Adapting to increasingly digital market environments and taking advantage of digital technologies to improve operations are important goals for nearly every contemporary business. Yet, few companies appear to be making the fundamental changes their leaders believe are necessary to achieve these goals.
Based on a global survey of more than 3,500 managers and executives and 15 interviews with executives and thought leaders, MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte’s third annual study of digital business reveals five key practices of companies that are developing into more mature digital organizations. Their approaches, which may offer valuable lessons for companies that want to improve their own digital efforts, include:
- Implementing systemic changes in how they organize and develop workforces, spur workplace innovation, and cultivate digitally minded cultures and experiences. For example, more than 70% of respondents from digitally maturing companies say their organizations are increasingly organized around cross-functional teams versus only 28% of companies at early stages of digital development. We discuss how this fundamental shift in the way work gets done has significant implications for
- organizational behavior,
- corporate culture,
- talent recruitment,
- and leadership tactics.
- Playing the long game. Their strategic planning horizons are consistently longer than those of less digitally mature organizations, with nearly 30% looking out five years or more versus only 13% for the least digitally mature organizations. Their digital strategies focus on both technology and core business capabilities. We discuss how linking digital strategies to the company’s core business and focusing on organizational change and flexibility enables companies to adjust to rapidly changing digital environments.
- Scaling small digital experiments into enterprise-wide initiatives that have business impact. At digitally maturing entities, small “i” innovations or experiments typically lead to more big “I” innovations than at other organizations. Digitally maturing organizations are more than twice as likely as companies at the early stages of digital development to drive both small, iterative experiments and enterprise-wide initiatives rather than mainly experiments. Digitally maturing organizations also can be shrewd and disciplined in figuring out how to fund these endeavors and keep them from languishing in the face of more immediate investment needs.
- Becoming talent magnets. Employees and executives are highly inclined to jump ship if they feel they don’t have opportunities to develop digital skills. For example, vice president-level executives without sufficient digital opportunities are 15 times more likely to want to leave within a year than are those with satisfying digital challenges. Digitally maturing organizations typically understand the need for and place a premium on attracting and developing digital talent. Their development efforts often go far beyond traditional training. These businesses create compelling environments for achieving career growth ambitions while acquiring digital skills and experience, which make employees want to stay.
- Securing leaders with the vision necessary to lead a digital strategy, and a willingness to commit resources to achieve this vision. These leaders are more likely to have articulated a compelling ambition for what their digital businesses can be and define digital initiatives as core components to achieving their business strategy. A larger percentage of digitally maturing companies are also planning to increase their digital investment compared to their less digitally mature counterparts, which threatens to widen an already large gap in the level of digital success.