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What makes a brand digital leader?

we have identified four key practices that set digital leaders apart from other organizations.

  1. Build on a stable and secure infrastructure
  2. Invest aggressively in agile and disruptive technologies
  3. Adept at aligning business and IT strategy
  4. Focused on innovation and growth


  1. Build on a stable and secure infrastructure

Today’s digital economy operates 24×7 and requires businesses to support wide-ranging demands for always available products, services, and systems. Customer expectations are intolerant of any outages. This creates significant challenges for IT as it eliminates scheduled downtime for routine maintenance and upgrades. It’s virtually impossible to avoid failures. Instead infrastructure and applications must be architected for resiliency so that they can automatically detect failures and react accordingly.

This is a radical change for IT and impacts culture, organization structures, operating model, technology, and architecture. Digital leaders recognize that digital business transformation requires IT transformation, involving a completely different approach to IT – one that goes well beyond adding a second speed or standing up a digital group. Digital leaders do the hard work upfront to ensure that they build their digital capabilities on top of a stable and secure infrastructure whether internally or externally sourced. More than half of digital leaders are very effective at selecting the most appropriate technologies and architectures versus less than one third of non-leaders.

2.Invest aggressively in agile and disruptive technologies

As digital technologies accelerate the pace of business change, organizations are placing more emphasis on agility, speed, and innovation rather than the usual efficiency and cost savings to remain competitive. Digital leaders are aggressively investing in agile and disruptive technologies including agile methodologies, cloud, digital labor, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Rising customer expectations and the consumerization of IT has raised the competitive bar and requires companies to provide a steady stream of new capabilities and improved customer experience. But frequent releases of software into production is incompatible with traditional software development methods where updates can take months and major changes can take a year or more. Digital leaders are adopting agile methodologies and DevOps to support continuous delivery of incremental enhancements at a higher rate than non-leaders.

However, getting the most value from digital investments isn’t just about how fast you can develop and deliver them. It is also dependent upon integrating new customer-facing solutions with existing middle and back office systems. Digital leaders report that they are very effective at integrating core business systems with newer digital technologies, at three times the rate of non-leaders.

3. Adept at aligning business and IT strategy

Innovation, technology and information are fundamental to digital business and increasingly shaping and enabling business strategy. It has never been more important for organizations to ensure that IT and business strategy are tightly aligned. In fact, a business strategy that is not intrinsically linked to technology will lead to failure.

In this case alignment is no longer the CIO creating a strategy for the IT function and then aligning it with business strategy, but working closely with the C-suite and the business heads to develop a digital business strategy that addresses the strategic use of technology across the enterprise to produce the desired business outcomes.

4.Focused on innovation and growth

Digital transformation is about using disruptive technologies to innovate across the customer value chain from customer experience and engagement through to back office systems and processes. Innovation is driving new business and operating models; digitizing core business processes; and creating new, incremental revenue streams. New business models built on platforms, sharing, or crowd sourcing are transforming entire industries and putting intense pressure on incumbent organizations in retail, transportation, lodging, and finance, to name a few.

Digital leaders are more focused on innovation and growth than other organizations. At digital leaders, the board’s number one business issue that they are looking for IT to address is “developing innovative new products and services” while non-leaders are much more focused on costs (see Table 1). This focus is also driving leaders’ investments in cloud, as their number one reason for using cloud is to accelerate product development and innovation (43%), nearly a third higher than non-leaders (32%).

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