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5 Jul 2019

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Case Study: Environmental Scan / What Makes a Successful Digital Strategy? (2018)

1 Aug 2018

Client: Concordia University

Project: Environmental Scan / What Makes a Successful Digital Strategy? (2018)


Concordia University selected A21 in April 2018 to research higher education institutions’ and industries’ digital strategies and approaches to managing digital transformation. The Concordia University Digital Strategy Committee was charged with creating a path-breaking digital strategy for Concordia University and has undertaken work “to determine what actions we need to take to become a next-generation university that embraces the digital reality of our students, faculty, researchers, staff and life in general.”


The committee charged A21 with conducting an environmental scan of how and why digital strategies in a range of organizations succeed, and also why they “fail.” A21 conducted a literature review, web review, and interviews with thought leaders and practitioners in digital transformation and digital skills-building in higher education, non-profits, and corporations. Interviewees included digital literacy researcher and expert Dr. Monica Bulger; Tore Burheim of the University of Bergen; Michael Edson of the UN Live Museum; Dr. Daniel Greenstein of the Pennsylvania State University System; Melissa Highton of the University of Edinburgh; Dr. Gerald Kane, digital transformation researcher and professor of business at Boston College; Sarah Knight of Jisc; and Dr. Jill Leafstedt of Teaching and Learning Innovations, California State University, Channel Islands.


The publicly available report starts with a definition of “digital strategy” (“a plan of action for the adoption of institutional processes and practices to transform the organization and culture to effectively and competitively function in an increasingly digital world”). It provides examples of successful practices undertaken by organizations actively managing digital transformation in Canada, the United States and Europe, as well as examples of so-called “failure.” The answers as to why digital strategies succeed or fail are complex, but all hinge on six key elements that A21 identified during the research phase: People, Culture, Leadership, Organizational Alignment, followed by Data, and Technology. These findings were also presented at the Fall 2018 Coalition of Networked Information member meeting.


Services Provided:

  • Environmental Scan

Methods Used:

  • Interviews (in person, via telephone, and via videoconference)

  • Desk Research

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