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Five Ways to Accelerate Digital Transformation by Tapping “Digital Achievers”

Five Ways to Accelerate Digital Transformation by Tapping “Digital Achievers”

The concept of digital transformation continues to challenge and puzzle executives in all industries. One of the most common questions we hear is about where to start. Our simple answer is that there is no right answer. Every company will have its own unique starting point on the digital journey. That said, we have observed certain activities that can help a company build momentum toward digital transformation. One of those is to tap into its “digital achievers.”

You won’t find digital achievers in just one place. They already reside within your organization – but not only in IT. Some, of course, may be in IT, but not every technologist is a digital achiever. In fact, you may find digital achievers in any number of departments or functions.

What distinguishes digital achievers is not simply technical acumen - it is the ability to grasp the fundamentals of working and competing in a world revolutionized by technology. Digital achievers are inspired and motivated to drive change, and they thrive in environments of change – something many people do not. They embrace new ways of working, in new roles. They aren’t phased by traditional barriers, and can work effortlessly with people from other (and very different) functions. They can also solve problems from the customer’s perspective, not just their own.

Finding digital achievers is your first challenge, but the bigger task is understanding how to leverage their talents to jump-start and accelerate digital transformation. Here are five things you can do.

1) Get them together.

Organize small groups of business and technology digital achievers together in agile teams focused on delivering “products.” Technologists will understand the ins and outs of systems and be able to read data and patterns, while those on the business side can think through how change will affect operations, processes, and customers.

You will quickly see such “blended” teams accelerate innovation and pace. This is how high-tech companies operate. In fact, one of the characteristics we see in successful digital organizations – regardless of their type of business – is that they begin to operate like high-tech companies.

[Related: The Value of Women Supporting Women, with Lynn Tesoro]

2) Give them data to solve problems.

With today’s platforms and capabilities, you don’t need a data science background to be able to develop insights. You do, however, need curiosity and creativity around how to use data to make improvements.

Digital achievers have a natural curiosity that compels them to ask questions, challenge the status quo, experiment, and solve problems. They just need the data to feed their intrigue, explore opportunities, and create and test ideas.

3) Redefine their mission.

It’s hard to move fast when the task at hand is huge. Allow digital achievers to move quickly by breaking big concepts into smaller chunks of work. Encourage them to create rapidly rather than striving for something that is “perfect” and fully vetted. Don’t focus on “completing” a project, but rather on creating something that can continually be made better.

[Related: Confessions of a Purpose-Driven Company: What I Learned When I Tried to Save the World]

4) Allow them to experiment and fail fast.

Teams that are scared to fail tend to move slowly, and their products are often too late to make a difference. Digital achievers are motivated by autonomy and experimentation, so give them an environment that permits and encourages these characteristics. They will reach for quick wins, which can build momentum for transformation.

But make sure they know that if something doesn’t work, that’s okay, and that they can quickly move on to the next idea. Consider the “failure” a lesson learned that helps everyone approach challenges a little differently going forward.

5) Equip them with technology and tools that accelerate their work.

Cloud, micro-services, and abstraction allow teams to work and iterate without affecting others upstream and downstream in the business. Don't be afraid to take advantage of existing technology to boost your team to success.

Your digital achievers may not work together today, but when they do, their collective capabilities can turn your company into a modern competitor built to grow and thrive. For a large utility, digital achievers took charge of driving change within the many diverse functions necessary to build a truly digital grid. For an insurance company, they created and delivered digital innovations that are currently attracting more young buyers. And for an online tax preparer, they are reinventing the way customers interact with its systems. What impact will your digital achievers have?

Every organization, even those early in digital transformation, has some fertile ground for digital achievement and innovation. The key is to find it and empower it. When you bring digital achievers together in a team or coalition, they will begin to inspire others, challenge leadership to accept change more rapidly, and shift the culture. That’s when you will begin to see real progress and transformation.

[Related: How to Keep Up with the Constantly-Changing Tech Industry]


Casey Foss is director of marketing for West Monroe and a member of the firm’s executive team. She leads the marketing team and strategy, as well as the firm’s key accounts program and a multifaceted brand-building program that has produced a distinctive and highly-respected marketplace reputation.

Kyle Hutchins is a senior director who leads West Monroe Partners’ Digital team. Kyle has two decades of leadership experience researching, advising, and building innovative solutions at the intersection of business and technology.

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