Digital transformation, defined by the AWS transformers

Some pointers from the folks at Amazon Web Services.

"Digital transformation" is the term du jour these days, but how do you know if it's the real deal?

Photo: Joe McKendrick

Our friends at Amazon Web Services, the transformers of transformers, have a checklist for that. While directed at government agencies, the points are helpful to organizations of all types. "Digital transformation requires strong leadership to drive change, as well as a clear vision," according to the authors of the checklist, Carina Veksler and Doug VanDyke, both with AWS.

Here are their main items for consideration:

Managing Transformation

  • "Communicate a vision for what success looks like.
  • Define a clear governance strategy, including the framework for achieving goals and the decision makers responsible for creating them.
  • Build a cross-functional team to execute activities that support the strategy and goals.
  • Identify technology partners with the expertise to help meet these goals.
  • Move to a flexible IT system that supports rapid change.

Cultural Considerations

  • "Reorganize staff into smaller teams to empower decision-making.
  • Train staff on new policies and best practices.
  • Give permission to deviate from traditional rules.
  • Build a cloud development environment that exists as a place to play and build confidence with new skills.
  • Shift to a short-term planning mindset and continuously iterate on the plan (agile project management).
  • Consider hiring consultants to help with initial projects."

Development Considerations

  • "Adopt the philosophy of a cohesive unit across developers and operations, and quality assurance and security functions.
  • Encourage an ownership mindset throughout the entire development and infrastructure lifecycle, irrespective of roles.
  • Provide your team with standardized DevOps tools and training.
  • Build a unified code repository.
  • Add built-in security.
  • Perform frequent but small updates to remain agile and make deployment less risky.
  • Create an automated solution (drives consistency, regardless of workflow or service)."


  • "Create a data-driven metrics system.
  • Evaluate improvements and progress toward goals.
  • Assess whether the organization is planning and delivering consistently on goals within specified timeframes."


  • "Pool limited resources to reduce cost and redundant efforts.
  • Evaluate whether incremental changes produce higher-quality results.
  • Be specific about how to improve communication."