5 Stages of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation & AIMay 29, 2024
5 Stages of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into every aspect of a business, altering operations and customer value delivery. It involves cultural shifts, embracing experimentation and accepting failure. Here are five key steps from Tony Saldanha's "Why Digital Transformations Fail," guiding businesses from traditional models to fully digitized enterprises. 


Step 1: Foundation 

The foundational step involves the automation or digitalization of processes. This stage is about using technology to make existing processes more efficient, setting the groundwork for further transformation. It delivers enterprise value by enhancing efficiency and productivity through technological interventions in routine operations. However, the primary challenges here include losing sight of the intended business value or poor execution, which can be mitigated by ensuring committed ownership of the strategy at the highest levels and adopting an iterative execution approach to avoid major failures. 


Step 2: Siloed 

In the siloed stage, parts of the organization start developing major digitally based processes and products independently. This phase sees the organic growth of digital initiatives within distinct parts of the organization, often driven by individual leaders who recognize the threat of digital disruption. The key to navigating this stage is to empower change leaders and identify digital leverage points, ensuring that these siloed transformations can serve as a microcosm for broader organizational change. 


Step 3: Partially Synchronized 

This step involves the partial completion of an enterprise-wide strategy for digital transformation. It's characterized by a more synchronized effort to deliver business outcomes through digital means but acknowledges that the transformation journey is not yet complete. The main challenges include an ineffective change management strategy or an insufficient amount of transformation projects, which can be addressed through a robust change management model and ensuring a sufficient strategy for a portfolio of initiatives. 


Step 4: Fully Synchronized 

At this stage, an enterprise-wide digital platform or new business model has fully taken root. However, it's crucial to recognize that this does not signify the end of the transformation journey. The enterprise is always one technology or business model change away from potential disruption. Overcoming the challenges of this stage requires a digital reorganization to enhance technical capabilities and staying current with the rapidly evolving technology landscape to ensure the transformation's ongoing success. 


Step 5: Living DNA 

The final step of digital transformation is achieving a state of perpetual transformation, where constant reinvention and a highly agile culture become second nature to the organization. This stage marks the integration of digital transformation into the organization's DNA, making it a disciplined market leader that is always ready to sense and respond to new business disruption risks. The organization must foster an agile culture and have mechanisms in place for routinely sensing and responding to risks in a disciplined manner. 



Digital transformation is not a linear process but a continuous cycle of adaptation and change. These five steps provide a framework for organizations to understand their journey towards becoming a digitally mature enterprise. Each step presents its unique challenges and requires specific strategies to overcome them. By recognizing the importance of these steps and the disciplines required to navigate them, organizations can better position themselves for success in the digital age. The journey requires commitment, leadership, and a willingness to embrace change at every level of the organization, ensuring that digital transformation becomes a core aspect of the organization's identity and strategy. 



  • Saldanha, T. (n.d.). Why digital transformations fail