Are you a Digital Laggard, a Smart Follower or a Digital Attacker? Find out!

At its core, a digital enterprise uses technology to redefine customer experiences, improve operational efficiency, and embed digital advantages throughout its business model. The enterprise is configured to deliver maximum strategic and operational value from established and emergent technologies and to react quickly to changes these technologies trigger in customer behavior and the competitive landscape.

Top executives hoping to build a digital enterprise must understand the environment they face and the strategy needed for their individual aspirations. In addition, they will have to review their corporate organization to mesh with changing requirements.

A 2014 to 2015 global survey of technology decision makers showed the competitive landscape for digital enterprises is split into three tiers. The survey results coupled with market modelling suggest 25 to 30 per cent of information officers expect their companies to be fully digitalized by 2020. These will be the leaders and attackers in the new landscape. Further, 50 to 60 per cent, the smart followers, expect frontline operations to be digitalized by 2020, while core systems retain legacy technology, and 15 to 20 per cent, the laggards, expect to have implemented only incremental digitization.


The trisected landscape requires different approaches to success based on aspirations and capabilities. Top executives hoping to succeed in this environment must clearly understand their digital readiness and seek partners or build internal skills to match their goals.

Digital leaders and attackers will include start-up enterprises that are not burdened with legacy systems, as well as incumbents taking the bold initiative to pursue a full digital transformation. Often, internal IT teams at these companies will push forward digital efforts and become adept at spotting promising new technologies. Top executives will need to accept the risks involved in embracing disruptive technologies and adopt the approach of venture capital, investing in a carefully selected range of start-ups and technologies.

Smart followers are companies that continue to run legacy core systems, but are quickly adopting digital systems for frontline functions. Top executives at these companies watch closely the efforts of digital leaders and invest in technologies as soon as they are mature and proven. These companies craft three to five-year plans for digital transformations that offer competitive advantages, and rely heavily on heads of business units and functions to spot promising technologies. They also emphasize rapid time to market.

And finally, digital laggards make limited investments in new technology, primarily mimicking others in their industry. Executives at these companies tend to follow a piecemeal approach to technology investments, relying on suppliers to propose new efforts. These company leaders focus primarily on stability and cost when making investment decisions.

An illustration from the consumer packaged goods sector helps clarify the differences. Top executives at digital laggards might consider investing in servers to upgrade or replace a finance and accounting system. At a smart follower, leaders will be developing new customer interfaces that enhance their overall experience. Meanwhile, top executives at digital leaders and attackers will be exploring disruptive technologies, such as deliveries by drone or virtual shopping assistants.

So what are you? Join us on October 5th in New Delhi in an interactive, immersive and informative full day NASSCOM event with Indian IT and McKinsey global leaders to understand how you can become a digital attacker.

Register here – Nasscom McKinsey Perspective 2025


  1. Joseph Smith
  2. Rebecca T. King
  3. Rebecca T. King

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