Five Fortune 500 Companies Leading Digital Transformation

Here's how five special companies successfully implemented digital transformation

On a fundamental level, digital transformation is a full-scale commitment to continuous business innovation. It starts with the right leadership, a forward-thinking mindset, and a  bottom-up cultural change from within. According to IDC, businesses will spend $369 billion on digital transformation by 2020; and 67% of the world’s top 1000 enterprises will adopt digital transformation as a key strategic goal by 2018.

Although most companies are already investing in technology to kick-start their digital journey, many still struggle to transition seamlessly to being digital-first organizations. The transition can spell disaster for even the most successful and long-standing companies; Forbes reported that 52% of Fortune 500 companies went bankrupt due to digital disruption just over ten years ago. Regardless of industry, no company is immune to the waves of change stemming from rapid technological developments.

The key takeaway here is that digital transformation isn’t just about keeping up with the latest tech trends; it’s about understanding, adapting to, and adding value to the consumer experience with the right tools. Here’s how five Fortune 500 companies have embraced digital transformation—and succeeded.

  1. Nike: Adopting A User-Focused Digital Strategy With Digitally-Connected Products

Nike appointed their first Chief Digital Officer (CDO), Adam Sussman, in early February this year—a hire that underscores their commitment to a new, user-focused brand strategy. According to Trevor Edwards, Nike’s Brand President, a deep understanding of their consumers’ expectations is paramount to the company’s growth; Nike expects to pull in $7 billion in digital revenue by 2020. In an effort to accelerate that growth, the brand has mobilized more distinct platforms and invested in end-to-end digital capabilities to improve the communication experience for their customers. “Digital does more than just add capabilities for today,” says Edwards. “It defines how consumers will experience the Nike brand moving forward. It’s an accelerator across our business, in product through the supply chain, in analytics and all the way to retail.”

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Both their partnership with the NBA and the Connected Jersey (a new line of apparel that features a unique chip inserted into the jock tag) showcase Nike’s deep connection with their customer base. They leveraged a new technology—NIKEconnect—to interact more closely with sporting fans by giving them access to real-time, personalized experiences on their smartphones. NIKEconnect allows fans insider access to their favorite teams and players—along with exclusive Nike products. And NBA players can also communicate directly with fans who own their jersey, sending personalized messages straight to their inbox. Infusing the retail experience with digital components creates a premium and personal membership experience that fuels a lasting emotional connection to the brand.

  1. Southwest Airlines: Deploying Automation To Eliminate Back-End Processes

Serving over 8 million travelers each year, Southwest Airlines has to handle large amounts of customer data to ensure that every passenger’s experience is a good one. A tool called OpsSuite—a part of a larger $800 million technological investment—helps Southwest employees and contractors collaborate digitally. In fact, more than 10 million messages are posted daily by employees in the OpsSuite platform. Instead of relying on archaic tools like logbooks, radios, and pneumatic tubes, the airline went digital by switching to a web-based app package. Leveraging the new digital platform provided them with a 360° view of tasks such as aircraft tracking and arrival preparation. These digital processes stand in stark contrast with the airline’s previous workflows, which involved using a complex web of paper logbooks and antiquated software programs.

  1. Disney: Implementing A New DevOps Model

Disney has started to implement a new DevOps model to support its digital organizational structure, after facing roadblocks surrounding the scale, speed, and stability of their operations. The media giant’s four different divisions—Studios, Consumer Products and Interactive, Parks and Support, and Media Networks—all have an autonomous Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of their own. Jason Cox, Disney’s Director of Systems Engineering, realized that data silos posed a persistent problem for the company. As Disney grew rapidly, the company needed a way to collaborate and communicate with each division, both culturally and technically.

Cox hopes that using more agile software development will improve communication between their various business units, especially since technology is a driving factor in the organization’s growth. “Success is when we’re able to get the technologists working with each other to embrace new ideas,” he says.

The results are already apparent in streamlining current operations. In every Disneyland’s “Toy Story Mania” attraction, for example, employees used to spend eight hours manually updating each server on-site. Digital-first DevOps allows them to update the whole fleet of rides in 30 minutes. It also helped the park future-proof existing operations, as well as move to the cloud—a move that had almost immediate benefits. By basing their “Disney Movies Anywhere” app in the cloud, the company enjoyed improved performance and could release more Disney movies for streaming at half the cost.

  1. Ford Motor Company: Embracing Multiple Technologies For Smart, Connected Vehicles

The automotive world is changing, and Ford refuses to be left behind. CEO Jim Hackett is embracing multiple technologies to focus on integrating both hardware and software in their vehicles. The goal? Put IT at the heart of production. According to the company, 90% of Ford’s new global vehicles will have connectivity built in by 2020 as part of their Smart Mobility initiative. For example, the brand has refreshed one of their most popular vehicles (the F-150 truck) using human-machine interaction in the form of more customized features that cater to each and every driver’s needs. In order to do so, researchers and engineers had to gather enormous amounts of data about the end consumer, who they are, and what exactly they wanted from a truck. In response to evolving customer needs, Ford developed My View, a program that allows drivers to customize the content and order of dashboard metrics such as fuel, heat, and oil. The auto company has also been leveraging big data to improve its vehicles’ sensors. By listening to customers and responding to their desires with emerging technology, Ford’s vehicles feel more personalized than ever—which translates into greater consumer loyalty and trust.

  1. Henry Schein: Bringing Digital Transformation to the Dental Office

Unlike the other companies on this list, Henry Schein is a Fortune 500 company you may not recognize. A wholesale supplier to dentists, the company has dedicated itself to pursuing digital transformation. As the leading platform for digital dentistry, Harvey Schein considers itself a tech company, merging cloud computing and intelligent algorithms to transform their business processes. Instead of deploying the backward, labor-intensive process of crown molding, for example, the company uses technology to speed up the process.  A dental assistant uses an imaging rod to make a 3D computer image of the affected teeth. They can then design the crown on the same screen and immediately send the image to a nearby drilling machine. The company runs more efficiently, and patients get better quality dental work more quickly.

Stanley Bergman, CEO of Henry Schein, recalls how he spearheaded the transition to being a digital-first company. While attending a dental convention, he took up a DOS-based software package to help his company with basic accounting. The organization then moved to Windows and acquired another company—Dentrix—which helped them schedule and electronically log in medical records. Being a software manufacturer, consultant, and wholesaler all at once helped move the brand towards digital success, cementing its place as a one-stop dental platform.

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