The 7 Dimensions of Digital Transformation

In my experience and research, I have come across 7 dimensions of a modern digital transformation. Each of the these dimensions play an integral role in achieving a successful digital transformation. In this post, I will introduce these 7 dimensions.

7 Dimensions of Digital Transformation

But first, lets define what digital transformation means in our context. Or rather what is the outcome of digital transformation?

Digital Transformation is not a finite effort. Its never done. It is a continuous state of improvement along these dimensions where a company is striving to achieve its business goals. Also, its not the same for every organization. Fair warning — your goals, your journey, your motivations, your context and your trials will be as unique as your fingerprint.

Lets take a slightly detailed look at these 7 Dimensions of Digital Transformation:

I start with change leadership because this is perhaps the most important aspect of digital transformation. This is hard stuff. This is about not just transforming technologies, this takes changing your processes, funding model, how you measure success, how you incentivize people, their behaviors, mindsets etc. This cannot happen without top-down support and change leadership at every level. I had written an article sometime back on how in the present, many companies are fighting Taylorism and processes that have been hardened over half a century or more. So top-down support is critical. And like any other transformation, there is the dreaded “frozen middle”. Getting change champions who are middle managers is critical.

Also, most digital transformation succeed through a balance of top down support and grassroots movement. It’s very important to have both. remember, ultimately, it’s the people who have to change.

Well, what does change leadership look like? Here are some key aspects of this:

  • A servant leadership style that empowers your employees
  • Leading by example and by providing the resources and support to make the change happen and leaders modeling the behavior that they desire.
  • Enable decentralized decision making that strongly empowers your middle managers and technical leaders.
  • Strongly incentivize the target outcomes that you are looking for.
  • Foster a growth mindset that creates a strong openness to change

This will sound repetitive and I wont say it for the last time. This is hard. One of the things you have to make sure is that you have the right mix of leaders who have done this before and leaders who know the old ways and are bought in to the change. Another article I wrote sometime back was around how Taylorism hinders the new ways of working. All things called out in that article applies here so I wont repeat it here.

We live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous) World. You will fail. And you have to get up and fail again and get up and fail again and so on. You will have to create a culture where its OK to experiment, fail, learn & grow, experiment, fail, learn & grow, experiment, fail, learn & grow, experiment, fail, learn & grow and so on.

Here is what this looks like:

  • Pre mortem: Anticipate & plan for failure.
  • Blameless Post mortem: Ensure objective post mortem.
  • Celebrate failure
  • Ensure people learn from failure
  • Fail Fast
  • Create a culture where people are not afraid to speak up. Leaders need to model that behavior.

The probability is that both creativity and innovation are a key ingredient in getting to the business outcome that you are seeking. However, newsflash. Creativity and Innovation do not happen on their own. In fact, established processes and bureaucracy in large organization inhibits, blocks, prevents and systematically kills those. That means that you have to explicitly enable both of those.

Here are some things to look at:

  • Create a culture of creativity through
  • Look at the Wardley map to introduce innovation in the organization
  • Be deliberate about the types of innovation that you are seeking (sustaining Vs disruptive Vs others) and explicitly enable its corresponding mechanisms.

This is another one that is super critical. Culture and mindset are also super vague and intangible. This is hard. But remember, your culture & mindsets manifests themselves in a few tangible ways — your behavior, the way you make decisions, your policies, processes and procedures, how you hold yourself and others accountable & how you measure yourselves.

So how do you change culture and mindsets. Here are some suggestions:

  • Incentivize the right behaviors. Reward people for learning from failure, innovative ideas, embracing change and continuous improvement mindsets
  • Eliminate demotivating policies, processes and procedures. Change them to enable innovation.
  • Empower your employees so that they can make decisions without involving 50 people and getting 500 approvals. Create guardrails instead of intricate paved paths.
  • Hold people and leaders accountable to make it happen. If something is everyone’s job, its no one’s job. Ensure there is accountability and consequences.
  • Measure of success needs to be aligned to outcomes.

At the end of the day, your business outcomes are supported by business capabilities that are enabled by products. Thus having a product mindset is critical and aligned to long term viability of your organization. For many organizations that have been executing large multi year initiatives or projects, this is a big change. You need to change how you funded efforts, how you were organized, the time horizon and how products were delivered.

Here is what this looks like:

  • Take a long view of business capabilities and corresponding products for your business
  • Align product vision, goals and outcomes to delivering business value
  • Focus on enabling flow and speed to marker for products and its features.

And I can write pages and pages on this but I wont. If you are here you already know what this is. BTW, this is hard :) Both Agile and DevOps are currently the modern way on how we deliver products. Agile ensures that we are delivering products that are relevant and competitive. DevOps is complementary since it enables the speed of change and experimentation with built in quality and security. Well, in theory. Both of these are hard to do. But they are one of the main ingredients of any Digital transformation since this is now the way. Here are couple of my articles that address Agile and DevOps aspects of the transformation:

All of the above will come to naught if you don’t keep up with modern technologies and architecture that enable the competitiveness, speed, capabilities, innovation and relevancy that your organization is looking for. These modern technologies not only enable all that but they also are complimentary to the goals of other dimensions. Here are some key technologies. I would be surprised if a few of them are not already a part of your digital transformation:

  • Cloud, microservices & containers
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • RPA
  • Mobile
  • IoT
  • Blockchain

Originally published at

Avid Reader, Senior Tech Leader, Strategist, Architect, Engineer experienced in leading large scale Digital Transformation for global Fortune 500 corporations.