1. Further Research Opportunities
While the basic foundations of digital transformation strategies have been laid, there are various opportunities for further research, which can be divided into at least three different topics.
1.1 Elements and Success Patterns of Digital Transformation Strategies
The Digital Transformation Framework describes the cornerstones of the transformation along four dimensions.
Future research should seek to further identify and concretize common elements that are attributable to these four dimensions.
This pertains in particular to the different attributes companies could adopt for each of these elements.
Empirical insights could help comparing digital transformation strategies across different industries to assess commonalities as well as differences, to increase success rates.
One key question relates to the optimal extent of digitization that a firm should achieve, since higher use of digital technologies may not always be desirable.
Future research should analyze whether a firm’s size or the extent to which its core products can be digitized have different influences in this respect.
Likewise, it is of high interest whether successful patterns for B2C companies differ from those of B2B companies.
Further, digital transformations are often accompanied by changing skill sets that are necessary for the transformation itself, but also for regular operations thereafter.
This sourcing issue appears to be both difficult and essential. While current staff members may have a different, less tech-savvy mindset and may lack the required technological capabilities to cope with the upcoming changes, new, highly skilled, and focused staff members might be difficult to find, given the particular location of a firm.
Research could support firms by providing guidance on the assessment of their existing technological capabilities and on procedures to weigh up their current options, but also on the design of training procedures for current employees and new hires.
1.2 Procedural Aspects and Responsibilities
Owing to limited empirical evidence, ambiguity about conventions on how to formulate and reassess digital transformation strategies remains.
This is reinforced by the high uncertainty that results from swift technological changes and makes necessary adjustments to the digital transformation strategy at a later stage more likely.
This calls for concrete recommendations for procedures on the continuous refinement of digital transformation strategies, such as how to observe and evaluate technological developments and know how to test their impacts in controlled environments within the company.
Other key questions include the desired extent of digital transformations and the granularity as well as the temporal extent of digital transformation strategies, which could vary from swift, onetime actions to multiple successive projects.
In addition to the definition of procedural aspects, further insights are required to solve questions of responsibilities, particularly related to the new CDO role officer in the planning and deployment of digital transformation strategies (Horlacher and Hess 2014).
Owing to the cross-functional characteristics and the far-reaching scope of a digital transformation strategy, a dedicated CDO might be useful to take responsibility for digital transformation strategy (CIO 2013).
Research should analyze the necessity for a dedicated CDO position in detail and should formulate guidelines for the definition of this new role.
For companies employing both a CIO and a CDO, research should provide recommendations for the concrete alignment between both; such research could build upon prior research on CIO-CEO alignment (Johnson and Lederer 2010).
1.3 Integrating Digital Transformation Strategies into Firms
As noted, digital transformation strategies have a cross-functional character and need to be aligned with other functional and operational strategies.
However, the alignment of IT strategies with other strategies has remained a difficult and controversial endeavor.
Given the rather recent appearance of digital transformation strategies, further evidence is needed on how this alignment can be conducted in practice – not only related to IT strategies but also from an organizational perspective.
In this respect, the interaction of digital transformation strategies with business development and business models also needs to be assessed from a responsibility perspective.
Since digitization strategies cut across various other strategies at the same time, complex coordination efforts might be needed.
Research should provide guidelines for firms to help structure these processes in order to achieve shared goal setting, the alignment of different strategies, and cooperation between various people and entities throughout a firm.