digital transformation strategy

Just what exactly, in plain English, is digital transformation? Which companies have already undergone it, and which need to? Have some already missed the boat? 

Google ‘digital transformation’ and you’ll see companies providing services for the burgeoning market needing to quickly start thinking digital. 

Some of this content is great, and some is still not quite transparent. Whilst white papers detailing change and success in specific sectors are welcome, videos of consultants talking in generalities and marketing speak are less so.

The problem is, of course, that much of any organisation’s digital strategy is unique, and it’s difficult to define what excellence is, or how it can be reached, without first knowing who one is writing for.

This creates one of the challenges for organisations seeking to understand digital; starting the journey is often the hardest step. It’s difficult to know what needs to be looked at first, especially if you have the erroneous and sinking feeling that ‘everything’ needs to be changed.

You might also be trying to articulate to the board why change is needed, and to do this you need to be able to make clear points.

Over the next few months I’m going to look at how ‘digitally mature’ various sectors and organisations are and what the process entails, not least because Econsultancy is actively helping companies in this area (contact our digital transformation consultants if you need help).

Who has undergone change?

This blog post on, 24 departments later, shows just how great the overhaul of the UK government’s digital assets have been.

Undoubtedly this is digital transformation, even though at this level we’re only talking about what has happened to the ‘digital stock’ of the government, without delving into broader organisational change and quite ‘how’ this change is undertaken (culture, outsourcing, tech and management considerations etc).

digital transformation governance

Looking at the Government Digital Service’s ‘About’ page, we can see a greater summing up of just what digital transformation can mean ‘in the round’. 

There are two key implications of the strategy of Digital by Default which came out of the government’s response to Martha Lane Fox’s report.

The first implication is that government itself needs to become digital in thinking in order to deliver services which are suitable for users.

The second implication is that as digital by default comes into effect the scale of government service provision will grow dramatically and the quality and user centricity of major commercial internet properties should be our minimum goal.

We aim to make the products and services built by GDS not just best in class, but stand shoulder to shoulder with the sort of digital experience that users come to expect from daily interaction with the giants of the web.

Our aim is to be the unequivocal owner of high quality user experience between people and government through being the architect and the engine room of government digital service provision.

Government service delivery is like a supertanker we must turn. We may not be able to fully fulfil our aims on all of the existing services for a multitude of reasons, however everything we start afresh will be built with this core ethos in mind. 

Honest, refreshing and a clear call internally and outwardly.


Just search our blog. They’ve been investing for a relatively long time. Even back in 2006 on the NMA blog they said:

The Arcadia Group has made a massive investment and structural change to bring web and ecommerce management in-house, servicing the brands directly.

The company now looks like a market leader that began fully formed, but it was founded back in the ‘70s. TopShop simply started on its journey before a lot of the competition.


And finally, ITV sets its stall out, too. Big changes to its websites – an improved ITV player, a revamped brand and website, and a renewed focus on content are all set out below.

We are operating in an evolving and highly competitive digital marketing(sic) in which advances in technology are changing the way in which people consume media.

We are transforming our business so that we are able to respond to the challenges of new technologies, changing patterns of user behaviour and new market entrants, while also ensuring that we are in a position to take advantage of the opportunities which the digital environment offers. The combination of our strong brands, access to content and commitment to our producer-broadcaster model gives us significant advantages but we are under no illusion about the need to remain focused on the task ahead.

There are clear signs that we are making progress against our strategic priorities, but there is still a great deal to do. As we continue to improve the efficiency and performance of ITV, we will also look at further ways to rebalance our revenue streams as we focus on content, pay and online.

So what is digital transformation?

So to get the ball rolling, let’s say that a digital transformation strategy can include, but isn’t limited to, the following:

Process of change:

  • Approaches of Realisation (assessment of current situation), Transition (creating the plan for change), Transformation (change managed and realised, then attenuated).
  • Aligned to people, process and tech.
  • Includes assessment of internal and external factors influencing business strategy.
  • Viewed from the perspectives of C-level, HR and marketing teams.
  • Stock taken of digital ‘enablers’ (service and support) and digital assets (domains, sites, propositions, etc). 

Change in organisation design:

  • Job roles and descriptions standardised/updated.
  • Work done to identify where outsourcing will be cost effective and deliver best in class.
  • Work done to decide which departments should have responsibility for PR, social media, customer service, customer experience, tech for marketing, sales. 


  • Digital Academy to educate staff on branding/process/platforms.
  • Modern Marketing Manifesto: organisations to detail their own manifesto. Statement made on balance between investment in brand experience or more clear commercial impetus.
  • Guidelines constructed for favoured communications channels.

Of course, these things take time, money and hard work. This process needs to be elucidated further before applying it to your business and during application. Being agile is a challenge.

If you are undergoing digital transformation and want to share your stories, get in touch.

Ben Davis

Published 14 May, 2013 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (9)

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Rob Mettler

Great post - for me digital transformation is more than simply having a website or releasing an app to your customers. It is about a more fundamental shift to the connected world changing what organisations sell, who they sell to and how they engage their customers, all of which requires the internal changes you describe and more.

The challenge for many organisations is knowing when to move from digitising what they do today to creating a new digital tomorrow. For some that realisation comes too late (music and film distribution are great examples of this) as the disruption required is unpalatable however necessary it is.

As the world becomes increasingly connected and the internet of things becomes a consumer reality this challenge increases and organisations are going to need to work out what it means for them. They will need to be bold and brave, and adopt new mindsets to meet the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Looking forward to your next episode Ben

over 5 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

Cheers, Rob.

A clear and insightful addendum. I love your point about the important move from 'digitising' to creating anew. is clever in highlighting this point, too, given it has so much under its umbrella. They say they can't change absolutely everything, but any new projects will begin with the right approach.

over 5 years ago


Tim Aldiss

This is the key line: "The problem is, of course, that much of any organisation’s digital strategy is unique, and it’s difficult to define what excellence is, or how it can be reached, without first knowing who one is writing for."

I don't see this as a problem at all, in fact in regards to transition this is the key process. Looking inwardly is such an important exercise for businesses and I've seen some great things resulting from the process of group training, one on one (stakeholder) interviews, review of mission & vision statements, and the general opening up to (what's perceived as) the complexities of digital.

Econsultancy have a big part to play in this new awareness - all the great content you publish is I'm sure the start of the process, and you're training courses help manage the transition too.

over 5 years ago


Per Svanström

Great article and I think it addresses a very important aspect of the way companies need to do business. I have talked to my clients for a long time with the term digital business development.

I think that a lot of business needs to understand that digital isn't just a channel anymore. It's THE channel. Making it important to reverse the business intelligence and flow of understanding, insights and development from inside out, to outside (digital) in.

Digital has to come first, then applied into the business to move it forward. It's more of a digital paradigm shift than a transformation.

over 5 years ago


Mark Donington

Great article. It's good to see large organisations like this taking digitally completely seriously. The way the public view information has changed forever and therefore companies must change the way they deliver that information

over 5 years ago


Dan White

Interesting article. I'm curious to see your thoughts on digital transformation in the financial services space, and particularly car and home insurance providers. In these kinds of organisations, their ability to transform digitally is actually key to competition and thus to survival. And that's for three reasons:

1. because digital has become a significant threat to profits and stability, thanks to price comparison site reach, and I believe seizing the opportunities offered by digital is key to mitigating its threats;

2. because digital offers a unique opportunity to reduce operating costs by enabling self-service, with resulting savings being fed back to customers as more competitive pricing;

3. and because it is simply the channel of choice now for the majority of insurance customers.

One word of caution that has to come out in these types of discussions is this: that customers exist in a multi-channel world, and that their experience should be truly multi-channel. Digital is just one part of the mix, and (as your article notes) it would be foolish to simply move all one's eggs from the telephony basket to the digital basket.

over 5 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Cheers. As you say, 'looking inward', including how staff can be empowered with access to more communication channels and new working practices is a large part of this, and I'm sure there are tons of case studies out there.




Yeah, in the same way user frustration made good website design imperative, the same thing is happening with broader customer service that isn't joined up yet and can be hard to access.


There's a paper from Capgemini on digital transformation in the insurance industry, though I haven't read it yet.

Your points are all perfectly put and I'll no doubt refer to them in a future post.

over 5 years ago


Rod Powell

The driver for digital change quite simply is that it's a substantial money saver for any service provider. At the same time we all want to do the tedious stuff of life, from paying bills to the weekly shop, as quickly as possible. That's what the digital world does for us. There is no going back, so keep up.

over 5 years ago


Ross Mackay, Digital Consultant at Accenture

To echo the thoughts of the masses, really interesting article. Digital Transformation is a common term that can take many different forms. More importantly, it means very different things to different people, a bit like the clichéd phrase 'digital platform'. I look forward to the upcoming articles...

over 5 years ago

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