Spencer Stuart: Getting From Here to There

Transformation is on the agenda of nearly every company. Disruptive technologies and the accelerating pace of change are constantly threatening to undermine legacy businesses. No industry or geography is immune, and even pure-play companies that were among the earliest technology disrupters are being forced to re-evaluate their strategies.

Point of View 2016

However, some companies have been at this longer than others. Brick-and-mortar retailers continue to battle Amazon by creating and evolving e-commerce strategies. Travel and hospitality companies have adapted to decades of disruption from Expedia, Priceline and other early online travel businesses. Financial services organizations have been disrupted by E*Trade and others for years. The music industry has had to respond to challenges on various fronts — from illegal downloading and sharing to streaming services — while the publishing industry has had to adapt to the growth of digital reading devices and content aggregators.

What experience have these early movers gained that can help others as they undergo their own digital transformation? We spoke with six digital veterans about their experiences: What they did right, what they would do differently, what they learned along the way and how these experiences will inform their future. Based on these discussions, we have identified five key lessons for making faster progress on digital initiatives.

  • Articulate a digital strategy that positions technology as a differentiator
  • Structure for speed and agility: Challenge the org chart and standard processes
  • Lead from the front: The CEO and senior team must champion change
  • Inject change-makers and digital influencers throughout the organization
  • Create a company culture that nurtures innovation
  • Business growth is a fragile endeavor. Cultures must constantly shift and leaders must adapt to new threats. Perhaps these lessons will help others avoid some common landmines.

With no playbook to draw on, leaders of early companies in digital embarked on a multi-year journey to transform the business, figuring out things as they went along. What they learned — and what remains true today — is that digital transformation is as much strategic, organizational and cultural as technological.

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