The Digital Transformation Playbook

The Digital Transformation Playbook

July 21, 2016 Book Review 0

Back in the analogue age, established enterprises had the upper hand. Since the dawn of digital, longstanding players face a huge new challenge: adapt or be left behind. In his latest book, digital revolutionary David L. Rogers explains how businesses need to rethink their underlying assumptions to remain competitive.

“Digital transformation isn’t fundamentally about changing your technology. It’s really about strategy, about leadership and about new ways of thinking,” explains Rogers.

To help guide businesses in this process, the Columbia Business School faculty member has brought out his fourth book, The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethinking Your Business for the Digital Age. Specifically, Rogers outlines five areas where any business begun before the arrival of the Internet needs to upgrade its MO.

5 key areas you need to focus on

The first is customers, a subject he devoted an entire book to previously. Our customers have gone from passive targets to dynamic networks. The old mass-market model of one-way, company-controlled communication is dead, Rogers reaffirms. Customers 2.0 are part of a dynamic network that we merely participate in.

Next up: competition. The trend in what we sell is shifting from products to platforms. Competition is no longer the zero-sum game it used to be. Others don’t necessarily need to lose in order for us to win. Rogers points out that we live in an age of corporate ‘frenemies’, ‘coopetition’ and asymmetric competition. In the latter case, he points to the example of hotel chains vs. Airbnb, very different companies competing to solve the same problem for consumers.

Then there’s data, which is moving from silos to strategic assets. What used to be a long-term input (i.e. leveraged for longer projects like product development) is becoming a source of fast-track value creation. Rogers provides the example of Las Vegas giant Caesar’s Entertainment, who have begin using their loyalty card program to court customers in real-time. Now, if they see a guest losing at blackjack, they can immediately push out a message to an employee on the floor who can offer a free dinner or tickets to a show to keep them coming back.

In terms of innovation, Rogers identifies a trend from top-down planning to experimentation. What used to be based on intuition, risk and big bets placed by senior leadership is being refocused on the rapid experimentation that digital technology makes possible. The role of C-suite execs today is less about making the big decisions and more about asking the right questions to guide the process. The digital economy offers the priceless opportunity to fail quicker — and learn more.

Finally, Rogers turns to value, where he sees a shift from defending it to adapting it. The world is evolving and business needs to stop looking at this defensively. Don’t just ask how something affects your current product experience. Ask what it means for the future. Here Rogers points to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, who are adding value to the traditional museum experience with gamification for young visitors and video stories documenting the journey of an artwork from purchase through restoration to display. They understand that their competition isn’t just from other museums, but from CandyCrush and Netflix, too.

In the end, Rogers’ point is that digital disruption is not inevitable. Our businesses can transform themselves, if leadership is just willing, as Apple so prophetically told us, to think different.

The Digital Transformation Playbook is available at or

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About the author

Daniel Hoogland
Racker since 2012 - Daniel has been a ‘Racker’ for four years and has worked in various online sales and marketing roles at Rackspace. He currently leads the Marketing team in EMEA. Daniel is almost as passionate about marketing as he is about a new pair of sneakers.


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