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At both large and small organizations, a steady but clear transformation is in progress at every level. The transformation has already dramatically shifted business models, allowed new competitors to emerge and disrupt industries and change the way leaders think about innovation.

The transformation is digital. Paradigm-shifting technologies have given rise to companies as diverse as Uber, Airbnb, and Tinder. Seizing on these technologies, multibillion-dollar companies have sprung up quickly. However, digital transformation is happening everywhere from mining and manufacturing to financial services and personal services.

The transformation is driven largely by the convergence of several new technologies: the Internet of Things (IoT), hypercomputing and cloud computing. Mix in changing consumer expectations and companies find themselves needing to reinvent business models and processes to stay ahead of the competition.

Often, transformation has been the domain of corporate areas such as finance, marketing, and R&D. But today, especially due to the technologies involved, transformation can come from anywhere: information technology, human resources, sales, or customer service.

This shift means organizations need to become comfortable with transformation being driven by leaders from all across an organization. Leaders need to be able to translate complex technological concepts and tools to their peers and senior executives, bridging the knowledge and comfort gap that, if done properly, can create transformation.

Technology in business growing worldwide
"Digital transformers understand the importance of a growth focus as the driver of their digital business strategy where their peers (the digital followers) don't," wrote Accenture in its summary of a survey of more than 1,000 C-suite executives about digital transformation. "They understand what digital can do for their businesses and that it is not just a tool for improving business efficiency but something more profound."

Accenture's key findings reveal both the potential of focusing on digital technology and the significant risk of being a follower. Their findings include:
    • Digital transformers focus nearly twice their investments on growth (40 percent) than digital followers (23 percent).
    • Digital transformers believe this growth focus will drive excellence in sales, new sales channels, new products and services and customer experiences.
    • Digital transformers have invested significantly more, in some cases double, than digital followers in a wide range of digital technologies. Transformers have planned for both capital and intangible expenses.

So how does your business become a transformer and not a follower. Accenture has several recommendations for the questions the organization needs to ask, including:

    • What threats exist among competitors from digital?
    • Are there new competitors going after our customers? Which are succeeding and how?
    • What are the new products and services we should create using digital technologies?
    • What new business models, trends, and technologies do we need to pay attention to and exploit?
    • Are we organized for success in a digital landscape? Are responsibilities and resources assigned accordingly?
    • Who are our potential partners?
    • How will we find new markets in our field?
    • Which senior leaders need to be responsible for digital? Is it a shared responsibility?
    • How do we communicate shifts to customers, suppliers, directors, partners and employees?

Technology in business is an ever-moving target, but with the digital revolution comes an urgency for innovation.Technology in business is an ever-moving target, but with the digital revolution comes an urgency for innovation.