Five Critical Success Factors in Building a Successful Digital Company

Guest post by Howie Fenton, independent consultant and advisor to commercial and in-plant printers.
This is the second in a two-part series based on a study entitled, Aligning the Organization for its Digital Future, 2016, which was a collaborative study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte. This study asked 3,700 business executives, managers, and analysts in 131 countries and 27 different industries about their success in transitioning into a digital company. In the first article, we discussed the threats and the common denominators of companies that have successfully gone through the digital transition. The study also discussed how the companies further along this path strengthen their cultures and develop talent that drives their success. This is the subject of this article, which we are calling Critical Success Factors (CSF).
A company’s CSFs are the essential activities that it must perform well if it is going to thrive. The idea is simple: in any company, certain factors will be critical to its success. If the objectives associated with the factors are not achieved, the company will struggle.

digital printing business
N = 3700 Business executives, managers, and analysts from 131 countries and 27 industries.
Source: MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, Aligning the Organization for its Digital Future, 2016.

Five Success Factors of Experienced Digital Companies

1. Creating an effective digital culture is an intentional effort.
The companies that have gone through this transition are the more mature and successful digital companies. These experienced companies are constantly cultivating their cultures. Almost 80% say their companies are actively engaged in efforts to increase risk taking, agility, and collaboration while only 23% of companies in the early stages of the transition are doing so.
2. Senior management is supported in developing the skills they are digital print business
Companies that give the senior team members the resources and opportunities to develop the skills they are lacking are more likely to retain their talent. In contrast, about one third of leaders who lack those opportunities are looking for new jobs.
3. Successful digital organizations invested in their own talent.
More than 75% of the more mature digital companies provide staff with resources and opportunities to develop a digital vocabulary and acumen, compared to only 14% of companies that are early in the process. Success breeds success, which means that 71% of the more mature digital companies say they are able to attract new talents, compared to only 10% of the early stage adopters.
4. Soft skills are more important than technology expertise.
A surprising result came when respondents were asked what was most important and only 18% said technical skills. Instead, attributes such as: having a transformative vision (22%), being a forward thinker (20%), having a change oriented mindset (18%), and other leadership and collaborative skills (22%) were reported more often.
5. Digital alignment happens across multiple elements.
To achieve the synergy of a digital business, all the elements need to align, such as culture, people, structure, tasks and company strategy. Two examples are offered:

  • a conservative and hierarchical organization populated with energetic entrepreneurs may not be able to harness their drive and energy.
  • an organization with a flat and nimble structure may still struggle if its culture fears risk.

When culture, people, structure, and tasks are firing in sync, however, businesses can move forward successfully and confidently.

Howie Fenton is an independent consultant and trusted advisor to commercial and in-plant printers. He analyzes and recommends equipment, best practices and workflow automation tools to streamline operations. To learn more, e-mail

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