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Digital Transformation

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Defining digital transformation

Digital transformation can be defined as the acceleration of business activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact in a strategic and prioritized way.

Digital business transformations are driven by the following factors:

Customer experience

Consider the key customer touch points, and how they can be improved. For example, with a retail store, digital transformation could involve adding an online presence and allowing customers to source the same products online.

Operational process

Many operational processes can be digitized, making them quicker, easier, and more cost-effective. For example, in the healthcare industry, patient records are increasingly stored in electronic format, and so on.

Business model

Digital transformation encourages a culture of innovation, and the changing of existing business models. For example, in the media world, consumers are reading the news online rather than buying newspapers or watching it on TV, and the underlying business model has to change as a result.

So for your own business, digital transformation means redesigning your processes and your business model, and figuring out how you can service your customers in the way that they want to be serviced.

Importance of digital transformation

Digital transformation is required for your organization to remain competitive and compelling for your customers. It also acts to radically improve the performance and reach of your business. It is thought that companies that fail to appoint a dedicated leader of digital transformation (such as a Chief Digital Officer) may lose competitive advantage. Digital can reshape every aspect of the modern enterprise, from customer experience through to enhanced corporate control. Failing to be digitally capable will likely result in below-par performance.

By definition, digital allows you to take some of the tasks that people are doing in an analog paper-based way and automate them. The key issue here is how to embed this way of thinking in your organization and put it into practice.

Shifting away from a legacy approach

Shifting an organization from a legacy approach to new ways of working involves:

  • A change in leadership
  • Different thinking
  • The encouragement of innovation
  • New business models
  • Digitization of assets
  • Increased use of technology to improve the experience of your organization’s employees, customers, suppliers, partners, and stakeholders

MIT Sloan’s nine elements of digital transformation

MIT has come up with nine elements of digital transformation. These fall into three categories: transforming customer experience, transforming operational processes, and transforming business models.

Transforming customer experience

MIT breaks this category down into:

  • Customer understanding
  • Top-line growth
  • Customer touch points

It’s very difficult to measure how long people are spending in a store or how many items they are looking at while there. When you have that customer touch point online, you can access a deeper level of understanding about your customers, which should help you create better products for them. This can then underpin top-line growth, so they’re all connected.

Transforming operational processes

MIT breaks this category down into:

  • Process digitization
  • Worker enablement
  • Performance management

Many businesses can benefit from process digitization. When you digitize processes, you enable workers to work in a different way, and you enable managers to gain valuable insights into how the business is performing and how they can makes things better.

Transforming business models

MIT breaks this category down into:

  • Digitally modified businesses
  • New digital businesses
  • Digital globalization

With each of those concepts, we can see very clearly how the media is moving and transforming. Consider what the BBC and the New York Times are like today, versus what they were like 20 years ago. Then try to imagine what they’ll be like in 20 years from now.

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Kristin Shine

Kristin Shine is Founder and General Manager of Shine Healthcare and Science Consulting. She advises clients in the healthcare space on digital strategy development, business development, strategic communications, and commercial partnerships.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

You will not be assessed on this content in your final exam.


    Digital Leadership
    Kristin Shine
    Skills Expert

    This module probes the critical areas of digital leadership, digital strategy, and digital transformation. It is aimed at all marketers willing to establish personal leadership and shows how you can become a digital leader by learning from best practice. It covers topics on executive sponsorship, digital adoption, building effective digital teams and training, facilitating collaboration, and digital centers of excellence. It also covers processes for bringing a digital strategy into a mainstream market and how to manage a digital strategy to maturity. It concludes with topics focused on evaluating and reporting on a digital strategy, including metrics to track, stakeholder reporting, and establishing an executive digital footprint.