6 inspiring business transformation examples to learn from – Digital Leadership

17 min read


single post blog featured image

Digital Leaders Take It All!

It’s an unfair world. Businesses that are already more digitally mature can use technology to innovate quickly and continue to further disrupt the market

Think about Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology or the Hand Wash Timer and Sleep Tracking feature on the new Apple Watch. These are groundbreaking innovations that help their parent companies maintain and enhance their digital leadership position. But not every company is a tech company like Amazon or Apple. The road to business transformation is less clear to traditional corporations that are less digitally mature.

Most of the time, inspiring business transformations are no coincidence but are the result of a structured approach. The UNITE Innovation Approach enables you to structure your innovation process, form valuable networks and make the most of your intellectual property.

Much more about business transformation examples and approaches to innovation you will find in our brand-new FREE book “HOW TO CREATE INNOVATION”. It includes comprehensive approaches with mindsets, structures, and strategies to innovate in less time, with fewer resources and more success. Register for the download now!

The Only Book On Innovation You’ll Ever Need

+FREE access to 50+ complimentary download packages covering the details with plenty of helpful background information

Why Conventional Businesses Must Innovate

The 20th century or even 19th-century organizations still drive the major share of the global economy even today. But the largest firms in terms of stock market valuations are almost all tech firms or firms that have reinvented themselves in the last years. When it comes to digital transformation, most of the established large enterprises are lagging behind startups. Why? It’s because startups have technology embedded in their DNA. They are nimble organizations that have the agility to unsettle conventional players. Therefore, it’s critical for big, traditional firms to innovate if they don’t want to lose market share to digital startups and eventually go extinct like dinosaurs.

Six Digital Transformation Case Studies: Takeaways from Digital Leaders

To understand better, we must look at some of the traditional organizations that have successfully transformed themselves into future digital leaders. These firms have integrated new technologies in their operations and have brought tremendous improvements to their customer experience, business model, and overall business operations. These are the companies that are getting the optimum benefits of digitalization, not just through performance improvement, but also in terms of real bottom-line results.

The examples we are going to cover in this article include:

  • Danish Oil / Ørsted
  • Asian Paints
  • Codelco
  • Starbucks
  • Keller Williams
  • Nike

Danish Oil / Ørsted

Running Out of Gas: Back in 2012, Danish Oil and Natural Gas was Denmark’s biggest enterprise. In the same year, natural gas prices plunged by approximately 90%, sliding Danish Oil into a financial crisis since the company’s energy mix relied mostly on fossil fuels. Moreover, S&P, following the company’s financial situation, downgraded its credit rating to negative.

Reinventing the Business: To recover from the crisis, the company’s board replaced its CEO and hired a former executive from LEGO, Henrik Poulsen. Henrik’s approach was radically different. Instead of following the classical methods of crisis management such as staff layoffs or cost reduction, he identified the space for changing the fundamentals of business. In other words, he took environmental disruption as an opportunity and decided to go for business model innovation.

Radical Innovation: Here is an overview of the key radical decisions he took as part of the transformation:

  • The company was renamed  Ørsted after the legendary Danish scientist Hans Christian Ørsted.
  • Ørsted divested from the oil and gas business, which shifted the focus heavily on renewables.
  • Moving away from coal and towards biomass, enabled the company to exit coal in 2023 and have carbon-neutral power generation by 2025.
  • Went for an IPO in 2016, which helped in fueling the growth & flexibility.
  • Diversified the technology mix by re-entering into the onshore-wind market, storage solution, and solar PV.
  • The company also started to utilize advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and the cloud to improve overall production efficiency.

The Results

Ørsted became one of the first companies to make a complete transition from black to green energy. The company has reduced its GHC emissions intensity by 67% and coal consumption by 82%. In 2018, Ørsted reported operating profits of DKK 30 billion, achieving an impressive year-on-year growth rate of more than 33%.
Key Takeaway: It’s crucial for digital leaders to identify a higher purpose and mission that galvanize the whole organization and drives all function towards a common goal.

Asian Paints

Inspiration from India

Our next inspirational example comes from a part of the world you probably won’t expect to write a digital transformation success story. Sometimes inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. Founded in 1942, Asian Paints is known as one of India’s most digitally mature manufacturers. In 2017 Forbes named Asian Paints as one of the world’s ten most innovative companies.

A Love Affair with IT

Information technology has been the pivot in the company’s growth. They began computerizing the operations in the 1970s. This was followed by the development and adoption of a series of innovative software applications for optimizing the customer experience and improving the supply chain.

A Problem to be Solved

Less than a decade ago, Asian Paints woke up to the fact that they had inadequate visibility into the complex and correlated factors that affected operations. It was too difficult and time-consuming to keep track of the intricate interdependencies that existed between people, machines, processes, and materials. There was a problem to be solved, a Job To Be Done (JBTD) Their answer: innovate!

Getting the Job Done

 The company decided to integrate an enterprise-level smart solution that would use Artificial Intelligence to pull production data from hundreds of assets into digital twins of the production process.
The deployment of an enterprise-grade data analytics platform across manufacturing plant networks transformed production data into insights for increasing efficiency and productivity.

The initiative helped Asian Paints collect and analyze the data produced by machines across the company’s Indian manufacturing facilities. Using the data, the company was able to gather insights and implement process changes that led to better business decisions and increased returns.
Continuing its digital transformation drive, Asian Paints redefined itself as a home decor company from being just a paint manufacturer. Focusing on the new positioning enabled the company to transition from a product company only to a services company. Innovating the business model allowed Asian Paints to offer a wide range of home improvement solutions such as where they offer color, decor, and Vastu-inspired solutions to customers.

The Results

Continuous innovation has transformed Asian Paints into a regional and global digital leader. In 2019, Coating World ranked Asian Paints 9th among the top paint companies in the world. Forbes has included the company in its list of the World’s Best Regarded Companies and the Best Over A Billion Companies in the Asia Pacific.
Takeaway: Business Model Innovation (BMI) is the key to unlocking the next stride of customer-centric innovation and technology-driven growth.


Codelco is the world’s largest Copper producer with annual revenue of US-$12.9 Billion. The company has been continuously innovating its business and processes for the most part of the last two decades.

What Drove Innovation at Codelco

In 2016, the mining industry faced the crisis of increasing copper prices. The demand in China and emerging markets like Brazil slowed down dramatically. Developed markets like Europe continued to underperform. And in the US the manufacturing activity was contracting significantly.

The industry outlook started to improve in 2017, but the margins were still not enough for a big company like Codelco to pursue any solid growth plans. Codelco had already been pursuing a digital transformation strategy for almost a decade when the crisis hit. The company viewed transformation as the only solution to the problem of low profitability and declining demand.

How Codelco Transformed 

Codelco’s vision was to create a fully automated operations center and change the traditional paradigms of mining. Over the next couple of years, Codelco established a Remote Operations Center that provided constant operational support. Operators have a backup for both monitoring and automation and have real-time access to automation specialists. Through the use of integration, automation, and data analytics, the company rearranged the mining process and realized the benefits of remote operations and a connected enterprise.

The Benefits of Automation 

Operators are alerted in real-time of potential problems and can modify the process to prevent the loss of operation loss and continuity. The operators no longer have to see the plant physically, but can see the operations through cameras and screens. They can take the same actions that they would take locally, but their actions are better coordinated because they’re all in the same room.

By using remote operations and fully automated plants, Codelco fine-tuned production, improved the availability of equipment and system, lowered costs, and significantly improved the productivity of its teams.

Can’t Stop Innovating! 

Codelco’s CEO Nelson Pizarro continues to spearhead an aggressive transformation and growth plan.  Over the next ten years, the company will automate the operations of its mining fleet.  Some of the key changes they plan are to incorporate driverless trucks and transport in their operations, shift from labor-intensive to on-site machinery, establish remote operation rooms, and redefine the entire operational approach.

The Results

Codelco’s digital transformation initiatives have delivered an unprecedented continuity of operations and delivered more than 45 million dollars per year in improved product quality and productivity.

Being a digitally mature corporation, Codelco was successful in converting the threat of rising prices into an opportunity for increased efficiency and productivity not just for itself, but for the whole mining and metallurgy industry.

Takeaway: Transformation is always ongoing. It’s a path you walk, not a destination you reach.

Find out how we can help you

Corporate training, innovation consulting and much more.


So far, we have discussed transformation examples from the manufacturing industry. Let’s now look at a few examples from brands that are a part of our daily lives.

From Macchiatos to Machine Learning

We all know Starbucks (my favorite is their Iced Caramel Cloud Macchiato). When talking about business transformation and innovation incorporating Information Technology, Starbucks clearly takes a front-row seat. The key to their digital transformation success is in their data analytics capabilities.

The company maintains tons of data about their clients. Using machine learning technology, Starbucks studies its customers to understand their buying choices so they can personalize their products and marketing materials.

The Digital Flywheel  

Starbucks has coined the term ‘digital flywheel’ for its AI-driven strategy that keeps customers coming back. Just like a flywheel stores rotational energy, Starbucks’ digital flywheel software stores a wealth of customer data including data about their spending habits and preferences.

Using machine learning technology, the app’s backend learns to make automated decisions in complex, unpredictable environments based upon external feedback to provide a more personalized experience for app users. Their IoT enabled machines  to collect more than a dozen data points for every shot of espresso pulled, from the type of beans used to the coffee’s temperature and water quality, generating more than 5 megabytes of data in an eight-hour shift.

The system’s AI mines the data to suggest new personalised food and drink choices for each and every individual customer. Starbucks continues to launch new store locations as well as innovation projects such as Deep Brew and Brightloom, diversifying into more fruitful areas and creating a blue ocean in which there’s competition.

The Results 

Starbucks’ digital flywheel strategy has delivered mind-blowing results. The number of Starbucks Rewards Club members has grown at 15% year on year to reach more than 18 million at the end of 2019. One of the best rewards programs in the food industry now has over 10 million members in China alone.

So now even the coffee selling brand Starbucks identifies itself as a technology organization! It heavily uses machine learning, data analytics, and smart technology to enhance the customer experience as to achieve future revenue and thus business growth.

Key Takeaway: Starbucks started the transformation by using data to create a better customer experience. You should do the same!

Keller Williams

Digital transformation of the world’s largest real estate franchise business, you can read the full story here.

Keller Williams is the world’s largest real estate franchise ranked by agent count; and number 1 in the USA by sales volumes and units sold. They started their digital transformation in 2015. Till then they were depending heavily on third-party solutions so they decided to build their own proprietary software on their own. Keller Willams’ Innovation Drive

Empowering Real Estate Agents 

The company invested in a CRM system; an AI-based virtual assistant like Siri, but for real estate; and a consumer application. The app enables real estate agents to conduct hyper-local market analyses to better advise clients, suggest the right parameters for an offer or estimate the probability of closing a deal. Behind the initiative, there were more than 36 years of rich historical data along with the best-in-class machine learning capabilities to analyze the data and produce actionable and relevant insights.


The digital transformation resulted in the continuous growth of Keller Williams with a stable 20+% year over year sales volume increase. All of this while receiving recognition as the World’s Most Innovative Company in real estate by Fast Company and one of the happiest companies to work for by Career Bliss.
Key Takeaway: You cannot innovate by doing the known and familiar or by using other people’s ideas. For Keller Williams, true innovation started when they decided to move beyond the solutions they were already using and decided to design a new digital ecosystem that was built around their needs.


“Digital is the new normal,” said Nike’s CEO John Donahoe in a recent interview, just as the sports and apparel mega-brand eyed estimated sales skyrocketing by 82% in Q-1 2021. Nike understands that consumers are hooked to digital, and they are not quitting any time soon. The company’s digital business now represents more than 30% of its total business.  How does Nike just do it?

Nike’s DX Strategy 

Nike’s innovation strategy is driven by an ecosystem of apps, omnichannel fulfillment capabilities, and RFID inventory tracking.   Some of the key elements of the digital transformation at Nike are:

  • Social commerce: The numerous mobile apps and platforms create an ecosystem that integrates the social component with shopping-centric apps and covert customer engagement into sales.
  • The App Ecosystem: The recently launched SNKRS app is intended for sneakerheads and offers limited-release, high-demand shoes for its most-engaged customer segment. The app joins a bunch of previously launched apps such as the Nike Training Club, Nike Running Club, and Nike Commerce. Nike uses these apps as a key source of ideas and suggestions for creating new designs for a bigger customer base.
  • RFID Tracking: Nike is rolling out RFID technology to track hundreds of millions of items in its non-licensed apparel and footwear products. RFID gives Nike a complete view of its products and helps the company create a faster, more responsive, and agile supply chain.
  • Analytics: Nike uses its digital ecosystem to collect data in every interaction and in its different channels, to identify customers’ preferences, and to design new products.

The Results

When conventional businesses were losing sales because of the coronavirus lockdowns, Nike grew its digital revenue by $900 million in Q-3 2020. The company is all set to exceed analysts’ estimates and hit $10.6 billion in digital sales by Q-1 2021.
Key Takeaway: Digital transformation starts, ends, and restarts with your customers. The best transformation creates a cycle of customer feedback to continuously provide data and insights that can be used to create new products and launch new DX initiatives.


I hope you enjoyed reading the transformational and inspirational success stories we just shared. What are the most common factors that you can identify in all of these digital transformation examples?

For one thing, DX always involves the integration of technology into business no matter what business you are in. Successful transformation also requires leadership tenacity and courage to invest. A clear vision, strategy, and roadmap are essential to the success of any digital transformation project. Perhaps most importantly, all digital transformation must start with and revolve around the customer.

No transformation comes easy but the results of digital transformations well carried out speak for themselves. The first movers are often the best-run companies in the world. But we all can learn from these companies and examples and start creating our own transformative journey.

Do you need a partner to support you in that process? This is what we specialize in. And this is what we do every day. So be invited to reach out and ask us the “tough questions”!

The Only Book On Innovation You’ll Ever Need

+FREE access to 50+ complimentary download packages covering the details with plenty of helpful background information

Related Posts

50 Innovation Examples: Exciting Innovative Ideas in Business

In the Business environment, strategic innovation has taken centre stage as a1

View Full article

Innovation Strategy: Developing Innovative Strategies in Business

Innovation has become an imperative for organizations worldwide, yet the multitude of1

View Full article

Porter’s Generic Strategies Tips for Business Competitive Strategy 

In business competition, understanding and effectively implementing strategic frameworks are crucial for1

View Full article

Digitization vs Digitalization: Real-life Examples And How to Digitize

The terms digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation have become increasingly prevalent. These1

View Full article

Business Level Strategy Examples & Types for Corporate Strategy Success

In business, the right business strategy can make or break success. Business-level1

View Full article

Digital Transformation Strategy Framework: 10 Key Steps for Strategic Planning

At the forefront of strategic digital transformation, Digital Leadership stands as a1

View Full article

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Examples and Definition

The MVP or Minimum Viable Product approach is an idea that was1

View Full article

Kanban Meaning and Process to Manage Business Purpose

You can only use Kanban to manage business processes effectively if it1

View Full article

What is Design Thinking? Definition, Explanation & Process

With Design Thinking, new and innovative ideas can be generated together and1

View Full article

Growth Hacking Examples, Definition and Strategies for Business Growth

Growth Hacking is a term invented by Sean Ellis. According to him,1

View Full article

Value Creation Definition, Model, and Examples in Business

Value creation is more than a business strategy; it’s a fundamental approach1

View Full article

Scrum Theory Full Guide 2024: Meaning, Benefits and Examples

Scrum is a framework that helps people, organizations, and teams address complex1

View Full article

Important But Underserved Customer Needs: How to Identify?

Creating products and services that yield more profits largely depends on understanding1

View Full article

Planned Change Theories and Process in Organizational Development

Planned change in organizational development is preparing the entire organization for new1

View Full article

Agile Change Management Boosting Customer Relationships

Change does not appear randomly but needs a structured approach. With John1

View Full article

Digital Transformation Guide For Digital Transformation Journey

This article on Digital Leadership aims to offer a preliminary guide to1

View Full article

Digital Business Strategy Examples, Definition, and Strategies

In a time marked by rapid technological evolution and unprecedented interconnectedness, businesses1

View Full article

Kanban vs Scrum: What is The Difference Between Them?

Agile, Lean, Scrum, Kanban: All these terms describe very similar project management1

View Full article

Creative Destruction in Economics Definition & Examples

Creative destruction is a concept introduced by the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter1

View Full article

Successful Innovation Secrets Shared by Stefan F.Dieffenbacher

Successful Innovation stands as the cornerstone of business power, propelling organizations and1

View Full article

Innovation Ecosystem Guide for Successful Innovation Strategy

Creating a successful innovation ecosystem in business has become the secret sauce1

View Full article

13 Benefits of Digital Transformation in Business Development

Digital transformation stands as a strategic imperative, marked by the integration of1

View Full article

Customer Centricity Meaning, Examples and Implementing Strategy

Customer centricity is more than just a buzzword tossed around conference rooms.1

View Full article

Strategic Planning Process Definition, Steps and Examples

Organizations use Strategic Planning to gather all their stakeholders to evaluate the1

View Full article

Changing Organizational Culture Full Guide 2024

Organizational Culture lies at the root of what makes a company successful,1

View Full article

Business Capability Map Model for Mapping Business Capabilities

To create successful innovations, it's crucial to leverage the existing strengths of1

View Full article

Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) For Putting JTBD Theory into Action

Outcome-driven innovation (ODI) is a strategic approach that operationalizes the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD)1

View Full article

Business Goals Examples, Definition & Importance | Full Guide 2024

Business Goals are simple: make enough money to run the business, expand1

View Full article

Key Resources Building Block in Business Model Canvas

In the Business Model Canvas, Key Resources appear within the Operating Model.1

View Full article

Revenue Streams in Business Model Canvas

Without a clear path for bringing money and resources into the enterprise,1

View Full article

VUCA World – Meaning, Examples And Management Steps

In an era where the constancy of change outweighs any semblance of1

View Full article

Business Plan Roadmap: Building Your Path to Business Success

In today's fast-paced entrepreneurial landscape, a meticulously crafted business plan functions as1

View Full article

Corporate Management 10 Effective Rules and Regulations

How can you ensure stable output at scale and still be innovative?1

View Full article

Organizational Change Types, Definition and Examples

The ability to navigate and drive organizational change is a critical skill1

View Full article

Importance of Organizational Change and It’s Management

The importance of organizational change lies in its pivotal role in ensuring1

View Full article

Open Innovation Examples, Definition, and Challenges

In business and technology, open innovation is a type of innovation that1

View Full article

Channels in the Business Model Canvas For Distribution

We may have the greatest product or service in the history of1

View Full article

Organizational Structure Definition, Types and Importance

Business Organizational Structure significantly influences its daily operations and holds the potential1

View Full article

Organizational Strategy Definition, Examples, Types & Importance

There are many ways you can encourage innovation in your business, though1

View Full article

Unfair Advantage: What is it, and how do you find yours?

Every business, everywhere, is hoping it can provide something to customers that1

View Full article

Key Activities – Building Block in Business Model Canvas

Key Activities "Value Chain" in the Business Model Canvas can sometimes be1

View Full article

Idea Generation Strategies For Driving Innovation and Growth

Idea Generation springs into existence where business acumen and raw creativity meet1

View Full article

Strategic Goals Definition, Examples and Importance & Definition

Strategic goals are a critical component of an overall business strategy because1

View Full article

Business Strategy Definition, Examples, Types & 10-Step Guide

In the ever-evolving business environment shaped by digital dynamics, business strategy stands1

View Full article

Jobs To Be Done Examples, Theory, Framework, Templates & Statements

Remaining responsive to customer needs has become a pivotal element in driving1

View Full article

BANI World: What is it and Why We Need it?

Over the past several decades, our world has undergone a profound transformation.1

View Full article

What is Customer Relationships in the Business Model Canvas?

What are Customer Relationships in a Business Model Canvas? The Customer Profile1

View Full article

Customer Segments in Business Model Canvas

Though every business model is different, and each company crafts its value1

View Full article

Key Partners Building Block of the Business Model Canvas

Introduction to Key Partners Building Block in BMC In an interconnected world,1

View Full article

IT Strategy: Aligning Technology with Business Goals

The role and business value of IT has changed significantly in many1

View Full article

Technology Strategy 101: Planning for the Future

Introduction Technology is changing our world. This has been the case since1

View Full article

Ambidextrous Organization: Examples, Definition, Levels & Benefits

Ambidextrous organizations are a concept that has been gaining traction in the1

View Full article

What is Project Design: Canvas & Full Guide

What is Project Design? Project Design is the very first stage of1

View Full article

Jobs to Be Done Framework: A Roadmap to Customer Satisfaction

How should you structure your business most efficiently? The best way to1

View Full article

What is Digital Maturity, How to Measure, Tools & Models

What is Digital Maturity? Digital Maturity refers to an organization’s ability to1

View Full article

Digitalization Consulting – What You Can Expect From A Qualified Digital Consultant

Digital transformation is complex and broad. A qualified digital consultant accompanies you1

View Full article

Organization Of Digital Transformation

Organizations today must adapt to the rapid changes in technology. Linear growth1

View Full article

Corporates & Startups: How To Collaborate in an Open Ecosystem

Corporate and startup collaborations, like any other collaboration, require learning from both1

View Full article

How Do You Innovate Your Business Model?

Business model innovation is essential for the success of every business in1

View Full article

Digitalization: How to Use Digital Innovation to Grow Your Business

You cannot speak about innovation without discussing digitalization in context. Today, almost1

View Full article

How Innovation Training Can Transform Your Organization

How to create a culture of innovation? Innovation training is key to1

View Full article

Four Waves of Economic Development and Industrial Revolution

Everything You Need to Know About the Four Waves of Economic Development1

View Full article

Moore’s Law Definition, History, & Impact for the Future – Digital Leadership

The waves of economic development are driven by invention, themselves typically driven1

View Full article

Innovative Technology & Technological Innovation in Europe – Digital Leadership

Innovation and innovative technology are of fundamental importance for Europe's economic and1

View Full article