For the first time ever, digital technologies sit at the epicenter of CEOs’ anxieties and dreams. Some 88 percent of major corporations are undergoing massive digital transformation journeys and fully 55 percent of leaders are extremely anxious about digital start-ups.

This is the moment that IT needs to radically shift to showcase uniqueness and value in the Digital Age. Getting digital transformation right is incredibly powerful. Here are just a few key facts for you to think about when it comes to those organizations that have successfully transformed:

  1. The very best digitally transforming organizations, or as we measured, the 16 percent who were seeing real results, could deliver projects from inception to delivery to measurement twice as fast as the rest.
  2. 9 out of 10 enterprise organizations saw new growth opportunities.
  3. 42 percent of leading organizations found new opportunities that they had never expected to find just through the act of trying to digitally transform.
  4. 56 percent achieved sales performance and customer satisfaction up at the same time.
  5. The 16 percent saw three times higher OPEX improvements than the rest of all the other enterprise organizations we measured.

In short, those 16 percent that saw real results had and built a unique digital DNA that enabled them to succeed where other similar companies failed or saw far fewer results. This is where and how we saw there are clear DNA markers that separated the 16 percent from the rest.

Another key fact is that 40 percent of leaders told us they felt they had to complete this journey in less than 1,000 days, showing the real sense of urgency for everyone. But in this haste, about 40 percent either abandoned or radically slowed down the process due to perceived failures or setbacks. This shows the role for internal leadership is there and critical as the research over three plus years showed us.

The research started some four years ago with the Economist Intelligence Unit (E.I.U.) and blossomed into a full econometric piece of primary research and resulted with us have hundreds of hours with business leaders and technology leaders at IBM, Hallmark, USAA, Southwest Airlines, Citi Ventures, MasterCard, Astellas, as well as government agencies such as the GSA, EPA, FCC and others.

All of these organizations were all part of the 16 percent that exhibited the 7 distinctive digital DNA markers for success we identified. In fact, there are three tips for success that you can learn from these leaders, if you want to take this opportunity to really transform your digital world.

1. To reveal or re-engineer your digital DNA, you must know your drivers and challenges. In order to understand your own digital DNA and the capacity to transform, you need to understand the seven drivers and challenges of digital transformation. These are critical for understanding what you need to stop, start or do more of in your journey. Without a grasp of these, your organization won’t have the sustainable energy and the focus needed to know where you are strong or weak in the new digital first landscape.

In reality, IT leaders should be asking these questions because technology touches each part of the company’s DNA in each function. No other group in the leadership team has the power to have this conversation and be an independent internal advisor like IT.

2. Digitally transform, don’t try and cheat. This is not about digital migration. It is about digital transformation and a sustainable engine for handling an increasingly unpredictable digital business landscape.

For example, imagine you were a shipping magnet in the 19th Century, you might try and put steam engines in your sailing ships to modernize your fleet to compete. Trying to put a steam engine into a sailing boat is like digital migration now. It won’t work for long and it will put you even further behind when it fails (just look at Walmart’s hasty and necessary purchase of Jet.com). IT needs to lead this conversation and constantly remind the business owners that this is about a deep process and can’t be done piecemeal.

3. High performance mindset skills really matter. Your mindset skills need to radically evolve. People and their leaders are a big part of this process. Successful organizations understand that you need to learn what it takes to think and act clearly under pressure while building cross-functional relationships that help your people to be the very best versions of themselves.

We interviewed Coach Pete Carroll of the Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks and renowned psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais about these high-performance traits. Both of them, as well as the leaders in the 16%, stated that without the right mindset, any transformation is bound to fail. To give you a better picture of what is required, you can download the mindset chapter of our book for free here. As a leader with the deepest technology understanding, you are in a unique position to gain trust while demonstrating the way forward requires everyone to think different and digital at the same time.

As we have seen, the most successful organizations are led by executives who understand that pushing and exploring the possibilities requires you to digitally transform the DNA of the company as well as the mindset of your people. This is IT’s moment, seize it.

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Michael Gale

Michael Gale

Michael Gale is co-author of the book, The Digital Helix: Transforming Your Organization's DNA to Thrive in the Digital Age.
Chris Aarons

Chris Aarons

Chris Aarons is co-author of the book, The Digital Helix: Transforming Your Organization's DNA to Thrive in the Digital Age.