To read this content please select one of the options below:

Leading digital transformation: three emerging approaches for managing the transition

Feng Li (Cass Business School, City, University of London, London, UK)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 23 July 2020

Issue publication date: 21 September 2020




This study identifies three emerging approaches for leading successful digital transformation. It challenges the validity and effectiveness of traditional linear processes for digital transformation that first develop a new strategy, business model or organizational design enabled by digital technologies and then execute it according to the plan.


The paper is based on current research with a group of global digital champions at the forefront of digital transformation, including Amazon, Alibaba, Baidu, Google,, Uber, VMWare and Slack.


The research finds that at least three new approaches are emerging in leading organizations, which are (1) innovating by experimenting, (2) radical transformation via successive incremental changes and (3) dynamic sustainable advantages through an evolving portfolio of temporary advantages.

Research limitations/implications

More research is needed to systematically investigate such emerging approaches and develop new theories and new analytical frameworks.

Practical implications

These emerging approaches can be used to guide digital transformation initiatives.

Social implications

They also enable business leaders to tackle grand societal challenges using financially sustainable and scalable operational models, generating profit and impact at the same time.


It challenges traditional linear approaches for leading digital transformation and highlights the need for new and iterative approaches for bridging the strategy–execution gap in the volatile digital economy.



Li, F. (2020), "Leading digital transformation: three emerging approaches for managing the transition", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 40 No. 6, pp. 809-817.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles