Digital Transformation in 2021:
The Complete Guide

Get updated on the latest digital transformation trends in 2021 and beyond.

Staying on top of digital trends is central to the growth and survival of businesses in today’s digital world. As this new decade starts off with a turbulent year, adapting your digital business to the COVID-19 outbreak and the global economic recession is an absolute necessity.

In this complete guide to digital transformation, our experts at Morphosis will explore how digital transformation will impact your business in 2021 and beyond, including:

What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of drastically changing traditional business practices to offer better quality products, services and customer experiences with new technologies. 

For you, this means that your competitors are starting to implement new technologies that could potentially outperform and out-compete your current business practices. 

The nature of digital transformation is three-fold: 

  1. It transcends traditional departments 
  2. It disrupts entire value chains within the market
  3. It changes what customers expect from your business

Most importantly, it calls for you to start adapting in order to stay relevant in this rapidly changing landscape.

What are the main types of digital transformation?

main types of digital transformation

Changes need to happen across all levels of your organisation when digitally transforming your business. With that said, there are four main types of digital transformation that businesses need to implement.

Organisations will need to transform all these aspects of their business to gain a competitive edge in the market. Let’s take a closer look at what these four types of transformation are.

1Internal processes

Firstly, new digital technologies can help businesses improve their internal workflows, reduce human error and reduce turnaround times for clients and customers. These new technologies include:

  • New sets of application programming interface (APIs)
  • Automated internal data management systems
  • Improved customer relationship management (CRMs) platforms 

Today, businesses spend more than 21% of their time manually documenting business processes (Fact.MR)

Hence, by investing in automated workflow processes, it is estimated that businesses can achieve an ROI of 176% with a payback period of around 10 months (Forrester)

Whether you are leading an international corporation or are running a local business, it is clear that the digital transformation of your internal processes can benefit your business in the long-run.

2Business model

Business model transformations come in varying degrees. While companies like Netflix shifted their model entirely from video distribution to online streaming, local businesses can implement smaller model changes like shifting their customer acquisition channel online. 

By slowly adopting new business models for the digital era, your business will be less vulnerable to disruptions in the market. 

Here’s a short example of how slightly shifting your business model can lead to rapid business growth in less than a year.

Case Study: Morphosis and Starfish


Our team at Morphosis have been working with Starfish to help them digitally transform their business model in the past year. 

With the aim of changing Thailand’s education system, Starfish sought to shift from running live workshops to building an online learning platform that helps train new teaching techniques to teachers. 

With our help, they were able to launch a fully designed and developed online learning platform at the beginning of 2021. 

Since then, their platform has grown rapidly, acquiring over 20,000 new members and 1.3 million new visitors within the first quarter of the year.

3Organisational culture

This next type of transformation involves the overall shift in your organisation’s working mindset and management structure to become a fully digital company.

people meeting in an organisation

This includes favouring:

  • Flat organisational structures
  • Decentralised management
  • Agile work processes
  • Data-driven decision-making processes

But why is this important for digital transformation?

Adopting new digital technologies and work processes will lead to fundamental changes to how your business runs itself. 

This means that decisions will need to be made quickly and effectively to successfully implement new digital solutions. For this reason, reforming your business’s management structure to become more lean and decentralised is a crucial step to achieve successful digital transformation. 

4Treatment of data

Finally, digital transformation involves refining the entire practice of data collection and analysis. 

With new digital solutions, the availability of data becomes seemingly abundant. Hence, businesses need to effectively utilise all the data available to them. 

Gaining deep insights into the customers’ perceptions and behaviour will be crucial for surviving in competitive markets. 

For this reason, it comes to as no surprise that  90% of enterprises say data analytics has been key to their transformation success (MicroStrategy)

business person using data analytics tool

Here are a few more data points that show you the business benefits of data analytics:

  • Analytics-driven firms grow by over 30% annually and will take $1.8 trillion from their less-informed peers by 2021 (Forrester). 
  • Insights-driven businesses are 23 times more likely to acquire customers and 19 times more likely to be profitable as a result (McKinsey). 
  • 84% of enterprises have already begun to use business intelligence tools to improve their decision-making (NewVantage Partners).

What are the main drivers of digital transformation?

The increased use of digital technology has inevitably altered the way industries conduct their business, along with how companies compete and interact with each other. 

There are the three key drivers of digital transformation in 2021:

main drivers of digital transformation

1Changing customer behaviour and expectations

Digital transformation is forcing companies to change and adapt, and this change is driven by rising customer expectations. Hence, in order to keep up with customers, businesses have to embrace new technologies. 

As customers are becoming more connected via digital technology, they are demanding businesses to respond to their needs faster than ever before. 

In fact, when interacting with businesses, more than half of all consumers expect a response within an hour (Edelman Digital). 

2Changing competitive landscape

Apart from rising customer expectations, the ever-changing competitive landscape is also a key factor in motivating businesses to digitise their services. 

Today, businesses have access to a vast array of technologies and digital solutions at very attractive price points. The wider availability of technology has significantly changed the competitive landscape for businesses.

For example, companies like Uber and Grab are starting to compete with traditional taxis in the transportation industry.

At the end of the day, businesses that are only reacting to digital technology will fall behind, while those that are proactively adopting new technologies will often gain a competitive advantage in the market.

woman observing changing competitive landscape

3Increase in data privacy regulations

The rapid improvement of digital technology has also led to the tightening of data privacy regulations across the globe. 

For instance, Thailand’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), that has come into effect as of May 2021, will impact four key groups:

  • Human resources
  • IT departments
  • Marketing and public relations
  • The legal department

Other examples include the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK’s Data Protection Act 2018 and more. 

These new regulations have increased the compliance burden of businesses that provide digital solutions to their customers.

Which industries are most affected by disruptive technology?

The digital age has led to an abundance of digital solutions, drastically changing the way users communicate and interact with one another. 

As digital products become more common in the next 10 years, two questions arise:

  • Will businesses be able to keep up with technological disruptions? 
  • Which industries are most likely to be affected? 

With these questions in mind, here are the top 3 industries that are guaranteed to be affected by disruptive technology in the upcoming decade:

consumer making payment online


Over the past decade, online shopping or e-commerce has significantly changed the retail industry. 

In fact, the total market size of e-commerce is predicted to hit 4 trillion in 2020, with up to 1.92 billion digital buyers in 2019 (Statista). 

For this reason, businesses will need to pay close attention to the most influential factors that are shaping the e-commerce industry. 

Customer satisfaction will be the key differentiator

In today’s fast-paced economy, a successful business is one that can satisfy customer needs quickly and effectively, and that means adapting to the on-demand economy. 

There is a rising demand for same-day delivery, single-hour response times, as well as other on-demand products and services. Brands such as Rakuten Air Map have even launched an unmanned traffic management platform in Japan to combat speed delivery issues.

Catering to millennials

Today, millennials have more spending power than any other generation of consumers – an estimated $2.5 trillion annually. As they start to form the bulk of the workforce in the next 10 years, they will become an increasingly important group of customers (YPulse).

In addition to millennials, Gen Zs will also become an influential group of customers. This is especially when they are two-times more likely to shop on mobile devices than millennials (OptinMonster). 

Today, understanding the pain points of your target audience isn’t only advantageous, it’s crucial for survival.


Despite being a relatively conservative industry, the healthcare industry has been drastically affected by digital transformation. 

Even though many healthcare service providers are equipped with the latest medical technologies, long-term issues such as inefficient administrative processes and inaccurate diagnoses are still widespread. 

To resolve these long-term issues, healthcare service providers have been automating outdated manual procedures, investing in telemedicine and using AI to provide improved diagnosis accuracy. 

Automating manual procedures 

By automating administrative procedures, such as adopting new online appointment booking systems, the healthcare industry can reduce their overhead costs and increase their revenue. 

Investing in telemedicine 

By adopting remote doctor visits and health monitoring through innovative health applications, healthcare providers can make their services more accessible and affordable to more people.

With telemedicine, healthcare providers are able to stay competitive and reach a wider range of patients.

doctor showing telemedicine service

Providing better diagnosis accuracy with AI

Although medical technology has come a long way, misdiagnoses are still common, leading to disruptions in the hospital’s workflow. With the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the process of diagnosis will become more reliable and faster than ever before. 

For example, InformAI is able to provide more accuracy and speed in medical diagnosis as they have access to significant datasets, including direct access to world-class medical experts and a proprietary AI database. 

Meanwhile, SaliencyAI has been able to streamline their medical processes through the help of artificial intelligence models.

3Education and training

Finally, personalised education and remote training services will start to transform the education and training industry in the upcoming decade. 

Personalised education

Instead of a one-size-fits-all model of education, new digital technologies can enable students to tailor their education to their own personal needs and preferences. 

Here are a few reasons why personalised education is beneficial:

  • Engaging – They are delivered through a variety of forms such as games, media and audio
  • Flexible – They give students more options for assessment beyond traditional essays and exams
  • Feedback – They can provide immediate feedback on how students are learning

As new education technologies arise, schools will start to implement them in the classroom and deliver personalised learning experiences to their students.

Decrease in training expenses

With the rise of online training material, businesses can upskill their workforce without needing to make massive investments. In fact, studies show that online training can reduce the overall training time for employees by up to 40-60% (eLearning Industry).

With an online training system, businesses can cut costs in the following areas:

  • Venue rental
  • Cost of producing physical training material
  • Travel and accomodation costs
  • Minimise loss of productivity

Digital transformation trends have been erupting throughout all industries. Businesses that are able to grasp this trend can potentially find new growth opportunities and gain a competitive advantage.

To get you up to speed, here are the four most prominent digital transformation trends in 2021:

key digital transformation trends in 2020 and beyond

1The growing significance of customer experience

Customer experience plays a key role in digital transformation. It is potentially the strongest driving force for change as customers can determine the successfulness of businesses. 

For this reason, it has become impossible to ignore the significance of customer experience. Although 82% of marketers believe they are meeting these expectations, only 10% of customers strongly agree that their expectations are being met (Acquia). 

The elements that affect whether or not these expectations are met includes:

  • Accurate, consistent and compliant communication
  • Fast response to customers on all fronts
  • Providing the best experience within that industry
  • Process automation 
  • Connecting with customers on their devices

2Replacing customisation with personalisation

Although customisation has previously worked to attract target customers, the new generation of consumers need personalisation

digital product strategy crafting

But what’s the difference? 

Customisation merely allows users to choose their preferred products and services. Meanwhile, personalisation automates the entire customisation process for users by leveraging machine learning, AI and data analytics.

In fact, 64% of Gen Zs and 72% of millennials expect a more personalised experience from brands than their predecessors (Adobe Enterprise). 

The rise in prominence of these new technologies push companies to provide new personalised services to customers.

Although the difference seems insignificant, personalisation can benefit your business in the following ways: 

  • Increase brand loyalty
  • Improve user experience
  • Enhance customer service

Over the years, personalisation has grown significantly, from 58% just 5 years ago to 93% today. Just last year, it was reported that 99% of marketers agreed that personalisation has advanced their customer relationships and 90% saw an improvement in business results (Evergage). 

3The rise of artificial intelligence

The usage of AI has increased by up to 25% since 2018, making it one of the most prominent digital transformation trends of this decade (Forbes). 

For this reason, it comes as no surprise that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become incorporated into our daily lives.

This year alone, we have seen multiple innovative uses of AI to improve businesses, such as Graphcore using AI to reduce algorithmic trading times, and Persado that uses AI to generate marketing language to target their customers. 

It is predicted that by 2025, customer service organisations that adopt this technology into their customer management systems will increase operational efficiency by up to 25% (Gartner).

chip in artificial intelligence system

4The role of interactive content

Last year, the Netflix show ‘Black Mirror’ released its first interactive episode, which instantly became a global success. For businesses, this begs the question: “Why is interactive content so effective?” 

consumer experiencing interactive content

The answer is simple: There’s an oversaturation of content out there, and interactivity gives businesses a great way to stand out from the crowd.

Furthermore, interactive content provides rich user insights, allowing businesses to conduct user experience research on their digital platforms. 

Interactive content has been shown to double conversion rates when compared to content that is static. Hence, incorporating this new type of content into your digital platform could be a game-changer (Marketeer). 

Some two common interactive content examples: 

  • Website Design:  Include interactive web design features such as animations and video content.
  • Gamification: Implementing game-like features to keep engagement levels high.

What to prepare your business for digital transformation?

4 tips for preparing for digital transformation

With new digital trends fast approaching your local market, now is the crucial time for you to start preparing your business for the transformation it needs. 

By implementing the correct preparations, your company will be able to seamlessly integrate new digital solutions in the upcoming years. 

On the other hand, without the correct preparations and strategy, you will lose out on the ROI that new technology can bring to your business. 

1Change your attitude towards the role of IT

Traditionally, technology plays a fringe role in businesses, and are handled by gatekeepers known as the IT department. But if you want to get ahead of your competition, this has to change.

As mentioned earlier, digital transformation will have an impact on every single department in your business, from IT and HR to sales and marketing.

For this reason, you need to start including your IT staff in all business discussions that could involve technology.

If not, you should at least hire a tech-savvy executive to lead your team into the digital era.

2Identify your digital pain points

Next, you’ll need to find aspects of your business that would benefit most from digital transformation. 

In other words, ask yourself this question: “Which part of my business is currently the most outdated?”

Perhaps your online platform desperately needs to be reworked as most customers are dropping off due to poor user experience. Or perhaps it’s your CRM that needs to be automated so that your company can easily scale in the next few years. 

By finding your business’s digital pain points, you will gain a  clear picture of where to invest in new technology for maximum returns. 

employees discussing digital pain points

3Get your employees up to speed

The third preparation step involves communicating to your employees that there will be workflow changes. When new technology is introduced, some employees may feel overwhelmed while others may feel redundant.

For this reason, it is crucial that you, the business owner, emphasise the benefits that these new technologies will bring. For instance, let them know how an automated backend platform will help reduce their daily administrative tasks, allowing them to finish their other tasks faster.

Meanwhile, you should plan training sessions ahead of time to get your employees up to speed with potential digital solutions that may be introduced.

Even if this simply involves navigating a new online platform, short training sessions can go a long way to prevent technical mistakes from occurring.

4Embrace the ‘Agile’ approach to management

The Agile methodology, originally used by digital product development teams, can be very beneficial for businesses that are digitally transforming their internal workflow and business model. 

When it comes to managing your business, Agile means breaking away from traditional organisational structures and empowering your business to quickly improve on new changes that are being made.

Gone are the days of hierarchical management where employees are straight-jacketed from making any improvements to their workflow until their manager says so.

software developer working with agile methodology

By implementing a flatter organisational structure and allowing your teams to quickly adapt to changes, your company will be well-equipped to test different digital solutions and find one that best suits your business. 

If you are using digital consultancy services, make sure that your consultant also implements Agile frameworks within their own company. This will give you the peace of mind that you are getting help from professionals who really know how to cope with technological disruptions. 

Now that you know what the most important preparations are, let’s go through the actual steps you need to take when undergoing digital transformation. 

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What are the steps to digitally transform your business?

7 steps for digital transformation

In this section, we’ll take you through the seven steps that will help you create a time and cost-efficient digital transformation framework. 

In short, these seven steps are: 

  • Set your transformation KPIs
  • Identify your digital enablers
  • Design a digital transformation road map
  • Conduct cost and risk assessments
  • Create your new business process
  • Find potential partners to help you transform
  • Execute your strategy

1Set your transformation KPIs

Goal-setting is perhaps the most important aspect of your digital transformation framework.

You can extract the most suitable KPIs from your business’s digital pain points. By highlighting what needs to be improved, you can set your KPI targets accordingly.

Steve has just started accommodation leasing business and he currently manages over 30 different condominium rooms across Bangkok. His digital pain point is managing bookings manually through phone calls alone.

For this reason, many clients fail to contact him and his booking rates have been stagnant in the past three quarters. From this pain point, he decided that the primary KPI for this business’s digital transformation is to increase booking rates in the next 12 months.

By setting the correct KPIs, you will be able to measure the success of your business with metrics that directly impact your revenue.

2Identify your digital enablers

Next, you’ll need to find digital solutions that will be able to help you reach your KPI target. 

In the case of Steve and his accommodation leasing business, he’ll most likely need to invest in an online booking platform that will be able to automate and streamline his booking process. 

Meanwhile, other types of businesses in other industries like retail may need to start considering e-commerce solutions that will widen their customer reach. 

From Ruby on Rails development and PHP to competing CMS systems, there will always be competing digital solutions that are suitable for you. To make sure you invest in the right option, consulting digital transformation experts can go a long way to help you save costs further down the line.

3Create a digital transformation roadmap

Once you have set your KPIs and found the right digital solution for your business, you can start planning your transformation roadmap.

Doing so will help keep your transformation process on track, allowing you to identify potential delays or hiccups early on.

When planning your roadmap, you should again, look back to your digital pain point and derive your first order of tasks from there.

Afterwards, follow these steps to form your roadmap:

  • Set a pace of change: Determine a timeline for your business transformation process.
  • Processes and practices: List processes and practices that need to be changed in order of importance.
  • Define different phases: Split your transformation process into different phases, such as training, management structure, data analytics, cloud services, and so on.
  • Determine key milestones: Identify key turning points in your transformation process.

4Conduct cost and risk assessments

Determining how much your transformation plan will cost, as well as the risks associated with it will help you set a suitable budget for the process while also avoiding costly mistakes.

With that said, let’s go through the key points you need to consider when making these two assessments.

employees conducting cost and risk assessment

Cost assessment

By calculating the amount of investment needed to transform your business, you will be able to gauge two key crucial factors:

  • The extent of digitisation
  • The pace of digitisation

Poorly-planned budgets are one of the key pitfalls to digital transformation. By conducting cost assessment, you will be able to implement a transformation process that is within your budgetary constraints.

Meanwhile, conducting a cost analysis can also help you determine the pace of digitisation. In particular, smaller businesses tend to extend their digitisation timeline so that they can invest more in transforming their business over a longer period of time.

Risk assessment

As mentioned, there are plenty of businesses that have unsuccessfully transformed their business.

In fact, studies have found that up to 84% of businesses partially failed at digital transformation, while 50% failed completely (Forbes). 

This makes risk assessments extremely crucial for an uncertain, yet essential transformation process.

5Build your new business process

There’s a saying that goes, “if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” So if you’re looking for better results, transforming your internal business processes is the best place to start.

Using digital technology to automate your business processes could have the following benefits:

  • Streamlined processes: Avoid low productivity and employee dissatisfaction.
  • Transparency and clarity: Prevent miscommunication with an automated workflow
  • Standardised operations: Increase customer trust with standard operational practices

6Find potential partners to help you transform

It is important to note that your decisions should always be based on quality over quantity when choosing potential partners to join your business.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a partner business or agency:

  • Complementary strengths: Your partner business or agency should provide complementary products or services without being in direct competition with your business.
  • Aligned core values: Does your partner value the same type of growth and transformation? And most importantly, how willing are they to take part in that change?

If the right partners are chosen, there are many benefits that your business could gain. This includes sharing digital resources, business intelligence, digital expertise and more.

business collaboration

7Execute your strategy

Now that you have crafted your digital transformation strategy, you are ready to start the execution phase.

From setting the correct KPIs and identifying digital enablers to vetting potential business partners, paying close attention to each of these steps will be crucial to the success of your digital transformation.


Start transforming your business today

Today, digital transformation has become essential for the growth and survival of all businesses. 

However, the task of transforming your business can be both daunting and overwhelming, as it requires an immense amount of expertise and investment. 

For this reason, lack of preparation is the key reason why the majority of businesses fail to digitise their services and operations.

With the help of our team at Morphosis, we can speed up your transformation process and make sure that you are making all the right decisions along the way. 

We are a leading digital agency that specialises in designing and developing innovative digital solutions. To learn more about how we can help you transform your business, contact our team of experts for a free consultation session today.