Everyone, it seems, wants to crack the code on digital transformation. And while the ultimate strategies and goals for digital efforts vary by company or industry, some common themes set apart the most successful organizations. In fact, the fifth annual study of digital business from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte reveals increasingly clear organizational differences between the most and least digitally mature organizations.
Chief among the differences: Digitally mature companies don’t just innovate more; they innovate differently.
[ Read also: Digital transformation: 6 hallmarks of successful teams. ]
Consider these the most revealing statistics from the 2019 report for IT leaders as they continue to tweak their own digital efforts.
1. More than half (55 percent) of digitally maturing companies say they need new leaders to succeed in a digital environment.
Eight out of ten companies in the early stage of maturity say the same. “It’s human nature to shirk from change and the uncertainty it brings. However, to digitally mature, companies need leaders who embrace change and make room for potential failures,” says Doug Palmer, principal and digital strategy leader with Deloitte. “This type of leader tends to embrace cross-functional teams, which bring together employees from multiple departments to work toward a common goal. Strong digital leaders will also give their teams a great deal of autonomy in a supportive, encouraging environment while giving them latitude to innovate in their jobs.”
2. Eighty-one percent of respondents at digitally mature companies cite innovation as a strength of the organization, compared to just 10 percent from early-stage companies.
While every company faces challenges when it comes to innovation, the research uncovered four behaviors of digitally mature organizations that enable innovation at much higher rates, according to Palmer:
- They form meaningful partnerships and join larger ecosystems to drive innovation.
- They create cross-functional teams and give them significant autonomy.
- They let those teams explore, fail, learn quickly, and correct course.
- They establish what Palmer calls “ethical guardrails” to ensure the company’s values keep pace with its innovations.
3. Executives and managers from 74 percent of maturing companies say their organizations provide sufficient resources for innovation.
That’s compared to 39 percent of those in developing maturity companies and 15 percent of early-stage companies. “In many instances, it goes back to the type of leaders needed to push an organization toward digital maturity and the culture of the organization,” says Palmer. “Additionally, challenging the status quo and disrupting existing teams and processes is time-consuming and costly. Many less mature companies struggle to tackle this kind of change while still maintaining their day-to-day operations and profitability.”
4. Digitally mature companies are more than two times as likely to cultivate a partnership with other organizations to facilitate innovation.
Eight out of ten respondents from digitally mature companies say they work with outside partners to spur innovation, while just a third of early-stage companies do the same. “Partnerships with external organizations are a critical part of the innovation process,” says Palmer, noting that more than three quarters (78 percent) of all respondents said that external partnerships are vital innovation efforts.
“Ecosystems feed innovation by providing increased access to resources, knowledge, and customers,” says Palmer. “One company we spoke to specializes in online video software development and distribution. They regularly come together with advertising and ad-tech companies to form a collective ecosystem, leading to a better understanding of audience feedback and behavior to inform the innovation process.”
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