Digital Transformations: Six Actions That Lead to Success

Bain’s research identifies key strategies underlying how digital leaders invest in technology and manage continuous disruption.

By John Beaumont, Stephen Phillips, and Laura Polasek

Most large companies are well into their digital transformations, some having started more than a decade ago. However, many executives remain disappointed with the returns on their investments in digital, with only 22% saying that they have achieved most of their goals and only 2% believing that they have achieved them completely. One of the main challenges of digital transformations is the continuous and rapid evolution of digital technology. Executives report experiencing unprecedented levels of disruption, which they expect to continue or accelerate for at least another five years.

The advent of generative AI indicates a fresh cycle of innovation fundamentally reshaping the economy. While executives see the tremendous opportunities that AI offers their businesses, they also may feel, once again, highly disrupted. Bain’s research identifies six actions of companies with successful digital transformations.

Align technology priorities with business strategy

Tech may have been a supporting function once, but the rise of digital technologies makes it a strategic creator of new value. Chief information officers should lead the dialogue with business colleagues, highlighting new opportunities and delivering change rapidly. Digital disrupters are more likely to say that their technology investment strategies are aligned with business strategy.

Ensure that tech and data architecture are modern and flexible

A modern and flexible technology and data architecture helps companies reach strategic goals by improving customer experience, boosting operational efficiency, speeding time to market, and reducing risks. Digital disrupters invest to modernize their capabilities based on a clear perspective on how architecture creates business value. Leaders say that their architecture supports their business goals.

Nurture your tech and analytics talent

Competition for tech talent is fierce, so companies need to invest in their priorities—namely, commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion; accountable senior management; and a culture of coaching. Generative AI exacerbates the challenge as companies compete for engineering talent that is experienced with large language models. Leaders have the right talent to execute their digital strategy.

Build tech and analytics capabilities

Digital transformation today means a fundamental rewiring of how an organization operates, which is achieved by developing organizational and technology-based capabilities. Successful companies were more likely to say that they have identified their major tech and analytics capability gaps and closed most of them.

Deliver new technical solutions at speed

A modern enterprise architecture allows companies to release technical solutions and software quickly, working in Agile ways across business and tech teams. Adopting a product management approach helps companies prioritize effort and investment around business outcomes, generating greater value. Tech leaders release software quickly and work seamlessly across functions more often than nondisrupters.

Adopt new technical solutions at scale

Leaders ensure broad adoption of new solutions by effectively engaging and teaching new skills to teams. Efficient transformations overcome common patterns of failure such as poor change management and weak alignment between business and technology. Digital disrupters adopt new solutions quickly and capture the full business value of investment.

Used with permission from Bain & Company.