In the post-COVID business world, digital transformation has become a common reality borne from necessity.
In the post-COVID business world, digital transformation has become a common reality borne from necessity. Yet businesses must ask themselves if they’ve done enough to make their digital transformation projects sustainable.
Global digital transformation spending is expected to touch US$3.4 trillion in 2026 with a five-year CAGR of 16.3%, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Digital Transformation Spending Guide. More regionally, India’s digital economy alone is expected to surpass US$1 trillion as early as 2025, according to MeitY.
Despite these predictions, more than 80% of such transformations fail and the remaining aren’t always able to deliver continuous value beyond the immediate gains. A staggering 88% of the Fortune 500 firms that existed in 1955 have been relegated to the history books because they failed to innovate.
For example, Kodak, once the world’s biggest film company, lost out during the digital revolution due to a fear of dismantling its strongest product lines. This digital hesitance has now become what the brand is renowned for, surely affecting its reputational standing in turn.
With these examples in mind it’s clear that companies need to work hard to stay ahead of the digital curve. But how can companies know if they’re competitive, appeal to the ever-changing consumer, and are thoroughly prepared for the digital environment of the market?
Sanjib Sahoo, the Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer of Ingram Micro, says “Digital Fitness” – a measure of how fit a company is in the current digital business environment – is one solution.
But why does a business need digital fitness?
“When you are born in the digital era, you should always assess your digital fitness on an ongoing basis and then create an agenda that suits you. For example, if you have really old legacy systems and want to use machine learning to create valuable results it is just not going to work. This is because you have to first focus on rationalizing your legacy systems and harmonize all your data. That’s the plumbing,” he says.
So, when can we call a company digitally fit?
“We know physical fitness is a lifestyle change. You can diet for a few months, but you might put on weight because it’s an ongoing process. Then you measure your BMI, based on which, somebody will tell you to do 30 minutes of additional cardio or reduce your carbohydrate intake. We follow a fitness regime for longevity, we want to live a long, healthy life and actively reduce our risk of disease as we age. The same goes for a business,” he says.
He envisages that the same principle can be applied to business organisations and their digital abilities.
“Since 2000, more than 50% of Fortune 500s have been disrupted. Either incumbent companies themselves have transformed or new startups have taken over their market share. The technology world is changing all the time and competition can come from anywhere. This makes it crucially important to evaluate your digital BMI and understand whether the organization is truly digitally fit or not,” he explains.
Many companies today are facing performance gaps and missing opportunities which could risk the viability of the whole organization.
“Pretty much every company today is going through digital transformation, but they have to first assess and understand that digital fitness is a mindset change in the company,” he adds.
“That’s one of the reasons some companies have fallen from the Fortune 500 list, and why every company is worried about the next disruptive startup with the digital speed and agility to seize up and coming market opportunities,” he says.
Digital BMI: A Mindset Change
“You have to plan fast. You have to be agile. A digital BMI means you have to understand where you stand in the market,” advises Sahoo.
To measure it, businesses can ask themselves several questions.
“Are your legacy codes and legacy systems nimble? Do you have customer centricity? Can you always create an omnichannel customer experience? Are you ready to innovate, operate, integrate at the same time? What is your speed and time to the market? Is it weeks, is it months, or is it years? And are you willing to pivot to create multiple monetization models? All of this makes you measure how digitally fit you are,” he explains.
Who is a digitally fit leader?
He calls digital transformation a spirit because it cannot be taught in a class.
“The number one factor why digital transformation projects fail is due to spirit and mindset. People focus on what they’ve been doing for years, resisting change. This will not work,” he says.
“A digitally unfit company will take a long time to make decisions. It doesn’t really move fast. It doesn’t understand and measure where competition is. It is not taking bets or risks to move forward,” Sahoo answers.
“It is not really addressing the opportunity gap, and such companies are prone to being disrupted, because you have to always understand where the market is going,” he advises.
A pivot in the market can come from unprecedented and unexpected directions, as the pandemic has taught us clearly. For example, the airline industry started getting competition from video conferencing software.
“Today, you never know where competition comes from. Companies that are digitally unfit, do the same thing, the same way, in perpetuity. They don’t have multiple monetization models. They don’t move fast. Their systems are getting older and not addressing that. And that’s when they become slower and slower like a physically unfit person will be,” he explains.
“And just as a physically unfit person becomes prone to the risk of diabetes or heart attack, digitally unfit organizations become prone to the risk of disruption and falling from market dominance,” he adds.
“You cannot be complacent, because when you are complacent, you are done. And that’s digital unfitness,” he says.
Digital transformation is neither an experiment nor a luxury. It does not have a stop sign. It’s a necessity if a company wants to remain successful. It’s also not just a level to cross and be done with, but a permanent mindset change that will help the company and its team move forward continuously.