Successful Digital Transformations: Centralized Projects or Functional Platforms?

For the last several years, I have been talking to operators and vendors about digital transformation (DX) and have seen a number of different approaches used along a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum are highly centralized projects, usually run by a chief digital officer of an organization. These tend to fail as they are not well integrated into the day-to-day operations of the business. At the other end are uncoupled projects in each functional department at the CMO, CIO, and CTO level. These are often funded from the office of the CDO out of a funding pot, usually resulting in these funds going to projects only peripherally related to DX. In some cases, it also results in large, uncoupled platform or infrastructure projects with little immediate business benefits.

The ones that have been most successful, from our research, are those that have several key characteristics:

  • They are run as a single project by a CDO but implemented as a set of interlocking agile projects by the functional CMO, CTO, and CIO organization.
  • They focus on a set of use cases of value to the business in both the short and long terms, with a phased, agile implementation of use cases with three to six month durations.
  • They have short-term business benefits, not falling into the trap of just implementing good-sounding technical infrastructure platforms that someday will be of value.

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