Digital transformation: 5 significant imperatives for digital success

The rapid pace of digital business evolution means that organizations need to be continuously adapting their business and operating models. Canadian organizations are pursuing business model change through digital transformation, but there is still more to do. Twenty-two per cent of Canadian CIOs say that no business model change is anticipated. But for most organizations, some degree of business model change is required to accomplish their business priorities.

If you pursue the right strategy and quickly adapt to what’s next you will be ready to deal with sustained and rapid change. At our IT Symposium/Xpo conference this week in Toronto, we introduced the ContinuousNext concept. ContinuousNext is a strategy to achieve success in a world that is constantly changing.

Given constrained resources and resistance to culture change, leaders should embrace five significant imperatives to enact a ContinuousNext strategy in their organizations.


Mastering privacy and creating trusted digital connections is an urgent imperative for ContinuousNEXT. Gartner believes that Canada is ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to privacy regulations. In ContinuousNext, privacy and data security techniques will continue to evolve.

Privacy is one of the top barriers to being (or becoming) a dynamic organization. How consumers feel about privacy, and what actions they take surrounding privacy, have shifted. Today’s consumers are updating privacy settings or even deleting social media accounts altogether. Further, governments are taking action with legislation like CASL and GDPR. As consumers become less willing to sacrifice security and safety for convenience, organizations must carefully balance deriving value from consumer data with protecting it.

Augmented intelligence

Remarkable advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have taken it to the point of augmented intelligence. In recent years, AI has met human capability in reading comprehension, Chinese and English language translation, and cancer diagnostics.

However, while organizations that have yet to launch an AI initiative fear that it will displace human jobs, those that have adopted AI technologies find this isn’t the case. The reality is that organizations are beginning to use AI not to replace humans, but to augment the work they’re able to do. People work side-by-side with AI, which extends their capabilities and makes jobs more impactful. In other words, the most impactful AI implementations are those in which people interact with the technology in a collaborative system versus those in which people merely consult the technology as a separate system.

Continuous modernization

Organizations must move away from only supporting and working around legacy infrastructure. The focus is now on modernizing the core to shape change and drive digital transformation. This is what Gartner calls continuous modernization.

Canadian organizations are already making great strides in modernizing the core. For example, modernization is often tied to a cloud source strategy and Canada’s spending on cloud services is second only to the U.S.

However, to make the leap to continuous modernization, organizations must focus on three things – shaping a different type of relationship with your business by aligning with partners; shifting mindset towards legacy infrastructure by recognizing the dynamism that is central to a continuous modernization effort; and sharing insights and new perspectives with your leaders, allies and teams. A renovated core technology platform, that is continuously modernized, will spring you forward into the next phase of your ContinuousNEXT journey.

Digital product management

Some of the most powerful companies have fused digital technology into products, creating a new management practice across all industries. Digital products are in every industry, which has given rise to a new push for digital product managers.

The Gartner 2019 CIO survey shows that top performers are twice as likely to be doing product-centric delivery. Digital product management isn’t just a different way of doing IT, it’s a different way of doing business.

By shifting to a digital product mindset, organizations can put customers at the center of their development. Desjardins, for example, has digital product managers for its external products like the Radar app, as well as its internal products such as an app to manage purchase orders. Orient Overseas Shipping and Container Line (OOCL) digitally revolutionized itself with a software as a service platform that provides to both internal and external customers information and analytics about shipping routes, vessel locations, and cargo tracking.


Organizations must have a dynamic culture to enable ContinuousNext. However, culture is identified by 46 per cent of CIOs as the largest barrier to realizing the promise of digital business. Changing the culture doesn’t always have to be big, and it doesn’t always have to be hard.

A smart way to change culture without big pronouncements and 100-page slide decks, is to start culture hacking. By culture hacking, we don’t mean finding a vulnerable point to break in to a system. It’s about finding vulnerable points in your culture and turning them in to real change that sticks. Culture hacking takes change off the horizon and inserts it into people’s day-to-day, in a visceral, memorable way. A great culture hack incites an immediate emotional response — shock, love, shame, pride — has immediate results, and is visible to lots of people at once.”


Chris Howard is s a chief of research for Gartner’s CIO Research group. In that role, Howard ensures that Gartner meets the general and industry-specific needs of CIOs, with emphasis on both technical and business leadership.

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