Digital Transformation

through Product and Project Innovation Management



By Curt Raschke

Richardson, Texas, USA


Technology Transformation and Innovation

The phrase “Digital Transformation” has become so ubiquitous in so many different contexts that the only commonality seems to be its use as a marketing concept to sell computer hardware, software and / or consulting services. It seems to have become an all-purpose generic “transformation” encompassing “agile transformation,” “cloud transformation,” “IoT transformation,” “big data transformation,” “as a service transformation,” “mobile application transformation,” “business intelligence transformation,” “process automation transformation,” “DevOps transformation,” etc.

The multitude of white papers, presentations, advertisements, webinars and blogs on the subject generally assert that through the proper mix of digital technologies and capabilities, companies can “transform” their business models, business processes, organizational structures, employee engagement, customer experience, etc. This literature also, unfortunately, generally fails to give much actionable direction on how to accomplish these desired goals. So how, then, can a company or organization decide how and when to utilize the many available digital tools to significantly grow its business and / or improve internal customer satisfaction?

Fortunately, while many digital technologies are indeed new, technology driven “transformations” are not, and provide useful “lessons learned” that can be applied to the question of how to best exploit the newest digital technologies. Examples of such “transforming” technologies in the last 200 years include steam, electricity, telegraphy, telephony, internal combustion, radio, powered flight, photography, television, computers, and the internet; each of which “transformed” businesses and eventually society.

While each of these transformational technologies were very different, in every case, the actual transformations occurred through the innovative products (goods and services) enabled by the technology that delivered services not previously available. The first lesson learned, then, is that all technology transformations actually occur not directly through the technology but through the use of products (goods and services) enabled by the technology, and the transformational value is through the service experience provided. The second lesson learned is that transformational products are very innovative either in how the product is used or in how the service is delivered; that is, transformation and innovation are inextricably linked.

Digital (Product) Transformation

Based on the history of these previous technology transformations, a simplified explanation of digital transformation might be along the lines of: Creation and widespread usage of innovative software enabled products that provide valuable, previously unavailable services to a broad range of customers and end users. Looking at digital transformation in terms of software enabled products and services makes it easier for businesses to choose which digital tools to invest in and estimate how their business models, organizational structures, employee engagement, etc. will have to change to accommodate the new products. This approach also allows a company to leverage the extensive body of knowledge on product development and product lifecycle management to achieve its specific goals.

The first question a company should ask, then, when contemplating digital “transformation”, is not what digital technologies it should embrace, but rather what customer base does it want to serve and what needs or desires do the customers and end users have that are not presently met by existing products? Once the first question is answered, the second question is to ask specifically which technologies should be developed or acquired to enable goods and services that satisfy the unmet customer and end user needs and for which the customer is willing to pay enough to generate adequate financial return.

Too often, when companies contemplate digital transformation by focusing primarily on technology options, rather than the customer and end user needs, they inevitably end up using the technology to lower costs, respond to competitive products, or extend existing product lines; all of which may make good business sense but are hardly transformational. No, meaningful business transformation requires the deployment of transformational products that are both significantly innovative in how the goods and services are used or delivered and provide significantly greater value than existing products. Such product innovation, in turn, drives changes to business processes, organizational structures, employee skill sets, etc., with the degree of change determined by the degree of innovation needed.

The third lesson learned, then, is that innovative products by themselves are necessary but not sufficient. The innovation must be carefully identified and managed so that the product enabled by the innovation provides significant value to both the vendor and the customer; the customer must be willing to pay enough for the product to generate adequate financial return on investment for the vendor. As will be discussed, this innovation management has both a product dimension and a project dimension.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 12th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in May 2018.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Raschke, C. (2018).  Digital Transformation through Produce and Project Innovation Management; 12th UT Dallas Project Management Symposium, Richardson, TX, USA, May 2018; PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue VII – July. Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/pmwj72-Jul2018-Raschke-digital-transformation-utd-conference-paper.pdf

About the Author

Curt Raschke, PhD

Texas, USA



Curt Raschke
is a product development thought leader, innovative project manager and business process change agent helping global high technology companies adapt their products, projects and processes to changing market opportunities. He also teaches an Executive MBA course on “Effective New Product Introduction” at the UT Dallas Center for Intelligent Supply Networks on using innovative product introductions as the basis for sustainable competitive advantage. Curt founded the UT Dallas Applied Project Management Forum in 2004 and served as Chair of the Project Management Institute’s New Product Development Specific Interest Group for five years. He has a Ph.D. in Solid State Physics with PMP and Lean Six Sigma certifications. He can be contacted at [email protected]