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12 must-read digital transformation books in 2023

Looking for information on digital transformation? Our list of 12 must-reads covers everything from formulating a digital strategy to using the network effect to launch products.

Digital transformation has become a necessity for businesses in almost every industry. Whether it's updating existing technologies to optimize business processes or establishing a cultural change across departments, most organizations need to transform some aspect of their business to thrive in today's digital economy.

This is easier said than done, as enterprise leaders balance day-to-day demands and cost pressures with the need to implement transformative digital technologies and processes that help drive growth and customer satisfaction.

The books on our list -- a selection from recent years -- will help you navigate the challenging path to digital transformation. Written by an array of digital experts from consultants and professors to business executives and IT professionals, the books cover a wide range of topics, including how to develop a strategy, how to increase the role of IT, how to avoid digital transformation failures and how to become a "vigilant leader."

In no particular order, here's our list of 12 useful digital transformation books to consult in 2023.

Digital Transformation book cover

1. Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction

Author: Tom Siebel

Description: This 2019 book provides the why instead of the how of digital transformation, helping readers better understand four major disruptive technologies -- cloud computing, big data, AI and IoT -- that got us where we are in today's digital age. Tom Siebel, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, interweaves the history of technology with real-world examples of global case studies on digital transformation initiatives for an educational and informative read.

Why you should read: Readers will walk away with a firm grasp of the relationship between today's disruptive technologies, their impact on government and business, and how organizations can harness them to survive and thrive.

The Cold Start Problem book cover

2. The Cold Start Problem: How to Start and Scale Network Effects

Author: Andrew Chen

Description: Andrew Chen, general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and former Uber executive, breaks down the fundamentals of the network effect and why understanding how it works has become a matter of success or irrelevance in the digital age.

Why you should read: Chen draws on interviews with CEOs and founders of some of the digital economy's biggest success stories, including LinkedIn, Twitch, Zoom, Dropbox, Tinder, Uber, Airbnb and Pinterest to offer advice on how to use the network effect and into products from the get-go.

Designed for Digital book cover

3. Designed for Digital: How to Architect Your Business for Sustained Success

Author: Jeanne Ross, Martin Mocker and Cynthia Beath

Description: Jeanne Ross and Martin Mocker from MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research and Cynthia Beath, professor emerita at University of Texas at Austin, offer guidance to established companies on how to retool their business models for digital success. It's not simply a matter of deploying digital cloud, mobile apps, AI and other digital technologies. The practical advice includes examples from marquee companies, including Amazon, Bank of New York Mellon, DBS Bank, Schneider Electric and others.

Why you should read: "Disrupt or be disrupted" have been the watchwords for legacy companies for more than a decade. Drawing on five years of research and in-depth case studies, Designed for Digital promises to help companies develop business models that can pivot quickly in response to new threats and opportunities.

Digital Trailblazer book cover

4. Digital Trailblazer: Essential Lessons to Jumpstart Transformation and Accelerate Your Technology Leadership

Author: Isaac Sacolick

Description: Digital transformation thought leader Isaac Sacolick followed up his 2019 Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital, with a new book in 2022, Digital Trailblazer. A former CIO and CTO, Sacolick homes in on the leadership skills required to lead digital transformation projects. How do you educate colleagues on the value of utilizing data? When detractors threaten to derail your transformation programs, how do you win over their support? Drawing on his experience as a technologist and consultant, he offers vivid accounts -- names changed but expletives included -- of the challenges he's seen over a long career and ends each chapter with a section on "Digital Trailblazer" lessons.

Why you should read: With more than 50 lessons, Digital Trailblazer promises to catapult technology and business professionals out of their comfort zones and resonate with a range of digital transformation leaders and foot soldiers, from product managers to technology experts.

The Economics of Data, Analytics, and Digital Transformation book cover

5. The Economics of Data, Analytics, and Digital Transformation

Author: Bill Schmarzo

Description: This book delves into the economic value of data as a renewable and reusable resource for countless different applications in today's digital era. Bill Schmarzo, executive fellow at the University of San Francisco School of Management and author of four books about big data and data science, discusses clear steps organizations can take toward achieving actionable insights, realizing discovery from data and deriving economic value from analytics.

Why you should read: Readers will walk away with an understanding of how to become value-driven with their data use, how to use data asset valuations and economic principles to guide data investments, and how to empower teams for digital transformation success.

See Sooner, Act Faster book cover

6. See Sooner, Act Faster: How Vigilant Leaders Thrive in an Era of Digital Turbulence (Management on the Cutting Edge)

Author: George Day and Paul Schoemaker

Description: In an era of rapid technology change, an organization's survival depends on leadership that can anticipate threats and spot potential opportunities amid the turbulence. In See Sooner, Act Faster, strategy experts George Day and Paul Schoemaker draw on a variety of use cases, such as Adobe's and Intuit's move to the cloud and the digital challenges Mastercard faced early on, to show how leaders must adopt "vigilant leadership." The authors offer tools to help leaders survive digital disruption, as well as an action guide with tips for instilling vigilance and agility within their organizations.

Why you should read: Business leaders will learn how vigilance and quick action responses can help their organizations not only survive major disruption, but also ultimately achieve higher profits, growth and organizational longevity.

The New IT book cover

7. The New IT: How Technology Leaders are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age

Author: Jill Dyché

Description: In The New IT, blogger, speaker and software executive Jill Dyché addresses the importance of the relationship between a business and the IT department in a digital economy. With years of experience as a consultant for business executives and IT leaders at Fortune 500 companies, Dyché offers a blueprint for strengthening the role of IT in business, including how to assess IT's current role in the business and how to better align IT implementation with corporate objectives. She also examines use cases from technology-driven companies, such as Toyota, Merck and Union Bank.

Why you should read: For business executives, IT managers and department heads who want to learn how to use IT as a strategic partner to the business, this book provides a framework and useful examples of digital transformation success.

Leading Digital book cover

8. Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation

Author: George Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee

Description: Leading Digital intentionally stays away from born-digital companies and tech startups and instead focuses on how traditional companies in industries like finance, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals are implementing digital technologies and practices to keep up with today's market. George Westerman and Andrew McAfee, colleagues at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, and Didier Bonnet, professor of strategy and digital transformation at International Institute for Management Development Business School, identify the factors that go into a successful digital transformation, laying out a two-part framework on where to invest in digital capabilities and how to lead a transformation initiative. Insights are drawn from a study of more than 400 global firms, including Nike, Burberry, Pernod Ricard and Caesars Entertainment.

Why you should read: Business leaders will learn how to better engage with customers, enhance digital business operations, create a digital vision and govern digital activities in traditional companies.

The Digital Transformation Playbook book cover

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

Author: David L. Rogers

Description: In The Digital Transformation Playbook, digital expert David L. Rogers argues that digital transformation has less to do with technology and more to do with improving strategic thinking, specifically in companies born in the pre-digital era. Drawing on his business consulting and a decade worth of research and teaching at Columbia Business School, Rogers lays out how organizations can strengthen their digital strategy and seek new opportunities in five areas: customers, competition, data, innovation and value.

Why you should read: Equipped with the book's real-world use cases, hands-on frameworks and nine step-by-step planning tools, readers will learn many tips on how to improve their digital transformation efforts through the integration of customer platforms, big data, rapid experimentation and disruptive business models.

Driving Digital Strategy book cover

10. Driving Digital Strategy: A Guide to Reimagining Your Business

Author: Sunil Gupta

Description: In Driving Digital Strategy, author and Harvard Business School professor Sunil Gupta offers traditional organizations an extensive framework for reimagining and digitally transforming their business operations. Gupta examines case studies where traditional companies successfully harnessed digital technologies. The advice includes in-depth tips and best practices in every area of an organization, including business models, value chain, customer relationships and company culture.

Why you should read: Readers will gain a better understanding of how to strategically go about a digital transformation initiative within traditional organizations.

Why Digital Transformations Fail book cover

11. Why Digital Transformations Fail: The Surprising Disciplines of How to Take Off and Stay Ahead

Author: Tony Saldanha

Description: Why do so many digital transformations fail? According to Tony Saldanha, former vice president for IT and shared services at Procter & Gamble, it's not a result of the aimed-for innovation per se or the technology; instead, it's a lack of clear, defined goals and a disciplined process. Saldanha dives into how business leaders can go from simply automating business processes to making digital technology the foundation of an organization through a five-stage process. He also identifies the two disciplines that are vital to digital success and includes a checklist of questions to keep leaders on the right path forward.

Why you should read: Saldanha's extensive experience, supplemented by real-world case studies and how-to advice, gives readers an understanding of the importance of planning in a transformation initiative.

Digital to the Core book cover

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

Author: Mark Raskino and Graham Waller

Description: In Digital to the Core, authors Mark Raskino and Graham Waller, longtime Gartner analysts, explain why enterprise leaders need to lead their organizations at three levels -- industry, enterprise and self -- in order to fully comprehend the impact of digital change today. The book includes interviews with over 30 top C-suite executives in major organizations around the world, including GE, Ford, McDonald's and Babolat, and useful information from Gartner's annual CIO and CEO global survey research.

Why you should read: Firsthand accounts and advice from top business executives, along with Raskino and Waller's insights and research, give readers practical advice on how to reinvent their organizations to take advantage of the digital revolution.

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