It’s easy to see that the world is undergoing a digital transformation. From Amazon’s Alexa telling your guests how to work your TV remote to cryptocurrencies busting onto the scene, digital disruption is everywhere.

About five years ago, search engines saw a surge in searches for Digital Transformation. Clearly, people are looking for a starting point. But where to begin? 

I had the opportunity to attend the Smart Digital Experiences for 21st Century Industry round-table in Chicago. The evening’s goal was to bring together leaders from around the world in an open dialogue to deep dive into how digital transformation can be incorporated into a corporate strategy to achieve true innovation in an age of constant disruption.

As the presentations got underway, however, I came to a slow realization: businesses still haven’t moved past that initial search engine inquiry. And as digital transformation continues to skyrocket as a business buzzword, leaders are feeling less and less comfortable with their digital maturity. According to PwC, the percentage of companies that rated their Digital IQ as “strong” dropped from 66 percent in 2014 to 52 percent in 2016. 

What has stalled us? Why are we still wrestling with defining digital transformation and justifying its value, rather than moving on to execute on a vision of digitally-enabled organizations?

Here’s my theory.

Lost in a sea of buzzwords, digital transformation has become elusive, a click-bait phantom of a concept that would be “nice to have” if your business wasn’t so busy with its prioritized objectives.

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But let’s get down to brass tacks: if brands want to thrive, it’s time to switch that thinking from “nice to have” to “must have.” 

And shifting that mindset is not easy. It’s not that simple to obtain buy-in when the concept you are pitching still seems ethereal. 

So, my advice is this: stop Googling digital transformation and define it immediately, making it tangible for your business. Begin the transformation by focusing on the company’s biggest pain points. Which department is lagging behind? Which seems to be the most disconnected from the rest of the organization? Hone in and start there.

By defining how digital directly impacts your business based on key problems within the organization, you’ll easily identify how to proceed with your transformation. Utilize readily available resources, such as frameworks to help you determine how to digitize a particular department and connect them to the rest of the value chain. 

Models, such as the Digital Maturity Model for Brand Packaging, help marketing and design professionals, information and digital teams, as well as packaging engineers stay aligned in understanding how digital transformation must inform a brand’s overall strategy and breaks down this behemoth undertaking into concrete, measurable, purpose-driven deliverables. 

Brand leaders serious about interacting with their consumers must then invest in the technology, competencies, processes and capabilities required to take them digital, and therefore compete in an increasingly complex landscape. Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Design Officers, and Chief Information Officers may identify key packaging technologies such as packaging workflow, digital asset management and software or color formulation and matching software to simplify processes and connect departments for clearer, faster communication.

Remember, digital transformation isn’t just about reaching for the latest, “hot” technology. Organizations don’t mature digitally simply by treating technology as an interesting experiment. 

The best leaders have a vision. Define digital transformation and the future state of your business based on which part of the company feels the most pain. Use technology to simplify processes and focus understanding across the organization to improve quality, reduce risk, increase visibility and increase agility.

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