3 principles for digital transformation

Published on: November 2018

Written by: Peter Mulford

(AKA: How to Train 11,000 Leaders in a Day and Not Bruise Your Head)

Recently, BTS delivered live training to 11,000 managers, in four countries, on the same day, leveraging our digital platform. And we’ll be doing something similar in the near future, for another client.

Wow! And, wait… When did this become normal?

What I love most about this experience is what it illustrates: the power of technology to “transform” and inspire ways of working that were not possible in the past. And also how it underscores three essential principles needed to make such transformation possible.

Here’s what I mean.

“Transforming” the old

Ten years ago, if a client had said to me, “We want to do live training for 11,000 participants in one day AND have our leaders, as teachers, participate live and virtually” my response would be to pass out. Literally–I would have fainted on the spot, my head clunking against the desk as I fell to the floor.

My response today? “Exciting! What languages would you like?” Followed by a web-enabled video conference with different BTS regional heads and our digital team, all of whom I would have alerted beforehand, possibly from my smart phone. Whoosh! From cataleptic to global engagement, my response, and our way of working, have been transformed by digital technology.

As(un)easy as 1-2-3

So, how did we get there? Digital transformation can be both disquieting and energizing, depending on your approach. To ensure you get from the former to the latter, we’ve learned that you need to take three principles on board:

  1. Digital allows you to do things that were either physically impossible, or financially impractical in the past. And…
  2. Digital can be used to enhance or re-imagine what makes us special as a firm. Therefore…
  3. Any digital transformation effort should begin with a shared view of the outcome you want to cause in the world, and work backwards from there.

Et voila. From there, the path to Digital Transformation becomes clearer:identify the user needs to be fulfilled, craft digital offerings to fulfill them, develop operational capabilities to support the offerings, build for reuse, and continually refine what you’ve built based on what you learn (albeit at greater speed, and with a greater variety of human challenges to address than you might be accustomed to—but that’s another story). In the case mentioned above, the starting point for our innovation was a challenging (and increasingly common) client request: to create alignment, mindset and capability, globally and at scale, while engaging leaders as teachers, and capturing data and insights as you go.

10 years ago this would have required months of preparation, an exorbitant budget, and lots of Excedrin. Today? Creativity, comfort with new ideas, and some digital know-how.


Now what? We are all in the throes of digital transformation. We know that digital can amplify the power of your purpose, people, and processes; and that a digital “transformation” can be inspiring, if done well. You can start your journey to digital greatness by internalizing three principles above. From there, you can explore, experiment, and learn forward. Before you know it, you’ll have your own crazy, normal weeks to enjoy.