COVID-19 has forced many organizations to implement and accelerate their digital transformation plans. But having a strategic plan isn’t the same thing as having a good strategic plan.

To say the pandemic has expedited digital planning is an understatement. Data from McKinsey found that consumers and businesses have jumped five years forward in digital adoption in just two months. Despite projected overall declines in IT budgets for 2020, 73 percent of IT leaders expect to either accelerate or maintain digital transformation initiatives through the COVID crisis, according to a recent survey by OpsRamp.

This puts IT leaders in a tough spot: They must enact swift change while executing a long-term strategic vision for success.

[ Read also: Digital transformation: 4 ways to plan for the post-pandemic normal. ]

Digital transformation strategy: What to watch out for

While the hype around digital transformation has been growing for years, the pandemic has thrown everything into overdrive. CIOs should be wary, however, of making hype-driven decisions. Everything may feel urgent right now, but remember: Digital transformation is more than a tech trend — it’s a business mindset that drives your company’s long-term growth and resiliency.

Digital transformation is a business mindset that drives your company’s long-term growth and resiliency.

Take stock of your organization’s current digital strategy, and look for the seven warning signs it might need an overhaul:

1. You think digital transformation is an isolated, company-by-company event. Think of the aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats,” which posits that improvements to the general economy will benefit all participants. Digital transformation similarly benefits all companies and all consumers. Your company’s transformation affects your employees, clients, vendors, competitors, and beyond. As companies look to reduce paperwork and overhead, for example, they’re turning to multi-organizational data interchange, which requires unified standards and collaboration across organizations.

[ Read also: What is a digital platform? ]

2. Your digital strategy is separate from your business strategy. Companies with siloed strategies might think they’re undergoing digital transformation, but they’re more likely experiencing IT transformation. While digital transformation creates a sea change across your business, IT transformation updates the underlying plumbing that makes digital transformation possible.

While digital transformation creates a sea change across your business, IT transformation updates the underlying plumbing that makes digital transformation possible.

3. You aren’t positioned to drive innovation and growth across the business. The role of the CIO is changing from supporter to strategist, and reactor to driver. If you’re still widely seen as the technology service provider rather than an advisor on how to unite digital initiatives with business strategy, you won’t be able to enable true transformation. Tomorrow’s CIO is an equal partner with fellow C-level leaders in proactively establishing a digital strategy to grow the business.

4. Your company relies on you to maintain all IT infrastructure. Likewise, if your primary function is owning and operating all enterprise IT technology as well as managing an in-house staff or contractors, you won’t have time to participate in higher-level strategic business initiatives. Consider offloading some of these tasks to trusted partners to free up your time for more value-driven projects.

5. You have a single-cloud strategy. One downside of moving to the cloud is the loss of control over your physical IT infrastructure. By relying on a single cloud vendor, you put yourself at greater risk should that partner experience a technical issue, data breach, or contract failure.

With a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud strategy, you can split operations among vendors to allow for failover. A combined approach provides maximum flexibility.

6. You’re not operating under the assumption that your data is already compromised. The cloud’s asymmetrical attack surface opens up new cybersecurity risks not seen with on-premises data centers. As many CIOs have discovered, it only takes one employee scammed into a phishing scheme or one misconfigured system file for hackers to breach your entire organization.

So you need to adopt a zero trust approach in which you trust no one — not even users within your organization. This is especially crucial as your employees work remotely amid the pandemic and access various wifi networks and devices that pose additional threats.

[ Want answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs? Get our Digital transformation cheat sheet. ]

7. You believe embracing the latest tech trend will solve all your business needs. While most CIOs are unlikely to hold this view, your C-level counterparts might. Whether it’s migrating to the cloud or buying into artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, many senior executives believe these technologies alone hold the power to complete digital transformation.

While these solutions are certainly part of the process, they must be accompanied by an operational vision built around human strategy and planning.

Developing a practical digital transformation approach

If your company falls under one or more of these categories, your digital transformation plan likely needs an upgrade. Start by researching and testing several solutions before making any major decisions, then implement those with promise in manageable phases.


The race to digital transformation results has only become more heated following the COVID-19 outbreak. But taking the time to properly strategize is far more critical than making hasty decisions you’ll pay for in the long run.

[ How can open source principles help with your transformation? Get the ebook: Digital transformation, the open source way. ]