Five Steps for Devising a Digital Roadmap

By Hadley Thompson |  October 19, 2023

What organization doesn’t believe that digital is a crucial capability?

But many start “digital transformations” that meander along and get nowhere. The new book The Digital Transformation Roadmap, by Columbia Business School professor David Rogers, serves up constructive advice about building digital skills and strategies that can respond to today’s constantly-changing environment.

David Rogers, Author, The Digital Transformation Roadmap

Rogers is the author of several other books, including The Digital Transformation Playbook, and he has consulted to companies such as Google, Unilever, Toyota, Visa, and Cartier.

In the new book, Rogers lays out five steps that he says successful companies follow in devising and implementing a digital roadmap. (The video below is an excerpt from our interview.)

1. Define a shared vision unique to the organization. Rogers mentioned Disney as a great role model of formulating an answer to the question, “Where is our world going?”  

Recently, the organization invested in launching its own streaming service, Disney Plus, instead of letting Netflix simply license its content. “You really need to have a clear vision to say, ‘We’re gonna step back, we’re going to turn off that spigot of easy licensing money, and we’re going to own this business model ourselves,’” Rogers said. 

2. Pick the problems that matter most to your business. Rather than simply chasing the newest technologies, Rogers said, “You need to be focusing on the opportunities that matter and the problems that matter to your business and your customers, and then you can use those [new] technologies.” He cited MasterCard as a company that defines its problems well — like how the company can address businesses’ vital need for cybersecurity.

3. Get good at validating new ventures. This step has to do with creating an engine of experimentation. Rogers said that Walmart is very skilled at this step: “They have small teams who are working very rapidly, pushing out small, incremental improvements to code to products and services and really tasked to focus on a specific problem,” like having its employees delivering online orders versus third parties, annual memberships similar to Amazon Prime, and other offerings.

4. Learn how to manage growth at scale. When it comes to this step, Rogers says Amazon and the New York Times are good examples. Both have become well-rounded companies that can successfully transform and grow while satisfying their core customer base. It is about setting up systems that will build a legacy company, such as establishing oversight boards, creating pools of resources and funding, and setting up what he terms “single-threaded, autonomous, and accountable” teams.

5. Invest in technology, talent, and culture. “This is critical to every legacy business today,” Rogers said. One industry he cites as an example is auto manufacturing. Many companies, such as Volkswagen, have been asking the question, Are we a car company, or are we a technology company that makes cars?

“…They need a more digital-ready culture, where everyone is expected to and empowered to move quickly, make more decisions, push decision making down to the lowest levels of the organization, and embrace change and the ability to move the company forward much more quickly,” Rogers said. 

(Featured photo by Tamas Tuzes-Katai on Unsplash.)