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You shouldn’t entrust digital strategy to a ‘gifted few’

July 20, 2015, 4:33 PM UTC
contract Armin Harris. Kyle Bean for Fortune
Kyle Bean for Fortune

The quickest way to get fluent with social media, analytics, wearables, and mobile devices is to let cross-functional teams brainstorm what to do with them. And then experiment.

A survey of more than 4,800 business executives across diverse industries found that 80% of the companies with “maturing” digital strategies cultivate highly collaborative cultures compared with competitors. That could be as simple as encouraging people to lunch together more often, according to anecdotal evidence cited in an analysis of the results.


For the purposes of the research, conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Digital, no company was considered “mature.” That is “an organization where digital has transformed processes, talent engagement and business models.” The maturing group was more likely to have a clear digital strategy than those in the “early” or “developing” stages.

More than three-quarters of all three groups indicated that digital technologies are already important for their organization; 92% said it will be important in three years.

Someone needs to steer collaboration in the right direction. The study also found that maturing digital organizations were twice as likely as their peers to have a single person or group leading the effort. These leaders are “willing to play the game,” although they don’t necessarily need to be technologists.

From the analysis:

More than 75% of respondents from these companies say that their leaders have sufficient skills to lead the digital strategy. Nearly 90% understand digital trends and technologies. Only a fraction of respondents from early-stage companies have the same levels of confidence: Just 15% think their leaders possess sufficient skills, and just 27% think their leaders possess sufficient understanding.

Other characteristics that trailblazers share: a willingness to take risks and strong internal communications networks that talk up projects—with the aim of getting more of the workforce involved. Their most common goal: improve the customer experience.

You can check out an interactive chart that shows where different industries stand along the spectrum of digital maturity. If you take technology and telecommunications companies out of the equation, the three sectors with the most maturing companies are entertainment/media, professional services, and transportation/tourism.

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