Digital Transformation: When to Make the Leap

Published On: May 21st, 20219 min read

Have you ever tried running up a downward-moving escalator? Of course you haven’t. Or have you? If the escalator is a metaphor for industry advancement and you own a viable business, you’re keeping pace, at the very least.

Digital transformation is the equivalent of sprinting all the way up — beating that thing at its own game, being faster than the machine’s relentless motor.

It’s tempting to stay stagnant, isn’t it — to maintain your stride without trying to outrun those moving steps. But if you do that, you risk getting left behind. Stop — even for a moment — and you’ll fly backward off the bottom and go bust.

Simply put, you must chase success to stay solvent.Business digital transformation takes effort, but it’s essential — and you have to know when to leap into high gear.

digital technologies at the palm of your hand

What Does “Digital Transformation” Mean?

When companies replace obsolete processes and technologies with newer digital technologies, that’s digital transformation — in simple terms. Some companies implement wholesale digital transformation efforts and change their business models from top to bottom. Other companies keep and optimize certain bits of existing tech. Digital transformation is never the same twice.

When financial models transform, businesses adopt new revenue streams, payment channels or investment strategies; when capabilities transform, companies move into content streaming or cloud-based software. IT leaders bring AI-based customer service bots on board to transform CX; value propositions transform when traditional retailers offer click-and-collect or digital products.

You can’t buy your way into digital transformation — at least not with an off-the-shelf enterprise platform. Custom transformation strategies based on good advice pay the most dividends. 

It’s All About the S Curve

The S Curve in your digital journeyRemember that escalator? Let’s turn that single-minded thing into a curve. We’ll keep the upward slope — that’s optimization — and add a tail on the left and a transcending apex on the right. 

The S curve is a snapshot. Specifically, it’s a snippet of the never-ending industrial development cycle. Old things fall off on the left; new things come in on the right. Successful companies move from left to right as they adopt new digital technologies and eventually move onto the next S curve.


On the far left, we have enablement. Enablement-class companies don’t develop — they consider new technologies inconvenient. These are the folk who stubbornly stick to paper catalogs and telephone ordering. Company websites — when they exist — have a distinctly 20th-century vibe.

IT leaders at enablement-class companies have a hard time implementing basic tech. Optimization strategies don’t gain traction, and digital transformation doesn’t get a look in. Many enablement-class companies eventually slide off the industry radar and into oblivion.


Digital optimization happens on the upward slope of the S curve. Optimization-class companies hone the systems they have in place rather than adopting brand-new technologies. They dedicate a large portion of each year’s budget to improving productivity and CX with the tech they already own.

There’s nothing wrong with this — in fact, we’d argue that digital optimization effort is an essential part of transformation. When businesses optimize the products they already use, they identify opportunities for improvement and change. 


Transformation lives right at the top of the S curve — and this is where things start moving more quickly. Transformation-class companies are early adopters. They love incorporating new digital technology and constantly look for ways to get ahead of the pack. They optimize existing products too — but not as much as companies lower on the curve.

Businesses at this stage believe the latest digital technologies give them an edge over the competition. With that in mind, they spend a sizable amount of their budgets on innovative products and create dedicated tech exploration teams.


What lives in the great blue yonder — that fabled space beyond the apex of the S curve? Industry vision-class companies. These businesses live on the cutting edge of transformation. They don’t deal with legacy products at all; instead, they research and develop brand-new programs and game-changing products, which they use to gain a competitive advantage.

Industry vision-class companies are pretty volatile — think Tesla — and use aggressive lobbying and marketing tactics to achieve their goals. These businesses deliberately try to bring the industries they dominate to a tipping point.

Digital Optimization vs Digital Transformation

Should you optimize what you have or transition to something else? The answer isn’t always clear. Understanding whether your company needs digital optimization or digital transformation requires knowledge. Here’s a breakdown of digital optimization and some factors to consider when determining if your company needs a digital optimization strategy or a complete transformation.

What is Digital Optimization

  • Digital optimization focuses on improving existing operating processes, business model systems, and technologies to enhance efficiency, productivity, and performance.
  • It involves leveraging digital tools, data analytics, and automation to streamline operations, eliminate bottlenecks, and optimize specific aspects of your business.
  • Digital optimization is typically incremental and aims to make iterative improvements to your current operations.

Factors indicating a need for digital optimization

  • Your core business processes are functioning adequately but have room for improvement.
  • You have identified specific pain points or inefficiencies within your operations that can be addressed with digital tools.
  • You want to enhance productivity, reduce costs, or improve customer experiences within existing processes.
  • Your company has limited resources or prefers a gradual approach to digital transformation.

In a nutshell, if your business is in a period of sustained growth and you have usable tech at your fingertips, it makes sense to optimize first and transform later on. First, assess your current business processes, technology infrastructure, and digital maturity level. Then, define your short-term and long-term business objectives and how digital capabilities can contribute. Finally, consider your company’s resources, including budget and revenue streams, expertise, and organizational readiness for change.

There’s nothing wrong with pushing the tech you already own to its capacity limit. Besides, optimization is an essential step in any decent digital transformation strategy. When companies optimize, they notice tech gaps and pursue digital initiatives. IT leaders create digital wish lists and pinpoint opportunities for growth.

When transformation occurs, it always happens after optimization. Optimization is a sensible way to begin upping the ante, no matter what you decide to do next — or when. It’s crucial to align your digital investments with your overall business strategy and prioritize the areas that will provide the most significant impact.

Symptoms of Impending Inflection

Symptoms of Impending Inflection in digital technologyWe now know all about digital transformation — and how digital optimization and transformation differ from each other. Now let’s look at some of the ways you can tell if you’re approaching an industry tipping point.

Also known as inflection points, tipping points are tricky little things. They’re driven by hitherto-mysterious outside forces, and they happen whether you want them to or not. What if you’re not ready for change? What if you can’t dedicate any of your budget to digital transformation? The answer is simple: It’s “go time” regardless.

Some industries reach inflection points more quickly than others. The microprocessor industry, for instance, evolves extremely rapidly. The bespoke furniture industry, on the other hand, hasn’t changed much in decades. 

Three distinct variables have to coincide for an industry to reach its tipping point:

  1. Culture: When a swath of consumers or businesses all want a product at the same time, they cause a surge in demand. Take online grocery shopping during the pandemic, for instance. Between August 2019 and June 2020, U.S. monthly online grocery sales grew from $1.2 billion to $7.2 billion dollars.
  2. Technology: It is easy to detect customer behavior when it comes to technology. When technology prices decrease and technological capabilities improve at the same time, products become more desirable. IoT devices, for instance, are far more popular now than they’ve ever been before.
  3. Regulation: Regulations that make doing business easier, rather than harder, drive innovation. In turn, innovation drives industry growth.

Strong cultural and technological shifts plus relaxed regulations create a recipe for change. If you see that triple whammy coming down the pipe, you need to move from an optimization strategy to a digital transformation strategy on the double.

How to Create a Digital Transformation Strategy

You’re facing an impending industry shift — you need to create a digital transformation strategy, and quickly. But where do you start, and what should you include? 

Before you begin writing a plan, consider your ambition. Do you want to move with the crowd, or have you optimized your business operations enough to leap ahead and become an industry leader? Think about the amount of money you have to invest and the number of staff you can deploy. Then:

  • Write down what you want to achieve via digital transformation.
  • Make a list of the tech you already have.
  • Identify technological gaps.
  • Break your digital ambition down by department or enterprise component.
  • Create a to-do list of essential optimization tasks.

Digital transformation requires universal enthusiasm. Share your plans with everyone in your organization, from your executive team to your customer service department. Explain how important staff members are and how they all contribute to your company’s overarching success. 

Why Bring DMI on Board?

business transformation with the help of DMI

Digital transformation is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. That’s where DMI comes in. We’re a people-centric tech company, and we’re as approachable as we are knowledgeable. We believe transformation happens when optimization, transformation and innovation combine, and we call that the DMI Convergence Model.

The DMI Convergence Model

“Give someone a fish and they will eat for a day. Teach someone how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.”

Successful digital transformation strategies work because they work for people. Like other frameworks, our Convergence Model encompasses all three stages of digital transformation. Obsolete technologies fall away on the left; innovative digital technologies enter on the right. Unlike other frameworks, the Convergence Model tempers each new product with custom data and human input.

Our holistic approach to digital transformation is an industry-first. All three phases merge into a living hum. We build digital products and digital platforms that precisely match our clients’ service blueprints precisely, optimizing resources and creating a better workflow. Our clients not only transform — they gain the skills to keep transforming and innovating after we’re gone.

Make the Leap With DMI

If you don’t keep up with industry momentum, your business may falter and eventually fail. Optimization is fine, but at some stage, your sector may reach a tipping point — and that’s the moment for transformation. 

If you’re ready to transform and you need advice, or you’d like to find out more about the DMI Convergence Model, connect with us online or call us on 240-223-4800. Let’s run up that escalator together.