Did you know that a massive 70% of digital makeovers actually flop? Even though most companies and bosses get that keeping up with technology and going digital is a big deal, making it work is another story. Many companies have tried to jump on the digital bandwagon, but almost as many have crashed and burned. By looking at what went wrong for these five companies, we can get some tips on what not to do and get digital transformation (DT) on the right track.


When new companies shake up an industry, it’s super important to keep up, and having digital skills is the best way to stay flexible. The Blockbuster and Netflix story is a classic example of this. Remember the days when you could stroll into a Blockbuster to rent a movie or game? Well, those days are long gone. Blockbuster is like a poster child for a business that refused to get with the digital program. Back in 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, went up to the then-CEO of Blockbuster, John Antioco, and said – well almost:

“Hey, give me $50 million and you can have my company.”

At that time, Netflix was all about mailing DVDs to customers who ordered them online. But Antioco totally missed the memo and thought this whole thing was just a small, niche service that wouldn’t become a big deal. The real issue was that he couldn’t imagine a world where you didn’t have to walk into a store to rent stuff. Meanwhile, Netflix had its eyes set on a future full of digital transactions and super convenience. Antioco turned down the offer and showed Hastings the door. In 2011, Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Today, a single store, located in Bend, Oregon, remains open – mainly as a tourist attraction. On the flip side, Netflix is now worth a mind-boggling $192 billion, hanging out in the same league as media giants like Disney (worth $161 billion) and Comcast (worth $189 billion).

Lesson learnt – If companies stick solely to traditional, familiar methods and don’t embrace creative thinking and innovation, they can get stuck in a rut. In today’s digital world, it’s essential to be open to experimentation in order to discover fresh avenues to reach customers and innovative approaches to generate revenue.


In 2011, GE kicked off a major initiative to establish its presence in the digital software realm. They built a massive IoT platform, added sensors to their products, and revamped their business models for industrial goods. In 2015, they took the next big leap by creating a fresh business unit named GE Digital. The grand plan was to harness data and propel GE into the realm of technological prowess.

Despite pouring in billions of dollars and employing thousands of people at GE Digital, the company’s stock price continued to slide, and their other products took a hit too. Unfortunately, GE Digital found itself caught in a cycle of reporting quarterly earnings to appease shareholders, prioritizing short-term gains over long-term innovation and growth. This shift in focus led to the CEO being pushed out of the picture.

Lesson learnt – Shift the attention to quality over quantity. GE spread itself too thin by jumping into various projects without a clear game plan. It’s like they were too big to change everything simultaneously, and they didn’t even know exactly where they were headed. When it comes to going digital, it’s often better to have a small bunch of passionate folks leading the charge rather than getting everyone and their dog involved.


In 2014, the iconic American car manufacturer Ford decided to step into the digital world by launching a fresh division known as Ford Smart Mobility. Their aim? To create cars with all sorts of digital wizardry that amped up their mobility game. However, things went a bit haywire because this new segment didn’t really blend in with the rest of Ford. Not only did it have its headquarters miles away from the main company hub, but it also seemed like its own separate thing, disconnected from the rest of the business gang. While Ford was throwing loads of cash into this new adventure, it started having issues with the quality of its other products. Their stock price took a nosedive, and a few years down the road, the CEO decided to call it quits.

Lesson learned – Blend your digital transformation plans seamlessly with the overall company strategy. Instead of treating digital transformation as a complete overhaul, think of it as a strategic shift towards a new business avenue. To make it work, ensure that digital transformation is tightly woven into the fabric of the entire company.


Consumers nowadays show much less loyalty to brands compared to three decades ago. This means companies have to put in extra effort to truly understand their consumers and foster loyalty. Having access to consumer data enables companies to craft tailored content, engage effectively on relevant platforms, and consistently learn from their successes and failures. Without this invaluable insight, companies can end up making detrimental strategic blunders.

In 2012, JCPenney reflected on a major misstep that ultimately led to its downfall as a once-prominent retail giant. JCPenney attempted to replicate the trendy appeal of Apple. They underwent a period of transformation that revamped pricing and store layout but regrettably omitted thorough consumer research and data analytics to support these sweeping changes. The company’s aspiration was to reshape its brand into a minimalistic and “authentic” entity, even going so far as to alter JCPenney’s logo and tagline to “fair and square.” However, these alterations were driven purely by idealism and intuition, lacking any foundation in data, market trends, or genuine customer understanding. Following the rebranding effort, it was painfully evident that the new messaging had failed to resonate. In the quarter after the rebrand, JCPenney experienced a staggering 20% drop in sales, and a mere 16% of JCPenney shoppers could relate to the new company vision.

Lesson learnt – The information furnished by digital platforms holds immense value in shaping a brand’s understanding of its customers. Failing to seize the chance to harness consumer data and adopt a digital strategy can lead companies to face challenges in not only thriving but even surviving in the competitive landscape.


Companies that remain stagnant and resist growth will encounter difficulties in maintaining their share of the market. A striking illustration of this is Borders, a once-popular retailer specializing in books, magazines, and music. Their failure to adapt to the digital landscape resulted in a loss of market share and, ultimately, the demise of their business.

One of Borders’ initial blunders was its decision to split operations with Amazon, a move that backfired as they embraced e-commerce. Initially, Borders outsourced their online book sales to, and by the time they attempted to establish their own digital platform, they were already lagging behind the competition. Additionally, Borders failed to anticipate the surge in popularity of e-books and neglected to develop an e-reader to compete with Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook. A less-discussed aspect is Borders’ heavy focus on its music department. While emphasizing CDs was a smart move in the 1990s, the increasing prevalence of online music options left Borders digitally stranded, causing further erosion of their market share. Ultimately, mounting debt led to Borders’ downfall, resulting in the closure of all stores in 2011.

Lesson learnt – Keep an eye on what your competitors are up to and see if there are any cool ideas you can use for your own business. Once you’ve found a good area to grow in, put most of your energy there. Leverage digital technologies to foster growth and facilitate widespread expansion.


Automation is a fundamental component of digitalization and digital transformation. I’ve been in the cybersecurity and IT support business for almost 20 years. While I might have cybersecurity and risk mitigation in my bones and blood, I’ve also moved on with the times, increasingly seeing why businesses need automation and digital transformation. Working alongside me, you’ll never end up like Ford, JCPenney or GE. Or, God forbid, suffer demises like Blockbuster or Borders. Let’s get together soon. You’ll quickly see how digital transformation can rock your business culture, revolutionise the way you work, and keep your customers and team happy.

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