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Digital Transformation: Darwin Was Right

While half of surveyed organizations say they are progressing with digital transformation, the other half are left TO the fate of the DoDo Bird.

It's an understated reality in life -- business and personal -- that if half the people are doing something good, half the people aren't doing something good. If half of big businesses are seriously engaged in digital transformation, what the heck are the other 50% doing?

A study by Forbes Insights, How to Win at Digital Transformation, found that half of senior executives say their organizations have made digital transformation a "top strategic priority." That's great progress, but it's also a sign that plenty of organizations aren't committed to that same digital transformation.

Unlike many research reports that take a "rah, rah" approach -- I sometimes see researchers praising the heavens because some tech concept has achieved a 10% adoption rate -- I'll give this report's sponsor, Hitachi Data Systems, credit for acknowledging that the other half must get on the ball.

"At the center of transformation is data. It is both the creator and accelerator that has proven to be the currency of IT organizations. By failing to unlock the potential of data, organizations are falling short of their own transformation," said Asim Zaheer, Chief Marketing Officer for Hitachi, in a press release.

Use of data and analytics is a key element in the digital transformation process, but only 44% of the 573 respondents said they rate themselves as advanced or leaders in data and analytics. Fewer than half of respondents said that cross-functional teams are involved in developing and implementing a transformation strategy, leaving the bulk of the work to IT.

Digital transformation isn't just about using analytics, mobile technologies, and digital initiatives such as improved customer experience. It calls for rethinking how the organization operates, its core processes, and who gets hired.

Technology and business thought leaders are making a big deal about digital transformation today, as if it is something new. In reality, today's digital transformation is rooted in change that goes back at least as far as the introduction of the PC. Some corporate leaders didn't embrace the PC, or the other key digital components that followed, including the Web, mobile technologies, big data, and social media. The mindset always seemed to be, "What are we going to do with this?" (With the underlying thought being, "Can't it just go away?")

The mindset should have been, "How is this going to change the way we do business?" Or, "How will this change the way our customers live and do business themselves?" After all, if your business model isn't in sync with what customers are doing, it isn't much of a model.

The old mindset has cost a lot of companies their corporate lives as competitors responded faster than they did, and startups arose unencumbered by old structures and thought processes.

If half of enterprises aren't giving serious thought to digital transformation, then half of the enterprises are still prime candidates for disruption. Maybe it's time to learn some lessons from the past 30 years. As Darwin showed, adapt or fade into history. Who wants to be known as Dodo Bird Inc.?