By now it’s clear that companies must embrace digital transformation to remain competitive and relevant. I have previously looked at the importance of giving people the right skills, as well as transitioning from outdated legacy systems into fully digital solutions. Now it’s time to talk about the need to acknowledge that digital transformation is also influenced by outside factors, especially in this increasingly competitive climate competition.

In a Capgemini survey, as much as 72 percent of company executives cited pressure from competitors as a primary reason to begin a digital transformation. With the increase in start-ups being lead by digital natives, as well as innovative and disruptive “superbrands” (Google, Apple, and Virgin) experimenting with new technologies, approaches and expanding into multiple markets, it is a necessity to put digital transformation at the top of the business agenda.

Rethink digital strategy

The question is how do you stand out and protect yourself from the quick and agile competition? The key is a clear digital strategy that runs through all parts of the organization. A well-developed strategy can help you adopt approaches and leverage new tools and technology faster than others in your industry, creating a clear competitive advantage.

According to research by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, three primary elements separate digital leaders from their competitors: their ability to digitally reimagine the business, employees and leaders who are passionate about driving transformation, and the willingness to take risks and accept failure. Implementing these elements is necessary in keeping up with agile competitors, and it may even require you to rethink your digital strategy completely – requiring an entirely new way of doing business.

Employee empowerment and strong leadership

Looking at your organizational setup is a good place to start. Traditional hierarchies can be restrictive in today’s agile business world, as it can inhibit the quick flow of information. A flatter structure allows for faster decisions making and greater agility, at the same time as it gives a sense of heightened employee empowerment. Companies who get this will ultimately attract the best talent, as employees across all age groups want to work for businesses committed to digital progress.

Still, having strong leadership is crucial. To succeed, company leaders will need to live and breathe the digital strategy. They have to adopt an agile and transformational leadership style – and they must be willing to take risks and embrace failure.

Become the agile, digital business

Risk-taking is becoming the norm for digitally advanced companies as they continue to seek competitive advantage. Companies who avoid risk-taking are unlikely to thrive, and indeed the strategic risk of not being agile enough surpasses the risks inherent in the agile transformation itself. With risk comes the possibility of failure, but businesses have to embrace failure as a prerequisite for success – after all, failure is how we generate new knowledge.

Failing to develop and implement a digital strategy at all levels of your organization can be fatal. The only way to protect yourself from the agile digital competition is to become an agile digital business yourself. It is through differentiation and innovation that enterprises can create the shift in mindset necessary to compete in the digital game.