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10 Attributes Of Successful Digital Business Transformation – Forbes

Nigel Vaz, CEO of Publicis Sapient, is author of the recently published book entitled “Digital Business Transformation”. In the book, he provides a framework for digital transformation and shares strategies to drive digital business success. Below, Vaz provides insight on how the best digital transformation requires great partnerships.

Kimberly Whitler: In your book, you talk about attributes of successful digital business transformations. Can you share some excerpts?

Nigel Vaz: Transformation is not something you can do to clients or for clients, but only with clients. Successful digital business transformation is always the culmination of the work of teams across organisations –within the client business, within Publicis Sapient as a transformation partner, and within a wider partner ecosystem.

The best clients, then, are those who recognize the need for digital business transformation, embrace the idea that we’re on a transformation journey together, and make the executional choices to make that journey and it’s intended outcomes visible and achievable.

Over the years, we’ve observed a number of consistent components of successful digital business transformations (and our best clients). Below are 10 elements. 

1. Understand the Ultimate Goals of Digital Business Transformations (the DBT BHAGs) are not just about technology

When transforming large organizations, it can be very easy to get lost in the weeds of capability choices, personal agendas, and most of all, the real response of organizations and the people in them to resist change. Our most successful clients understand that they are actually setting out to do two things: 1) Create an organization that can continually change at pace with the changes around it, and 2) Constructing the capability to identify and realize value for your customers and business through digital.


The clarity of direction when making decisions is one of the most powerful benefits a client can provide to their teams so they are able to look beyond the work right in front of them and understand how it connects to the transformation of the business.

2. Align their Team Around a Shared Vision

One person cannot drive transformation alone. Whether it’s the CEO or chairman of the board, it makes no difference. Aligning your core team is critical. At the end of the day, these are the leaders that the broader organization will look to for direction and guidance. If they are not bought in, their teams will prioritize the work accordingly.

3. Have C-Level Buy-In

When a client has senior leadership invested in what they’re doing to reshape the company, it creates an incredible amount of momentum across their broader teams. Clear sponsorship and support can make all the difference in getting the resources and attention the transformation program will require. Especially in the early months of the transformation, the success of the first programs is critical. If they fail, it will make it that much harder for programs down the line. Senior-level support can drive the right accountability and visibility to sustain the energy around the transformation.

4. Anchor in Shared Outcomes and Behaviors

Creating clarity on the business outcomes you are solving for is one of the most critical components of a successful transformation. Part of the reason transformations fail is because of a lack of accountability. Co-creation of vision and outcome can help your leadership more clearly see their role and accountability within the transformation program. Finally, to create the change you want to see in your business, your leaders have to embody them as well. They are motivating their teams to do something new, something unknown. Role modelling what the behaviours are that produce the outcomes creates a path for others to do the same.

5. Seize Their Quick Wins and Communicate

Change is hard. For a lot of people, it raises doubts and insecurities about their ability to traverse the unknown. Running large transformation programs is no different. Quick wins are an important way to signal progress. Though initial communications will likely be more geared toward setting the big strategic picture, your teams will soon want to see operational progress and how their work is contributing to the overall. People want to see where they fit into the change, but they also want to see how their leaders are reacting to it. It’s not just about what you communicate, but how. Authenticity is everything.

6. Move Fast

More and more, we are seeing clients come into conversations saying, “Don’t tell me what you can do. Show me.” Where this is particularly valuable is when you are trying to address underserved or new markets. Rapid prototyping enables you to build out some of your most ambiguous (or ambitious) ideas to see how they translate in real life and what they actually enable.

7. Are Thoughtful About Your Governance Choices

In a lot of ways, setting out to transform your business is like building a start-up. The team needs to include people who balance critical expertise with a belief in the vision you are creating together.

So, what should you look for when designing the team?

1) Leaders who are signed up to the vision of where the company needs to go.

2) Members who have meaningful role in the organization and/ or control of sizable business unit that will lead the way for the broader organization.

3) The core team has to be cross-functional and multi-disciplinary.

4) Any external partners should be there because they fill a specific gap on the team – this could be capability-specific or they could be there because of their strength in governance.

This transformation team should sign off on the key projects happening in the organization and be empowered to make the call on whether those projects support the transformation or not.

8. Choose Partners Who Will Co-create and Are a Fit for The Team

Today’s partner ecosystems are composed of partners who fill capability gaps and also play a critical role in co-creation. This ecosystem will likely have partners who play different roles within the transformation and, as a result, the criteria may look different for each. As much as the tangible characteristics of partners are important, so are the intangibles. Do your partners engender trust? Are they the kind of people you want to work with on a day-to-day basis? How will they collaborate to bring your teams on the journey?

9. Keep Your Teams Small and Cross-functional

One of the biggest challenges within any established organization is breaking through operational silos that limit innovation. Small, multidisciplinary teams provide a way to break through those silos and create progress faster. You can also see the power of smaller teams in prototyping and piloting efforts. Rapid response teams, for instance, bring together a small, diverse set of capability leaders to bring prototypes to life in a matter of weeks.

10. Consider New Approaches to Funding That Match the Way Projects Work

One of the operational hurdles many of our clients face is that their businesses are not wired to fund an environment of continuous improvement. The reality is that, as your company becomes more sophisticated in its digital capability, the faster it will need to move. Programs certainly can’t wait for annual budget cycles and likely will need to move more quickly than quarterly as well. One option is a VC-funding approach where teams pitch ideas on a more frequent basis to gain funding for phases of work. Instead of funding the end outcome upfront, funding is based on meeting specific milestones. Another approach is to look at your transformation as from a portfolio perspective. Instead of making one big bet, make a series of bets across your business. This can help de-risk your overall portfolio while creating space for innovation.

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