3 Counterintuitive Tips for a Successful Digital Transformation

Justin Daab Marketing Strategy & Planning, Strategy

3 counterintuitive tips for a successful digital transformation.

Digital transformation seems to be the catchphrase of the year. More and more, we receive requests from potential new clients asking for assistance with just that. But as it was with SEO in 2010, or apps in 2012, many of those requesters treat the idea of a digital transformation as something of a one-off effort. A box to be checked. Mostly a digital property purchased or redesigned. The truth, however, is that when done in a truly transformational way, the process of getting to real transformation is anything but box checking. If you’re tasked with leading your company’s digital transformation, following these three seemingly counterintuitive tips could dramatically improve your chances of success.

  • Stop using the word digital.

The phrase “digital transformation” implies something separate from the normal business of the company. It’s the kind of mental compartmentalization that we find leads to that check-box mentality. Try to substitute more meaningful words in place of “digital”—like, “business,” or “customer journey”, understanding, of course any truly transformative change will likely require a digital solution.

A simple reframing like this increases lateral thinking and prompts more substantive conversations. In other words, you stop focusing on how you can improve systems within the business and start asking how you can improve the business itself.

  • Try writing the first draft of your plan without mentioning specific technology.

Technology is, in and of itself, a means to an end, not the end itself. And transformation, in and of itself, holds no inherent value for the business. Writing your plan—objectives, strategies, goals, KPIs, timing, expected returns, customer experience benefits, et al—without listing specific technology implementations forces you to examine and evaluate the business implications on their own merits.

At Magnani, this is part of our narrative-drive design thinking methodology. We explore and document the expected qualitative and quantitative outcomes of a successful transformation. We create a story about motivations and expectations, not hardware or software. We have found that once you build consensus around what that experience should feel like and deliver, the story can serve, throughout the process, as a touchstone for evaluating and prioritizing proposed technology implementations. Will this technology deliver the experience we outlined in our story as optimal for the business and its customers? How might it compromise that vision. Is any potential tradeoff worth it?

  • Try to disrupt your own business.

A few posts back, we outlined three proven paths to disruptive innovation. The point of that post applies here. Disruption is imminent. Technology is lowering barriers to entry in every industry. Emerging generations have little tolerance for adapting to cumbersome experiences. They expect and demand better.

If you can envision the most desirable customer experience, technology always finds a way.

If you’re charged with plotting your business’ path through the digital transformation process, you’d be well served to look beyond the traditional limits of an IT or Marketing department project. Start by creating a vision for an unsurpassed customer experience, then back your way into the technology. And ultimately you should presume succeeding in the challenge might boil down to two main choices: disrupt, or be disrupted. We advocate, unreservedly, for the former.


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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