“When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, but when done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.” — George Westerman
Here is a roundup of the best Digital Transformation books of all time.
These are the Digital Transformation books that really help change your game and equip you for the future.
On this page:
Why My List is Different
5 Key Areas of Digital Transformation
How I Organized My Lists
Top 3 Must-Read Digital Transformation Books
Top 10 Must-Read Digital Transformation Books
Best Books A-Z
Win Your Digital Transformation Journey
Call to Action
Why My List of Digital Transformation Books is Different
I want share quick note on my background in Digital Transformation. I worked at Microsoft for 25 years and 10+ of those years were Digital Transformation (even before we called it Digital Transformation).
I was “head coach” for Satya Nadella’s Innovation team where I lived and breathed Digital Transformation. I also created the Digital Transformation framework for Microsoft called The Book of Dreams to to accelerate innovation and transformation. And I was an early founder of the Digital Advisory Services group at Microsoft.
The Microsoft Digital Advisory Services group made Digital Transformation happen at Microsoft and helped kick start and bootstrap the Digital Transformation movement within Microsoft and within the industry.
Digital Leaders are Often One or Two Books Away from Success
I got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of all things Digital Transformation.
How sad is it when you see a company fail over time and you know they were just 1 or 2 books away from the right ideas and the bright ideas that would steer them in the right direction.
It’s super sad, and I really hope that my list of the best Digital Transformation books will help more leaders win their Digital Transformation efforts.
Why I Read Digital Transformation Books
If you know me, you know I read a lot.
For me, reading is a quick way to “stand on the shoulders of giants” and to learn the patterns of what works.
Aside from the fact that Digital Transformation is our biggest disruption for humanity, here are the primary reasons why I read Digital Transformation books:
- I’ve found that the right books can help me leap frog ahead. I find reading multiple books actually compounds my learning and pays off in ways I can’t predict, often creating serendipity.
- I’ve also found that reading a variety of books on a topic helps me get a better balcony view. It’s from this balcony view that I can create clarity from chaos, and see the forest for the trees.
- Reading multiple books on a topic also helps big ideas sink in better. I might not quite get an idea in one book, but then it suddenly clicks in with another book, because the author presented it in a different way.
Plus, you know the saying…leaders are readers.
5 Key Areas Digital Transformation Books Help You Address
My collection of Digital Transformation books spans a few key areas that I think help when it comes to driving Digital Transformation.
- Innovation: One key area is innovation. Innovation is the life blood of Digital Transformation. If you can’t reimagine your business or explore the art of the possible, you won’t be very effective in your transition to the Digital Era. Success transformation requires a reboot and a rethink of new ways to create and capture value at the edge.
- Business Model Innovation: Another key area is business model innovation. This is far more important than most people understand until they realize that it’s the business model that determines which ideas and which innovations survive in the market. So many great ideas die on the vine because they lack an effective business model. The more you learn about value engineering and how to translate ideas into real market opportunity, the better equipped you are to create new revenue streams in the Digital Economy.
- Culture Change: Another key area is culture change. Culture is the environment you create for Digital Transformation to survive and thrive. Culture is what can also kill Digital Transformation. Creating a learning culture that obsesses over customers and embraces the Millennial way and empowers employees with new ways of working takes intentional effort and deliberate behavior change.
- Digital Business Design. Another key area is Digital Business Design. Thinking through your customers, your channels, your value prop, your value stream, and your differentiation is art, science, and strategy in action. Arming yourself with a mental toolbox of methods, models, and tools can help you gain a real advantage here.
- Trends & Insights. Lastly, and perhaps my favorite topic, is trends and insights. I don’t look for trends, as in trendy ideas that are more like fads. I look for fundamental shifts in power or shifts in value or shifts in market demand or shifts in capabilities. I build catalogs of trends and insights that help me innovate faster, put building blocks together, and use creative synthesis to reimagine and envision future state possibilities. What if you knew the key trends shaping the world around you, influencing everything from where to live to what career to pursuit to how to create and capture value?
If you read the right books on trends, you end up with the closest thing to a crystal ball.
But rather than bet on one future, you can play the art of the long view and play out multiple paths of possibility.
And that’s how the paranoid survive.
How I Organized My Lists of Best Digital Transformation Books
I organized the best Digital Transformation Books into 3 simple lists for your convenience:
- Top 3 Digital Transformation Books
- Top 10 Digital Transformation Books
- Digital Transformation Books A-Z
Some of you will want the full list of books. Others will want the short-list.
All of you need to know which books to start with to get the most bang for the buck.
You’ll need to separate the wheat from the chaff, but there are many ripe seeds that will inspire and kickstart your own thinking around how to best approach Digital Transformation.
Here are the top 3 best Digital Transformation books:
Top 3 Must-Read Digital Transformation Books
If you could only read one book, I think Leading Digital gives you the best all up, big picture view of what Digital Transformation is all about. You will have plenty of stories to draw from, great mental models, and a working knowledge of how to frame out and think through Digital Transformation, including a good idea of what Gartner means when they say, “Bi-Modal IT.”
If you can read two books, then also read No Ordinary Disruption. This will give you a comprehensive view of the key trends that are shaping the next 10 years around the world and will help you better anticipate the changes around you.
If you can read three books, then read Digital Transformation: A Model to Master Disruption. This is really an “ideas” book, but it’s both surprisingly simple and surprisingly insightful.
1. Leading Digital
by George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee
Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, by George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee
Leading Digital is effectively a guide for driving Digital Transformation in the Enterprise.
While there is a lot of advice perfect for startups, Leading Digital is really a guide to existing large businesses that need to reinvent themselves for the Digital Era.
Leading Digital covers everything from successful Digital Transformation stories to dual-speed IT to customer experience transformation.
This book really provides a mental model and simple approach to driving Digital Transformation.
2. No Ordinary Disruption
by Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel
No Ordinary Disruption, by Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel. Directors of the McKinsey Global Institute do a deep dive to figure out the key trends and forces shaping the next 10 years.
The authors show how the trends are taking shape through anecdotes, data, and graphics.
3. Digital Transformation: A Model to Master Digital Disruption
by Jo Caudron and Dado Van Peteghem
Digital Transformation, by Jo Caudron and Dado Van Peteghem. Digital Transformation introduces “The Infinite Loop of Transformation”:
- The Disruption phase: experiencing and acknowledging the severe impact of new players and/or technological evolutions on the core business activities.
- The Modeling phase: mapping out the impact of the disruption and trying to transform possible digital threats into digital opportunities, scenarios, and business cases for the future.
- The Transformation phase: implementing the digital transformation mode throughout the entire business processes, culture and systems.
The authors also introduce a simple model for approaching innovation:
- The Factory
- The Guesthouse
- The Garage
Top 10 Must-Read Digital Transformation Books
These are the 10 Must-Read books on Digital Transformation if you are a leader and want to successfully transform your business for the digital era.
These Digital Transformation books have stood the test of time and they have enduring qualities about them.
Each of these Digital Transformation books brings something special to the table, so while each one is a powerful read, they are “better together”. For example, Leading Digital helped me appreciate and look at Digital to the Core a different way (and vice versa).
It was tough to limit to 10 best books, so included the rest of the best in my Digital Transformation Books A-Z list at the end on this page.
1. Blue Ocean Strategy
by W. Chan Kim and Renée A. Mauborgne
Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renée A. Mauborgne
I had to include this book because one of the key facets of Digital Transformation is really Disruptive Innovation.
In my experience, there is no better book on how to actually do Disruptive Innovation.
Blue Ocean Strategy provides a way to create disruptive innovation and create uncontested market space.
Rather than compete in a bloody “red” ocean and compete on features, the idea is to create a new market and enjoy a “blue” ocean.
A simple example is rather than try to compete in the circus industry with better animals and a better ringmaster, change the game.
Cirque de Soleil created a new kind of circus by focusing on adults and using acrobats instead of animals to create exotic shows.
As a leader, you need to deeply understand Disruptive Innovation.
As we used to say on our team, be the disruptor, or get disrupted.
2. Business Model Navigator
by Oliver Gassmann, Karolin Frankenberger, and Michaela Csik
The Business Model Navigator, by Oliver Gassmann, Karolin Frankenberger, and Michaela Csik
This book might turn out to be your Digital Transformation survival guide.
The Business Model Navigator is a great walkthrough of what exactly business model innovation is, along with 55 patterns that represent 90% of business model innovation to date.
Early on I realized that the game of Digital Transformation is to figure out new business models, and that the essence of corporate innovation is all about finding new business models.
This should be your Go-To reference to both understand what a business model is with depth and detail, as well as how to drive business model innovation. This book gave me a big advantage when I was head coach for Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s innovation team, because it gave me a short-cut to business model innovation that no other book ever did.
The authors in this book layout a repeatable approach for business model innovation based on all the patterns of business models we’ve learned to date.
3. Consumption Economics
by J. B. Wood, Todd Hewlin, and Thomas Lah
Consumption Economics, by J. B. Wood, Todd Hewlin, and Thomas Lah
This book will give you a solid mental model for understanding how business models work in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.
Consumption Economics explains the challenge where more value will be created than can be absorbed by users and consumers.
Additionally, the true disruption will be to your business model.
Future customers won’t want to pay you high prices out of big “CapEx” budgets anymore.
They will expect lower “cloud” prices paid from “OpEx” budgets only when and if they successfully consume the business value of your products.
4. Digital Hesitation
by Thomas Lah, J.B. Wood
5. Digital to the Core
by Mark Raskino and Graham Waller
Digital to the Core, by Mark Raskino and Graham Waller
Digital to the Core is interesting because it’s written by two Gartner fellows that have a great way of framing how to think about and approach Digital Transformation.
In Digital to the Core, the authors walk through leading at three levels:
The authors draw from interviews with 30 top C-level executives including GE, Ford, McDonald’s, and more.
The authors also include Gartner’s annual CIO and CEO global survey research.
6. Driving Digital Strategy
by Sunil Gupta
Driving Digital Strategy, by Sunil Gupta
Sunil Gupta does a great job here providing a framework and walking through how traditional organizations can reimagine their business.
What I especially like here is Gupta’s stories and data points he shares that bring the framework and strategies to life.
You can tell he’s a Harvard Business School professor by the way he frames out and lays out his stories with data.
7. The Digital Transformation Playbook
by David Rogers
The Digital Transformation Playbook, by David Rogers.
The Digital Transformation Playbook helps business leaders create and pursue a digital plan.
In The Digital Transformation Playbook, Rogers provides 5 key rules to help businesses create new value and outperform their competitors in the digital age.
Roger’s rules address the following categories:
- value proposition
8. The Industries of the Future
by Alec Ross
The Industries of the Future, by Alec Ross
Alec Ross explains what’s next for the world: the advances and stumbling blocks that will emerge in the next ten years, and how we can navigate them.
While Alec Ross was working as Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Secretary of State, he traveled to forty-one countries, exploring the latest advances coming out of every continent.
From startup hubs in Kenya to R&D labs in South Korea, Ross has seen what the future holds.
Ross shows us what changes are coming in the next ten years, highlighting the best opportunities for progress and explaining why countries thrive or sputter.
He examines the specific fields that will most shape our economic future, including robotics, cybersecurity, the commercialization of genomics, the next step for big data, and the coming impact of digital technology on money and markets.
9. The Second Machine Age
by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
The Second Machine Age, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and offer a new path to prosperity amid exponential technological change.
These include revamping education so that it prepares people for the next economy instead of the last one, designing new collaborations that pair brute processing power with human ingenuity, and embracing policies that make sense in a radically transformed landscape.
10. Why Digital Transformations Fail
by Tony Saldanha
70 percent of digital transformations fail. Wow.
Can you afford to fail?
I am a big believer that you can succeed better by learning from what leaders do wrong.
In my experience, there may be lots of ways to do something right, but we also learn a few of the big anti-patterns to avoid.
Saldanha shares how failure with Digital Transformation is usually a lack of clear, defined goals and a disciplined process.
He also shows how to bake digital technology into the foundation of your organization, rather than simply automate business processes.
And that’s exactly how you get the leadership edge in the digital era.
Best-of-the-Best Digital Transformation Books A-Z
This is my more comprehensive list of Digital Transformation books that really helped me get an edge in terms of figuring out how to drive Digital Transformation.
Really, it’s my full (and growing) collection of Digital Transformation books that gave me a holographic view of the game of Digital Transformation.
It’s a wide variety, but like I said, it’s how the books come together in a symphony of ideas, or more like a mosaic of patterns, that helped me gain new insight well beyond what I could gain by just one or two books.
It’s this collective perspective and cornucopia of ideas that better equip me for driving forward in the Digital Frontier.
1. Age of Context
by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel
Age of Context, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel
Age of Context provides a walkthrough of 5 technological forces shaping our world:
- mobile devices
- social media
- big data
- location-based services
The authors use stories and examples to help us easily understand how brands can use the technologies to change the world.
by J.B. Wood, Todd Hewlin, and Thomas Lah
B4B, by J.B. Wood, Todd Hewlin, and Thomas Lah
B4B is a framework for transitioning from product-focused to customer outcome-focused.
It helps you prepare for a world of “pay for play” where customers pay when they use the product.
3. Business Model Generation
by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
Business Model Generation, by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
Business Model Generation is a guide for creating new business models and designing tomorrow’s enterprises.
It provides a canvas, patterns, design, strategy, and process.
The backbone of the book is a walkthrough of the 9 building blocks for business model generation:
- Customer Segments
- Value Propositions
- Customer Relationships
- Revenue Streams
- Key Resources
- Key Activities
- Key Partnerships
- Cost Structure
4. Digital Disciplines
by Joe Weinman and Fred Wiersema
Digital Disciplines, by Joe Weinman and Fred Wiersema
Digital Disciplines walks through how companies can develop a competitive edge through four digital disciplines:
- information excellence
- solution leadership
- collective intimacy
- accelerated innovation
5. Digital Disruption
by James McQuivey
Digital Disruption, by James McQuivey
This is a guide to learn how to be a digital disruptor.
James McQuivey shares his approach to disruptive innovation.
He’s gone into the biggest companies, even in traditional industries like insurance and consumer packaged goods and changed the way they think about innovation.
McQuivey shares a simple 3-step process for digital disruption:
- First, adopt the right mindset; Take risks, invest as cheaply as possible, and build on existing platforms to find the fastest path to solving a customer’s problem.
- Second, seek the “adjacent possible”—the space just next to yours where new technology creates opportunity.
- Finally, disrupt yourself. Use these tools to make parts of your business obsolete before your competitors do.
6. Digital Master
by Pearl Zhu
Digital Master, by Pearl Zhu. Pearl Zhu outlines what the Digital Masters do to apply advanced digital technology across all business arenas to build high performing organizations:
- Develop visionary digital leadership
- Shape open and creative digital mindsets
- Craft and execute a holistic digital strategy
- Advocate digital innovation next practices
- Refine a highly effective enterprise culture
- Optimize high-performing business capabilities
- Explore data-rich digital Intelligence
- Unleash enriched digital talent potential
- Pursue high level digital maturity
7. Digital Transformation
by Mark Baker
Digital Transformation, by Mark Baker
Mark Baker shares how different consulting companies and business leaders are thinking about Digital Business Transformation.
He his insights to life through interviews with corporate digital leaders and real-life examples.
8. Disrupting Digital Business
by R “Ray” Wang
Disrupting Digital Business, by R “Ray” Wang
Disrupting Digital Business walks through how organizations no longer control the conversation.
In this era of social and mobile technology, customers, employees, suppliers, and partners are in direct communication with one another.
Ray Wang explains new ways to think about 5 areas of business:
- Consumerization of technology and the new C-suite
- Data’s influence in driving decisions
- Digital marketing transformation
- The future of work
- Matrix commerce
9. Edge Strategy
by Alan Lewis and Dan McKone
Edge Strategy, by Alan Lewis and Dan McKone
Edge Strategy provides a simple frame to better understand the edges you can use to create and capture value:
- Product edge. How to capture incremental profits and other benefits by slightly altering the elements and composition of a core offering
- Journey edge. How to create and capture extra value by adjusting your role in supporting the customer’s journey to and through your offering
- Enterprise edge. How to unlock additional value from resources and capabilities that support your core offering by applying them in a different context, for a different offering or different set of customers
10. How Digital is Your Business?
by Adrian J. Slywotzky, David Morrison, and Karl Weber
How Digital is Your Business?, by Adrian J. Slywotzky, David Morrison, and Karl Weber
Slywotzky and Morrison show how a digital business is one whose strategic options have been transformed–and significantly broadened–by the use of digital technologies.
How Digital is Your Business shares the following:
- The core of How Digital is Your Business: Profiles of the future: the in-depth story of the digital pioneers–Dell Computer, Charles Schwab, Cisco Systems, Cemex.
- Insight into how to change a traditional enterprise into a digital business: the stories of GE and IBM.
- An analysis of the profitable dot-coms: AOL, Yahoo!, and eBay.
Through stories and case studies, How Digital is Your Business? also provides digital tools you can use to create a digital future for your company.
11. Leading Digital Strategy
by Christopher Bones and James Hammersley
Leading Digital Strategy, by Christopher Bones and James Hammersley
Leading Digital Strategy shares strategies, methodologies and models to improve the effectiveness of your online offering.
Leading Digital Strategy also shows you how to implement a customer-centric culture, and provides a practical framework for multi-channel success.
12. Scaling Up
by Verne HarnishScaling Up
Scaling Up, by Verne HarnishScaling Up shows you how to scale up a venture and build an industry-dominating business.
The goal of Scaling Up is to help you create a company where the team is engaged; the customers are doing your marketing; and everyone is making money.
To do so, Scaling Up focuses on the four major decision areas every company must get right: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash.
13. Service Design for Business
by Ben Reason, Lavrans Løvlie, and Melvin Brand Flu
Service Design for Business, by Ben Reason, Lavrans Løvlie, and Melvin Brand Flu. Service Design for Business shows you how to transform your customer experience and design services that respond to customers’ needs and demands.
In Service Design for Business, you’ll learn the following keys to designing more effective services:
- Approach customer experience from a design perspective
- See your organization through the lens of the customer
- Make customer experience an organization-wide responsibility
- Analyze the market factors that dovetail with customer experience design
14. Ten Types of Innovation
by Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn
Ten Types of Innovation, by Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel, and Brian Quinn. Ten Types of Innovation provides insights to diagnose patterns of innovation within industries, to identify innovation opportunities, and to evaluate how firms are performing against competitors.
The 10 types of innovation are:
- Product System
- Customer Engagement
- Profit Model
15. The Digital Economy
by Don Tapscott
The Digital Economy, by Don Tapscott
In the Digital Economy, Don Tapscott provides new forecasts of where the digital world is headed.
The essence of the book is effectively essays where Tapscott walks through the following topics:
- Natural frictions between present-day Industrial Capitalism and the Digital Economy
- The radical effects of the Internet on traditional corporate structures and systems
- Dramatic changes in business collaboration and culture thanks to social media
- The rise of web-based analytics and how they have transformed business functions
- Government transparency, citizen empowerment, and the creation of public value
- Teaching and learning—revolutionary developments driven by digital content
16. The Digital Enterprise
by Karl-Heinz Streibich
The Digital Enterprise, by Karl-Heinz Streibich
Karl-Heinz Streibich provides a guide to Industry 4.0 and lights it up with 20+ examples of Industry 4.0 in action.
Learn how Industry 4.0 will bring massive efficiencies to aviation, utilities, and many other industries.
17. The Essence of Value
by Mario Pricken
This is my book I turn to whenever I forget how to design great products.
The Essence of Value reveals the fundamental parameters that create value and make products “shine”, based on examples from the worlds of business, the arts and religion.
Mario Pricken has analyzed more than 300 products, objects and events over their entire lifecycles in order to reveal the patterns that make things extraordinarily valuable.
He’s identified 80 parameters that can be found, for example, in the biographies of exceptional cars, watches, luxury foods, designer furniture, artwork and services – such as the elements of uniqueness, scarcity, the effect of time or magnificently orchestrated transfers of ownership.
You can use the tools to quickly determine the “value-DNA” of a product.
18. The Experience Economy
by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore
The Experience Economy, by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore
Pine and Gilmore make the case that experience is the missing link between a company and its potential audience.
The Experience Economy offers rich examples—including the U.S. Army, Heineken Experience, Autostadt, Vinopolis, American Girl Place, and others—to show fresh approaches to scripting and staging compelling experiences.
19. The Fourth Industrial Revolution
by Klaus Schwab
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, by Klaus Schwab. Klaus Schwab dubs this era of profound change as the fourth industrial revolution.
The fourth industrial revolution brings waves of great change including:
- Ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing
- Artificially-intelligent robots
- Self-driving cars
- Neuro-technological brain enhancements
- Genetic editing
Schwab has been at the center of global affairs for over four decades and is convinced that the period of change we are living through is more significant, and the ramifications of the latest technological revolution are more profound than any prior period in history.
20. The Profit Zone
by Adrian J. Slywotzky, David J. Morrison, and Bob Andelman
The Profit Zone, by Adrian J. Slywotzky, David J. Morrison, and Bob Andelman
In The Profit Zone, the authors address the most fundamental question in business:
Where Will I Make a Profit Tomorrow?
21. Value Migration
by Adrian J. Slywotzky
Value Migration, by Adrian J. Slywotzky
Slywotzky walks through how several companies created a business design – how they select customers, differentiate their offerings, configure their resources, go to market, and capture value – based on a strategic understanding of their customers’ highest priorities.
22. Value Proposition Design
by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Gregory Bernarda, and Alan Smith
Value Proposition Design, by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Gregory Bernarda, and Alan Smith
Value Proposition Design gives you the processes and tools you need to create compelling products and services customers want to buy.
23. Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption
by Geoffrey A. Moore
Zone to Win, by Geoffrey A. Moore
Zone to Win is a playbook to address the challenge large enterprises face when they seek to add a new line of business to their established portfolio.
Zone to Win is a high-powered tool for driving your company above and beyond its limitations, its definitions of success, and ultimately, its competitors, by focusing on spurring next-generation growth, guiding mergers and acquisitions, and embracing disruption and innovation.
Win Your Digital Transformation Journey!
I hope my list of Digital Transformation books helps you, or someone you know, get an edge.
Digital Transformation is risky business and a lot of companies fail to cross the Cloud chasm.
Sadly, what they don’t know, can hurt them.
Don’t let a lack of know how set you back during what can possibly be called the greatest opportunity in our lifetimes to build a better world and empower every person and every organization on the planet, the digital way.
What great Digital Transformation books did I miss?
Call to Action
- Read the 3 best books for getting started with Digital Transformation.
- Learn a meta-model and framework for leading and driving Digital Transformation from the key books on the list (and master a few stories, too)
- Practice both Disruptive Innovation and Business Model Innovation by using Blue Ocean Strategy and The Business Model Navigator.
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