s an opportunity to improve the customer experience while strengthening your business models by engaging in cross-selling or cross-promoting.


If digital transformation were a destination, you’d be tempted to stop after those first three pillars. After all, seeing a project with a defined beginning and end is comforting. But perhaps the most crucial pillar of any digital transformation is an ongoing one: the need to adapt.

Digital transformation is not necessarily a status you can achieve — it’s a state of being. Adaptive companies always look over the horizon to see what’s coming next and stay abreast of new topics, trends, and technologies. They’re prepared for what the future holds because these companies have been keeping an eye on emerging platforms — like ChatGPT, for example — which lets them be more responsive and faster to market. It also lets them see potential misfires more clearly, allowing them to head off costly or otherwise wasteful mistakes more effectively.

It’s not as simple as knowing the new technology; it’s also in how you use it. Even if you aren’t quite ready to implement new tech yet, you should have a plan or ideas for use cases in which you might. It’s about having your head on a swivel: always looking around, taking in information, filing it away, and organizing it for future use.

An organization that fully adopts digital transformation constantly moves new ideas through the pipeline and always pushes new initiatives. In conjunction with the first three pillars — digitization, optimization, and transformation — adaptation will help your operation stay agile. You’ll be able to capture opportunities better and less likely to see your work disrupted by a competitor or a newcomer who can cut through the work you’ve been doing.

Being adaptable means being prepared — and true digital transformation is about becoming a permanently adaptable organization.

Original post here.

Authored by Josh Marquart.




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