As products and services increasingly go digital, the idea of a business being shackled to any technology is abhorrent. The digital-centric world we inhabit is just too fast-paced, and nothing is certain any more.

What’s more, change is perpetual. Only the nimble are in a position to react and adapt. Only organizations that have developed a competency for digital transformation can keep up. Only those that have used that competency to architect their organizations with modular technologies, hackable processes, and an experimental culture will prevail.

The need to transform

The concept of transformation is nothing new—it emerged in the mid to late 20th century when globalization forced the manufacturing industry to adopt a new set of practices to remain competitive.

Today, the need to transform comes from the perpetual parade of emerging “game-changing” technologies. Startups are aggressively deconstructing established business models and innovating new ways to disrupt them. It’s a death by a thousand cuts, and the lumbering incumbent enterprise is too slow to respond.

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The challenge of continuous transformation

While digital technologies present an outside threat to mature businesses in the hands of startups, they also present an inside threat by forcing a challenge to the status quo.

Going digital with business operations about the organization. It changes how we do our work. It gives power to some and takes it away from others. It breaks our mental world—ungrouping, redistributing activities across a new set of functions and departments; demanding that we rethink how, where, when, and by whom our work should be performed; and changing our culture, reorganizing teams, creating new organizational structures, and asking us to have a new perspective on the world.

To remain competitive, organizations need to continuously seek out and find the next process or system to define in software, unearth new flow efficiency bottlenecks, and pinpoint additional transformation initiatives. Meanwhile, disruptive practices and technologies are continuously emerging in the marketplace that fuel the sense of urgency.

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At its core, the competency of continuous transformation is about understanding and rationalizing the organizational impacts of technological change. For that reason, it needs to be developed as an internal skill set—it is not something that should lightly be outsourced or entrusted to consultants. It is a capacity that needs come from a source within, one that is continuously exposed to the unique struggle of the business.

Investing in this adaptive capacity is difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain, but this will be the key factor in the next round of winners and losers in the digital economy.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network.