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Patterns for Digital Transformation of Organisations

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A variety of transformation patterns have emerged as organisations adopt digital technologies.  According to a CIO article on the 2017 CIO Summit in Sydney, IDC’s senior vice president, IT executive, software, services and industry research, Meredith Whalen, has identified four organisational patterns for digital transformation.  These are:

  • The Digital Transformation Special Projects Team
  • The Office of Digital Transformation
  • The Embedded Digital Business
  • The Digital Business Unit

Characteristics and objectives of each can be summarised as follows


Best for


The Digital Transformation Special Projects Team

Organisations just starting a transformation. Senior group reporting to the CEO, setting strategy and researching options

Discovering digital transformation

Define the digital transformation mission

The Office of Digital Transformation

Organisations that have defined a digital transformation mission and need to put governance in place around the implementation

Establishing digital transformation governance

Establishing the digital priorities for enterprise

The Embedded Digital Business

Putting resources into the lines of business, drawing on the expertise of the central group if it still exists.  Digital becomes just “how we do business”

Accelerating digital transformation

Implement digital transformation across enterprise

The Digital Business Unit

This is an uncommon approach where the new organisation is completely outside of the existing structures, often because the parent organisation is too large and bureaucratic to make the changes needed

Creating innovative offerings

Create a disruptive business

These patterns have significant impact on how technology teams are formed, where they fit in the organisation hierarchy, and who they report to. 

There approaches are not the only ones available and there are a number of transformation frameworks which attempt to provide guidance on organisation structures for digital and agile transformations. 

Some of these transformation frameworks are focused on IT as the driver of transformation; these include the Agile Patterns transformation framework, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), LeSS, DAD and Nexus.

Evan Leybourn has published, under a creative commons license, a framework which looks at nine domains for business agility which has a holistic view of business transformation outside of IT, aimed at creating purpose-driven, customer-centric organisations.  

Sounding a cautionary note, the ThoughtWorks blog talks about the challenges and pitfalls to avoid during digital transformation.

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