Report: The 3 strategies for successful digital transformation

Business and IT leaders can tap three specific ways of thinking to increase their chances for digital transformation success, according to a new study from Forbes Insights and Alfresco.

Video: The three levels of digital transformation

As many companies undergo digital transformation projects to improve business capabilities, productivity, and customer experiences, the most successful enterprises tap three common skillsets, according to a recent study from Forbes Insights and Alfresco.

After surveying 328 senior-level IT executives across a variety of industries, the organizations found three levers that business and IT leaders can employ for successful digital transformation. These strategies--design thinking, open thinking, and platform thinking--lead organizations to rethink the way they can embrace the power of business technology, according to the report.

Researchers separated the enterprises studied into two categories, depending on how well they implemented these three pillars: Digital leaders and digital laggards. Some 64% of firms that excelled across all three categories reported significant annual growth, compared to 43% of those who reported still developing their capabilities across these three areas.

SEE: The 5 pillars of digital transformation businesses need to set themselves up for success (TechRepublic)

Here are the three levers for successful digital transformation, and how digital leaders take advantage of them:

1. Design thinking

Forbes Insights and Alfresco describe design thinking as being "where a relentless focus upon optimizing user experience and customer experience guides all business technology decisions."

Those enterprises considered best-in-class when it comes to digital transformation always put the customer's needs first, the report noted. The goals of most digital initiatives include expanding into new markets, protecting market share, and honing the brand experience, according to the report. And nearly 90% of leading organizations said they expect to increase their investments and resources in design thinking-related activities significantly over the next three years--three times more than their less digitally-minded peers.

2. Open thinking

When an enterprise employs open thinking, "innovation from both inside and outside the organization is encouraged to drive new initiatives," according to the report. Those companies identified as high performers actively pursue open thinking, the report noted, and are six times more likely than the digital laggards to plan on significant increases in the flow of ideas through their organizations to meet digital needs.

SEE: Advanced Business Skills Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)

3. Platform thinking

In platform thinking, "the desired outcome of systems and solution deployment is to build an ecosystem of partners and customers that exchange capabilities and data in a manner that creates added value," according to the report. Nearly three-fourths of executives from the digital leader organizations said they plan to increase their provisioning of services to outside parties in the next three years, versus 28% of the digital laggards.

"Platform thinking is about new business models," said John Newton, CTO of Alfresco, in a press release. "We determined the extent to which platform thinking was prevalent by asking, 'To what extent do you open up your systems and information to third parties, and to what extent do you consume systems and information from third parties?' Just think about how Uber embeds itself into Google Maps so that when you pull up some directions, it tells you that there is an Uber three minutes away, and it can get you there in ten minutes. That's real platform thinking--the ability to extend your reach far and wide to attract more people to the platform."

This research clarifies what sets digital leaders apart from others, said Bruce Rogers, chief insights officer at Forbes Media, in a press release. "And these qualities can make the difference between a thriving company and an irrelevant one," he added.

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