crescendo - IMD Business School

Crescendo: Build your Digital Orchestra

4 min.
November 2017

This is the third in a 4-part series of articles about digital disruption by the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation (DBT Center), a joint initiative of IMD business school and Cisco. The series explores how digital disruption is altering traditional competitive dynamics in virtually every industry – and how to ensure your company thrives.

Think about the word concert. Did you picture an event where people gather to see and listen to a set of musicians – perhaps a heavy metal band or a string quartet (we’re not here to dictate taste)? What if we were to say in concert? Together. And that’s what a concert – the kind you pictured – is all about. Your heavy metal band, string quartet, or – as we’re going to talk about, orchestra – has to work together for you to enjoy their music. In this series, we’ve looked at the competitive reality of the Digital Vortex, along with our 2017 update assessing the positioning of various industries within this Vortex. We’ve looked at what you need to understand about firms in this environment, including yours, before establishing and implementing a plan to thrive in the Vortex. Now we’ll see specifically how you can compose a Digital Orchestra to play together harmoniously, based on our June 2017 publication “Orchestrating Digital Business Transformation: Working in Concert to Achieve Digital Excellence”. Beware – becoming a digital leader takes a… concerted effort.

The figure below shows a sneak peek at what we’re going to discuss in this article. You’ll recognize the “score” sheets in this image from what you learned in last week’s article. The music your orchestra will play is meant to execute your strategies (harvest/retreat/disrupt/occupy) to drive value (cost value/experience value/platform value). Now let’s look at that orchestra – the sections of players set to play in concert for successful digital business transformation.

 - IMD Business School

The sections of a Digital Orchestra

A real orchestra is composed of four instrument sections: strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion. Our Digital Orchestra framework likens four groupings of operating-model elements to these four sections. Together – playing in harmony – these can execute your company’s digital business transformation.

Your company will call upon the sections in different ways, at different times compared to another firm. It’s vital to understand which sections must be “played” when, for how long. You’ll have your own chords and melodies. Here are the sections and what’s important to know about each.

 - IMD Business School This refers to what you will offer and how you will get it to your customer base.


  1. Offerings
  2. Channels
 - IMD Business School In the digital age, the way that you engage with your stakeholders changes. This includes both tools to use and manners to understand and approach them.


  1. Customers
  2. Partners
  3. Workforce
 - IMD Business School You may need to rethink your strategy to support your company’s operations to align with your target-state business models.


  1. Business processes
  2. IT capability
 - IMD Business School A new operating model capable of success in the Vortex will require organizational changes in terms of structure and ethos.


  1. Structure
  2. Incentives
  3. Culture: In the DBT Center’s dialogue with executives around the world, culture and mind-set are often cited as the biggest barriers to digital transformation. For success, take a good, open-minded look at the behaviors, motivations, and perceptions of your teams and examine what it’ll take to embrace change.

Be the maestro of your own orchestra

Our orchestra analogy provides a framework, but it is never one-size-fits-all. Companies in your industry and/or of your longevity may be similarly placed within the Vortex, but where you are is unique to you. Your orchestra and the music you play will be unique. How much or how little you develop and change each operational section, as well as when and how they play, must be prioritized based on your own Vortex-engaging strategies and the value you aim to drive. You must become the maestro.

It’s not an easy process. But the rewards can be outstanding. In the final article of this series, we will look at the Digital Orchestra experience of one company that transformed their business and orchestrated bravo performances both within and beyond their industry: McLaren Applied Technologies.

Don’t miss the next article in this series, Standing Ovation: McLaren Puts the Digital Orchestra into Action


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