The stakes are high. Leading digital companies generate better gross margins, better earnings and better net income than organisations in the bottom quarter of digital adopters, according to Harvard Business School. Leaders post a three-year average gross margin of 55 percent, compared to just 37 percent for the digital laggards.

Survival of the fittest or most intelligent is not really what Digital Darwinism is about - it’s actually about the survival of those companies and organisations that can evolve to current environments better than the rest. With digital now impacting every part of every function in a business / organisation there’s really only one way this can be achieved: collaborative innovation.

There are seven main aspects of successfully delivered digital transformation projects that we consider to be critical to continued success:

  1. A strong focus on mobile customer engagement. More than 50% of all digital interactions happen on a mobile yet only around 20% of digital transformation teams are focusing on mobile customer experiences.
  2. Reducing your cultural risk aversion. Failure is now a prerequisite of success. Fail fast, learn and evolve - fast. New models are emerging with large concerns creating innovation hubs with ring fenced budgets / freedom to fail and permission to challenge the received norms. Culturally you have to become comfortable with failure.
  3. Collaborative ecosystems perform best. As every department is touched by digital so every department has to be engaged - simple. Successful projects are lead by teams of cross departmental steering groups or ‘Centres of Excellence’. They will most likely operate way beyond pay grade or job title, influencing and inspiring digital action across every aspect of a business. Their skills are interpersonal, with high emotional and cultural intelligence and high comfort in change environments.
  4. Don't be limited by your current KPI’s. As the digital transformation process takes hold you MUST re-evaluate your measurement (indeed your definition of) success. The old metrics are dying. Create new ones and be prepared to kill them off just as quickly.
  5. Innovate - be agile, flexible, managed and secure. Don’t be restricted by current thinking or a fear of failure. How can you remove the barriers to innovation? Figure that out, then do it. For us, for example, it was about realising our own flavour of the agile methodology and then implementing it throughout our entire team.
  6. Devote time, resource and budget to truly understanding your customers. Create a Customer research programme, use data to define and prioritise your roadmap activity. Focus on gaining wisdom not just knowledge from your data. How can you move up the “Data>Information>Knowledge>Wisdom>Action” journey as quickly as possible?
  7. NEVER view digital transformation as a process with an end. There is no end game, no finish line, change is now a daily reality. Only a culture that just embraces change but that thrives on change is going to be successful. If you have people who resist change then they are only going to hold your evolution back. You need to figure out how change benefits them and ‘sell’ it in to them individually, so that they become a core successful part of this process rather than a barrier.

Survival is not about strength or intelligence, it’s about flexibility to changing environments.

Here are just some examples of businesses getting it right:

JetBlue

What they’ve got right: Focus on customer journeys, innovation hub to mitigate risk and allow failure, and fast tracking innovation through investment in start ups.
At JetBlue, C.I.O. Eash Sundaram has deployed high-speed internet and streaming, mobile payments, and other tools to improve passengers’ experiences. Earlier this year the company launched JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV) to invest in startups seeking to bring to the travel market machine learning and analytics as well as new approaches to customer service. Think of it as another channel for innovation. "If you just pile everything into the mothership, things don't move as fast as you want them to move," says Sundaram, who has also set his sights on near field communication as a replacement for self-service kiosks and check-in desks.

Capital One

What they’ve got right: Customer experience focus, early adoption, changing KPI’s to development operation orientation, and marrying tech to customer needs.
Capital One has built a huge banking and credit card business thanks to solid customer service, with a major assist from digital capabilities. Its mobile banking app was among the first to support Apple's TouchID biometric software. In 2016, the bank was the first to enable voice-activated financial service transactions via Amazon.com's Alexa virtual assistant. Now CIO Rob Alexander is overseeing a major shift to devops to facilitate faster software creation. “Winners in banking are going to be the ones that recognize that technology is really going to play a central role in how consumers want to bank in the future,” Alexander tells CIO.com. “We’ve got to be great at building software.”
Check out “Capital One shifts to DevOps to keep pace with customers” for an inside look at Capital One’s digital transformation.

CVS

What they’ve got right: New innovation lab, investment in startups, collaborative working, and embracing fail fast.
Pharmaceutical retailers are rarely mistaken for digital innovators. CVS Health is trying to change that by consolidating its websites and mobile applications. It later hired CDO Brian Tilzer to lead the company's digital strategy but rather than whine and lament what many in his position view as a threat, CVS CIO Stephen Gold welcomed the addition to the executive suite. To that end, Tilzer and Gold opened a digital innovation lab in Boston in 2015. Early projects, including digital prescription and insurance card scanning and integration with Apple Watch, have come to fruition. The company also integrated technology from startup Curbside into a mobile app that lets shoppers order and pick up products in front of a CVS store. Gold says the innovation team’s remit is to fail fast. “Part of the output of innovating is going to be things that don’t work and that’s fine as long as you discover that early in the process as opposed to late in the process,” Gold says.