Top 7 books on digital transformation

Digital transformation is happening faster than ever before. These 7 tomes will ensure you don't fall behind.

classroom with child's desk and stack of books

Take a look back to 2010 and digital transformation or disruption were terms reserved for tech companies and startups. Fast-forward to 2017 and regardless of what industry you’re in, digital transformation is coming. For example, yesterday as I walked past an off-duty taxi and hopped in my Uber, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to watch on Netflix after dinner when a thought crossed my mind, does anyone remember Blockbuster? Maybe I should ask Jeeves…

 My point is, even the most well-established industry leaders can quickly fall to the wayside if they don’t actively seek out innovation and prepare to adapt quickly when it shows up unannounced. Unfortunately, most people and by extension most businesses are about as fond of change as your “not racist, just from another time” uncle. We may say we want change, but when things are going well we want them to stay precisely the way they are.

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 When it comes to digital transformation, even if we’re ready to evolve it can be incredibly difficult to develop a proper strategy thanks to the rapid rate of technological advancement we’re experiencing. Most of us still haven’t completely mastered our iPhones and now we’re expected to develop a strategy for mastering big data analytics and AI while we move our business to the cloud. It can be a bit overwhelming. 

A survey done by SAP and The Economist Intelligence Unit last year showed that while 97% of businesses are taking some steps towards going digital, just 21% have a company-wide digital transformation strategy in place. So, to guide you through the transition and perhaps help you spearhead the change in your industry, I’ve put together this list of 10 digital transformation books that every entrepreneur and C-level executive should read.

 While I do have my favorites, I’ve decided to list the books chronological order to keep things simple.   

1. Digital or Death: Digital Transformation - The Only Choice for Business to Survive, Smash, and Conquer

By: Dominic Mazzone
Release: November 3, 2014

If I’d organized this list in the order I think you should read it this book would still have been first or second. Digital or Death isn’t so much a manual or guide as it is an introduction to the mindset required to incite digital transformation. The book is entertaining, motivational, and easy to digest. It relies heavily on real-life examples and a good dose of humor.

 If the sheer idea of “going digital” overwhelms you, reading Digital or Death(despite the title) will be a great way to ease the tension.   

2. Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation

By: George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, Andrew McAfee
Release: October 14, 2014

It may be a few years old now, but Leading Digital is still one of the top references on digital transformation. The book is based on a multi-year study of over 400 industry leaders in all sectors including Asian Paints, Burberry, and Nike. It’s packed full of actionable information and explains step-by-step how business leaders can adapt to the digital age.

If you only read one book on this list, Leading Digital would be a great choice.     

3. No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends

By: Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, Jonathan Woetzel
Release: May 12, 2015

No Ordinary Disruption comes from authors at the McKinsey Global Institute. It goes beyond all the disruption hype and takes a deep look at what causes some businesses to crumble in the face of digital innovation while others flourish. The book offers a digital transformation roadmap for both business and government leaders to follow, and provides a unique look into what digital disruption might look like in another 10 or 20 years.

If you’re trying to see the big picture, No Ordinary Disruption is what you’re looking for. 

4. Digital to the Core: Remastering Leadership for Your Industry, Your Enterprise, and Yourself

By: Mark Raskino, Graham Waller
Release: November 12, 2015

Digital to the Core is the combined effort of two Gartner analysts and based on interviews with over 30 C-level executives from industry giants like GE, Ford, and McDonalds. The book asserts that company-wide digital transformation must start at the top and explains in detail the steps that business leaders must take to enact that change within their own companies.  

If you’re hoping to lead the change, reading Digital to the Core would be a good place to start.

5. The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age

By: David Rogers
Release: April 5, 2016

The Digital Transformation Playbook could just as well have been called Digital Transformation for Legacy Industries. This is the longest title on the list at 296 pages, but it’s well worth the time. Rogers has been researching the impact the digital era is making on legacy industries for more than a decade and has written a complete plan for a smooth transition(regardless of your industry).   

If you only read one book on this list, The Digital Transformation Playbook would be my top pick.  

6. Be the Business: CIOs in the New Era of IT

By: Martha Heller
Release: September 27, 2016

Back in 2012, Martha Heller tackled issues facing CIOs as we rapidly progressed into the digital age with CIO Paradox. Last year she followed up on that success with Be the Business. While the book is clearly geared towards CIOs, it’s a great read for any entrepreneur or CEO who wants to gain a better perspective on the challenges facing their IT team.

If you’re a CIO, this book should be on your shelf(or in your tablet) already.

7. The Digital Matrix: New Rules for Business Transformation Through Technology

By: Venkat Venkatraman
Release: February 7, 2017

The Digital Matrix is a framework you can use to build your digital transformation strategy. It’s the most recent title on the list and arguably the most packed full of actionable info. Venkatraman lays out complete instructions for every step of the process from figuring out how to adapt your business to the digital era to leading the way with new innovations.   

If you’re looking for a title from 2017 and the most actionable info per letter, The Digital Matrix is for you. 

No matter what industry you’re in, the wave of digital transformation is coming. As business leaders we can either learn to ride that wave or get lost in its wake.  

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This story, "Top 7 books on digital transformation" was originally published by CIO.