The five pillars of successful digital transformation: key learnings from 2018

Jennifer Armstrong / December 2018

Transformation is the new normal in today’s fast-moving world. Organisations that want to stay competitive have to keep pace with ongoing innovation, far-reaching disruption and rapid technological change. And making that happen means more than just upgrading IT or announcing strategy. It’s about developing the skills, understanding and mindset that teams need in order to stay ahead.

In 2018, while your company has worked on its transformation, we’ve been bringing you the latest advice to help you on that journey. We believe that there are five pillars of transformation that every organisation needs to address, so we’ve gone back through this year’s back catalogue to bring you the five articles you should read  – one for each of them.

Data, technology and automation

In our report Customer focus as the key to digitalisation, we explored how data and automation are helping companies create more customer-focused businesses, and, in some cases, see bottom lines improve two to three times faster as a result. If you don’t have time for to read the detailed report, with practical steps for CMOs, case studies and handy visualisations, we prepared an executive summary.

“Look to data to lighten the load. Technology helps us make sense of the abundance of signals now open to us, and leading marketers automate all that can be. Whenever you do something in your organisation more than twice, stop and consider if here’s opportunity to free up some human time for high quality, low-volume tasks where quantitative models struggle the most.”– Customer focus as the key to digitalisation

Culture of innovation

If culture is as important as we think it is, how can it be measured? The culture experts at Temporall have made it their mission to tackle that question, and their Culture Workbench is a practical answer. Together with Temporall, we produced The Strategic Secret, an in-depth look at how companies should use culture to make their transformation a success, and we caught up with Temporall’s founders for a Q&A on the subject.

“Culture is a central part of company strategy, so executives need to engage with it. And for executives to engage with it, they need to see it measured. People think culture is about investing in a ping-pong table, but it’s not. It's about investing in a feedback loop. And where that gets really interesting is when you use information from the feedback loop to align culture towards meeting your strategic goals.”Making culture count

People operations

When it comes to adapting to change, who is in your team matters less than how they work together. That was just one of the key findings outlined by Natasha Merrington in The five dynamics of an effective team, drawn from comprehensive research on the way Googlers work together

“Psychologically safe teams accelerate learning and innovation by acknowledging mistakes and exploring new ideas. And not only are they more adaptable, they can also impact the bottom line. Our research revealed that sales teams with high ratings for psychological safety actually brought in more revenue, exceeding their sales targets by 17%. Teams with low psychological safety fell short by up to 19%.”The five dynamics of an effective team


A fast-moving world means fast-moving customers, and understanding how consumers change is vital for any company serious about transformation. In Five rules for building consumer journeys in a connected world, Patrick Singer outlined the key considerations: from challenging preconceptions, to recognising the right moment to connect.

“To find that sweet spot between marketing goals and people’s well-being, we need to avoid intruding on certain moments. Some moments are too generic (“I want to set an alarm”), some are too vague (“I want to get healthy”), some too personal (“I want to text Jane about my job interview”) while others are too specific (“I want to watch a show on Netflix).

Aim instead for moments where you think a user might be open to inspiration or guidance, or those where they are seriously thinking about something you can offer them, whether they’re a fan of your product already or not.” – Five rules for building consumer journeys in a connected world

Vision and leadership

This year, Squared Online, the award-winning digital marketing course, was revamped with a new emphasis on leadership skills. In an interview with Joris Merks-Benjaminsen, European Head of Programmes at Google Digital Academy, we explored the thinking behind this new focus, and how leadership can emerge from the ground up, when anyone steps us, takes the initiative and champions change.

“Changemakers need to be brave, convincing colleagues that in order to innovate, they have to accept that they can’t predict the outcome of something they’ve never tried. One tactic is to reserve a proportion of a budget for innovation projects and understand that the goal of those is to learn and prepare for the future: invest, test, move it into your regular business and optimise it further,’ says Joris. ‘It’s an R&D approach. We’re addicted to measurability, but how do you develop accurate proxy metrics for measuring something new? Create an experimental budget, knowing that it won't instantly deliver great ROI but it will keep you from becoming irrelevant over time.’” – Why leadership is the new focus for digital transformation

Customer focus as the key to digitalization