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Organisational structures for digital transformation: 4 archetypes emerge

George Nott | Sept. 7, 2017
IDC has identified four models companies can adopt to achieve their transformation strategies – but which is best?

Credit: Dreamstime 

As companies work to digitally transform themselves, a number of distinct organisational models they have adopted to get the job done are beginning to emerge.

Research group IDC has identified four archetypes relating to digital transformation efforts: The Digital Transformation Special Projects Team, The Office of Digital Transformation, The Embedded Digital Business and The Digital Business Unit.

“Your organisational approach is going to affect how well you can really execute on your digital strategy. You can have a great vision but if you really can’t get that thing executed across the whole enterprise you get stuck,” IDC’s senior vice president, IT executive, software, services and industry research Meredith Whalen told CIO Australia.

“If we were looking at any functional area – finance, HR – it’s pretty universal, it’s pretty standard the way organisations organise themselves. But when it comes to digital transformation, it’s such a new area that there are many different approaches organisations are taking in terms of how they’re bringing their people together.”

But which is best for your business?

Speaking at the CIO Summit in Sydney last week, Whalen outlined the four archetypes and their advantages and disadvantages.


The Digital Transformation Special Projects Team

Best for: Discovering digital transformation

Objective: Define the digital transformation mission

“Mainly we see this in organisations that are just starting on their digital transformation. What they do is they put a group in place, it’s usually pretty high up in the organisation reporting mainly to the CEO,” Whalen explained.

“Their whole role is to really define the digital mission for their company. They’re doing a lot of research – they’re very into innovation labs and ideation retreats and anything else they can think of – to try to figure out how they take one culture and one way of doing something and start to switch that to a more digital culture. How they start to jumpstart that,” she added.

“This is really a good model for when you first try to discover digital transformation.”

In the Asia Pacific region, IDC research indicates 22 per cent of companies take this approach, compared to 26 per cent in the US and 17 per cent in Western Europe.


The Office of Digital Transformation

Best for: Establishing digital transformation governance

Objective: Establishing the digital priorities for enterprise

“What we saw in organisations that were a little more mature, that had already defined what they’re digital mission was, but needed some type of governance, we find that they would put in place some kind of office,” Whalen said.

“It’s some type of group – again a central group reporting pretty high in the organisation – and that group would work closely with lines of business to either uncover what it is that could be digitally transformed or work out what it is that they’re already doing and try to bring that together under some type of governance.


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