Having a Digital Is Not Just About Technology

Are you scrambling to make your company more digital? If so, you’re not alone. Yet, many companies make the mistake of equating digital with technology, when in fact technology is just a catalyst for business changes that run much deeper.For each of the past six years, MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Digital have surveyed thousands of global executives and managers to understand what their companies are doing to become more digitally mature. This year’s survey revealed five key practices that differentiate the most digitally mature companies from their less advanced counterparts. No matter your size, focusing on these areas can help your company successfully adapt and compete in a digitally driven market.

1. Look at business strategy through a digital lens.
A digital strategy seems like an obvious first step to maturity, but not all companies have them in place. According to our survey, companies at the high end of the digital maturity scale are over four times more likely than less advanced organizations to have a clear digital strategy (80 percent vs. 19 percent), making it the single biggest differentiator.
2. Think ahead. Way ahead.
One way that small companies become big ones is by identifying the important digital trends in advance and capitalizing on them. Yet, according to our study, only 13 percent of early stage companies look out at least five or more years when setting their strategy. Furthermore, only 11 percent of businesses with 100 or fewer employees look out five years or more.
3. Weave digital into your DNA.
Whether small or large, digitally maturing companies use digital technology to do business in dramatically new ways — not just to improve efficiency. They have a culture that embraces risk, rapid action, agility and collaboration. And they are organized differently, with a much greater emphasis on cross-functional teams.
4. Aggressively build on success.
What sets the most digitally mature organizations apart from other companies is that they are willing to fail fast and often, but aggressively scale up when they succeed.

Cardinal Health, for example, regularly cuts initiatives and reports on what was learned. In interviewing them for our study, we heard from Brent Stutz, senior vice president of commercial technologies and chief technology officer of Fuse at Cardinal Health: “I’m not afraid to create a slide that describes 42 failures and four successes. The sooner we stop working on an idea that isn’t panning out, the faster we can move on to the next, better solution.”
5. Become a talent magnet.
Today’s top talent understands the importance of digital, not only for the company but for their own personal career development. Companies at the high end of the digital maturity scale have a huge advantage in attracting and retaining the best talent — in fact, VP-level talent is 15 times more likely to stay in a company if it has strong digital capabilities.