Digital Transformation is probably one of the most used and abused concepts in the corporate world these days. As it happens with trendy words in the business world, it means different things to different people.

From my experience in dealing with companies of all sizes, and more importantly, with sellers of digital transformation services, there is a dire need for raising the level of the conversation around Digital Transformation.

To IT people, Digital Transformation is all about tools and processes, while to marketers it means omnichannel and digital marketing. This applies internally to the organisation, but also to the companies selling services and technologies to them.

For a  BPM software specialist selling digital transformation, it is all about the latest RPA solution, while for a digital marketing agency it could be about the latest machine learning solution for keyword optimization.

Digital Transformation is more than that and needs to be applied at a holistic level. It needs to enable organisational alignment and speak to the business’ long term goals. The Digital Transformation Canvas below was created to assist in making this process more effective for organisations.

One of the key concepts of the Digital Transformation Canvas is what I regard as the three pillars of Digital Transformation. They are fundamental in any organisation. The most obvious pillar is Technology (bottom box in the canvas, Emerging Technologies). In here, you should cover Emerging Technologies with the potential to disrupt your business but also identify others that could bring new opportunities. After your analysis, you should have a list of technologies that you want to use.

The second pillar is related to people, and it’s divided into three boxes, Culture, Leadership and Skills. Here it’s important to look at whether your current culture limits digital transformation, whether you have the right leadership style to drive it, and which skills are needed to speed up the transformation. 

Finally, the third pillar is Business Models. Similar to Emerging Technologies, we need to identify Business Models with the potential to disrupt the business. The best way to do that is to look at the Business Models being used by nascent startups in the market.

The second pillar is related to people, and it’s divided into three boxes, Culture, Leadership and Skills. Here it’s important to look at whether your current culture limits digital transformation, whether you have the right leadership style to drive it, and which skills are needed to speed up the transformation. 

Finally, the third pillar is Business Models. Similar to Emerging Technologies, we need to identify Business Models with the potential to disrupt the business. The best way to do that is to look at the Business Models being used by nascent startups in the market. 

Next, consider the Ambidextrous Organisation . This talks to how companies need to explore new opportunities while continuing to exploit their existing capabilities. It is related to McKinsey’s Three Horizons concept. Exploitation is viewed as Horizon 1, while Exploration is Horizon 2 and 3. At the same time the Exploration box becomes  the place to look for radical (and disruptive) innovation, while the Exploitation box will help to identify incremental innovation. 

So when using the canvas, you should use the Exploration box first to see the activities that the company is currently driving, then consider Horizons 2 and 3 and ensure that they are aligned to the overall strategy. Next future opportunities are considered. All the activities in the Exploration box should help us explore emerging technologies we deemed important, while testing disruptive business models and making sure that we have the right “people” involved. The end goal is to ensure that everything is aligned to the overall Digital Transformation strategy.

From here, “External Touch Points” and “Internal Facing Functions” are considered. They both work in a similar way. They are divided into different boxes that represent how the company interacts with customers, vendors and their own employees. The employee box is divided into company functions. The idea is to first evaluate the level of digital transformation for each of them. I suggest building a Digital Transformation Index (DTI) that helps evaluate the situation for each process and business function.

Obviously, the larger the organisation, the more complex this could be. Decide on the scale and consider the customer in the process.   

With DTIs calculated for the Exploitation box, it is now possible to define priority areas for Digital Transformation projects. You now should have a complete view of the organisation, a status snapshot, and along with the long term strategy the focus can be placed on the most crucial areas first. 

The Digital Transformation Canvas was published under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license . It therefore can be used, shared and adapted freely as long as it’s accredited to its author. I encourage you to adapt it to your specific market or company. If you do, please let me know and share it. I want to keep the canvas alive and iterate it with everyone’s help. 

Please reach out if you need more information on how to use the Canvas.