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The Korn Ferry
Digital Sustainability
Index 2017.

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Continuous transformation in the digital economy.

Transforming once for the digital era is no longer enough. To thrive in the digital economy and ensure long-term success, organizations must learn how to continuously adapt and become digitally sustainable.


Today, digital sustainability demands constant reinvention. To enable business leaders to respond to this demand to innovate again and again, we investigated the traits of digitally sustainable businesses and launched a global research study to understand how organizations across the world are performing on them. The result is The Korn Ferry Digital Sustainability Index (DSI).

We measured 362 organizations in 5 industries and 14 countries on the 5 core dimensions required for achieving digital sustainability:

Agility

Rapid decision-making, execution, and response to environmental changes.

Connectivity

Consistent dialogue and collaboration with internal and external stakeholder ecosystems.

Discipline & Focus

Unequivocal clarity on what ‘digital’ means to an organization and how to achieve desired outcomes.

Empowerment & Alignment

A definitive mission statement with an aligned workforce that is equipped to make decisions.

Openness & Transparency

Deliberate transparency about ethics, responsibilities, and practices. Employees are valued and creativity is encouraged.

Read the Digital Sustainability report to discover more insights.

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TEST YOUR INSTINCTS

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The answer is  

FALSE

Digitally mature economies are not necessarily the most digitally sustainable. The DSI reveals that economies such as China and industries such as Consumer, though often considered digitally mature, may not be able to sustain continuous digital transformation over time. What got a company, industry, or country ahead of the pack in the past may not be enough to maintain their competitive position in the future.

You chose correctly!

The answer is  

FALSE

Digitally mature economies are not necessarily the most digitally sustainable. The DSI reveals that economies such as China and industries such as Consumer, though often considered digitally mature, may not be able to sustain continuous digital transformation over time. What got a company, industry, or country ahead of the pack in the past may not be enough to maintain their competitive position in the future.

A 10-point rise in DSI score leads to an average of 1.5% point increase in profitability margins. For a mid-cap organization with revenue of $7 billion, this could represent a significant increase in profit of $105 million.

44% of variance in company EBITDA margin is explained by The Digital Sustainability Index.*

*Together with sector controls, inflation, inflation2 and GDP growth rate. Based on 310 companies (after excluding outliers) where profit margin data was available (out of 362 overall).

How does digital sustainability differ by industry?

Opportunities for improvement exist in organizations across industries, although pockets of excellence provide a foundation for change.

 

Click on the industry buttons below to discover how each industry ranks in the five dimensions of digital sustainability.

Overall DSI
Agility
Connectivity
Discipline
& Focus
Empowerment
& Alignment
Openness &
Transparency
1. FINANCIALS
2. TECHNOLOGY
3. LIFE SCIENCES & HEALTHCARE
4. INDUSTRIALS
5. CONSUMER
Overall DSI
Agility
Connectivity
Discipline
& Focus
Empowerment
& Alignment
Openness &
Transparency
1. LIFE SCIENCES & HEALTHCARE
2. TECHNOLOGY
3. INDUSTRIALS
4. FINANCIALS
5. CONSUMER
Overall DSI
Agility
Connectivity
Discipline
& Focus
Empowerment
& Alignment
Openness &
Transparency
1. FINANCIALS
2. LIFE SCIENCES & HEALTHCARE
3. INDUSTRIALS
4. CONSUMER
5. TECHNOLOGY
Overall DSI
Agility
Connectivity
Discipline
& Focus
Empowerment
& Alignment
Openness &
Transparency
1. FINANCIALS
2. TECHNOLOGY
3. LIFE SCIENCES & HEALTHCARE
4. INDUSTRIALS
5. CONSUMER
Overall DSI
Agility
Connectivity
Discipline
& Focus
Empowerment
& Alignment
Openness &
Transparency
1. FINANCIALS
2. LIFE SCIENCES & HEALTHCARE
3. CONSUMER
4. INDUSTRIALS
5. TECHNOLOGY
Overall DSI
Agility
Connectivity
Discipline
& Focus
Empowerment
& Alignment
Openness &
Transparency
1. TECHNOLOGY
2. INDUSTRIALS
3. FINANCIALS
4. CONSUMER
5. LIFE SCIENCES & HEALTHCARE

1

2

3

4

5

Overall Digital Sustainability Index Rank
FINANCIALS
TECHNOLOGY 
LIFE SCIENCES & HEALTHCARE 
INDUSTRIALS 
CONSUMER 
Agility
1
2
3
4
5
Connectivity
1
2
3
4
5
Discipline
& Focus
1
2
3
4
5
Empowerment
& Alignment
1
2
3
4
5
Openness &
Transparency
1
2
3
4
5

1

2

3

4

5

Overall Digital Sustainability Index Rank
FINANCIALS
TECHNOLOGY 
LIFE SCIENCES & HEALTHCARE 
INDUSTRIALS 
CONSUMER 
Agility
1
2
3
4
5
Connectivity
1
2
3
4
5
Discipline
& Focus
1
2
3
4
5
Empowerment
& Alignment
1
2
3
4
5
Openness &
Transparency
1
2
3
4
5

Read the Digital Sustainability report to discover more insights.

download now

Financial Services is the surprise front-runner, topping the Digital Sustainability Index by some margin, outperforming even Technology firms.

Consumer is the shocking low scorer of the industries, ranking last overall and poorly across all five dimensions.

How does digital sustainability stack up around the world?

The US and UK are the most digitally sustainable countries with consistently strong performance across the five dimensions of digital sustainability, but consistency was not the norm across the globe.

 

Click on the map pins below for more details on country rankings.

1st United States
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2nd United Kingdom
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5th Germany
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3rd The Netherlands
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6th France
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4th Australia
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8th Japan
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7th Middle East
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9th India
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10th Russia
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11th China
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14th Turkey
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13th Brazil
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12th Mexico
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1st   United States

AGILITY:

Rank: 2nd

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 1st

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 1st

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 2nd

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 2nd

Placing first overall, the US performs strongly across the board, coming first or second in every dimension of digital sustainability and achieving an impressive overall DSI score of 89/100. But while the country tops the global rankings for Discipline & Focus and Connectivity, it receives its lowest score for Empowerment & Alignment indicating that US organizations should be concentrating on cultural shifts to align their workforces and equip them to make decisions.

to UK »

2nd   United Kingdom

AGILITY:

Rank: 1st

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 3rd

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 3rd

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 1st

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 4th

The UK is a top performer in the Digital Sustainability Index, coming a highly respectable second. But could the category in which it scores lowest, Connectivity (75/100), raise concerns in the context of Brexit and a move to tighter borders? Organizations in the UK would be well served to focus on close working relationships, knowledge-sharing and cross border collaboration to ensure continued digital success. Similarly, a deliberate review of practices around Openness & Transparency, the UK’s lowest ranking dimension, would help to ensure UK based organizations continue to keep up with the constant pace of change.

« to US
to netherlands »

3rd   The Netherlands

AGILITY:

Rank: 3rd

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 4th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 5th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 3rd

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 1st

Dutch firms performed well in the Digital Sustainability Index, leading to an overall country ranking of third place. The country ranked first of all of the countries in Openness & Transparency, showing organizational strength in transparency about ethics, responsibilities, and practices. The Netherlands also placed a strong third for Agility and Empowerment & Alignment but was let down by comparatively weak performance in Connectivity (fourth) and, in particular, Discipline & Focus (fifth). In general though, consistent top five finishes across all the Index’s measures means the country should focus on doing more of the same going forward. Its well-regarded education system and good technical and physical infrastructure should stand it in good stead.

« to UK
to australia »

4th   Australia

AGILITY:

Rank: 4th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 6th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 2nd

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 6th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 3rd

Australian organizations performed well across the board in the Digital Sustainability Index, with strong rankings in Discipline & Focus (second), Openness & Transparency (third) and Agility (fourth). Whilst the country has a less well-connected, innovation ecosystem compared to many countries, it placed fourth of all countries and at the top of Asia Pac by some way. This may, in part, be due to recently introduced government backed digital schemes brought in to drive connections with global players, start-ups, incubators and labs but also an increased focus on hiring from across the globe to develop digital skill sets. Both of these recent moves are likely to help Australia improve its Digital Sustainability Index score even further going forward.

« to netherlands
to germany »

5th   Germany

AGILITY:

Rank: 5th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 5th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 4th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 4th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 5th

Germany achieved consistent fourth or fifth rankings across every dimension of the Digital Sustainability Index, resulting in a highly respectable fifth place overall and a high score of 74/100. Agility and Connectivity were Germany’s weakest scoring dimensions, suggesting a focus on these areas could further help companies in Germany compete in the digital world. Germany’s top five placement is a key contributor to the overall robust performance of European countries in the index – accounting for four of the top six countries.

« to australia
to france »

6th   France

AGILITY:

Rank: 6th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 10th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 6th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 7th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 6th

France appears to struggle with building networks and collaboration, placing a disappointing tenth in the Connectivity dimension. However, the country is moving to a more digitally sustainable position, with venture capital and private equity firms investing in making the country a true digital hub. This increased digital focus and dynamic has contributed to the country placing highly across the remaining four dimensions and France’s overall position in the top half of the table in sixth place, cementing Europe as an overall leading light.

« to germany
to middle east »

7th   Middle East

AGILITY:

Rank: 9th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 2nd

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 7th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 11th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 8th

The Middle East is a tale of two halves, placing a respectable seventh overall but with widely varying performance across the dimensions. The region ranks in high second place for Connectivity and falls as low as eleventh for Empowerment & Alignment. The value of aligned employees to organizations’ digital journeys is far from being fully realized and is an area in need of attention if the Middle East is to rise through the ranks.

« to france
to japan »

8th   Japan

AGILITY:

Rank: 7th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 8th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 12th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 5th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 13th

Japan achieved a mixed bag of rankings across the five dimensions, leading to a mid-table placing of eighth overall. Placing fifth in Empowerment and Alignment, Japanese organizations prove their strength in aligned workforces who are equipped to make decisions. But it was Japan’s second from bottom placement for Openness & Transparency coming in at thirteenth of the fourteen countries measured and nearly as badly for Discipline & Focus in twelfth place. This suggests that Japan may need to look at adapting their now overly traditional working practices in some of the world’s original and pioneering digital companies to return to being a global digital leader.

« to middle east
to india »

9th   India

AGILITY:

Rank: 12th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 9th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 9th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 9th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 7th

Indian companies place ninth out of 14 in the Korn Ferry Digital Sustainability Index, with below average performance in four of the five dimensions of digital sustainability, suggesting there are a number of areas requiring urgent attention.

 

While India is the poster child of a mobile-first population, its digital infrastructure, connected business practices, skills support, empowerment and focus on digital working strategy has not caught up – demonstrated by poor rankings in Agility (twelfth), Connectivity (ninth), Empowerment & Alignment (ninth) and Discipline & Focus (ninth).

« to japan
to russia »

10th   Russia

AGILITY:

Rank: 13th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 7th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 11th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 8th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 10th

Russia is tenth out of 14 countries ranked in the Korn Ferry Digital Sustainability Index. Poor performance in Agility (thirteenth), Discipline & Focus (eleventh) and Openness & Transparency (tenth) are holding the nation’s companies back from a sustainable digital future. Hierarchical structures, combined with slow and formal decision-making processes are contributing factors to a low score in Agility. Whilst a poor ranking in Discipline & Focus, suggests leaders should focus on defining exactly what digital means for them and learn from forward-looking Russian companies who make digitalization a part of their agenda.

« to india
to china »

11th   China

AGILITY:

Rank: 10th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 12th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 8th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 10th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 14th

China’s eleventh place overall rank may come as a surprise, but represents a warning that conditions which have led to digital success in the past may not necessarily be a predictor for future success. Chinese firms place last when it comes to Openness & Transparency. This, together with low rankings for Connectivity (twelfth), Empowerment & Alignment (tenth) and Agility (tenth), contribute to China’s overall placing in the Index. Strong digital infrastructure and maturity do not add up to digital sustainability, without the supporting culture, people and structures to unleash the ability to transform again and again.

« to russia
to mexico »

12th   Mexico

AGILITY:

Rank: 14th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 11th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 10th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 12th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 9th

Despite the Digital Sustainability Index leader, the US, being its biggest trading partner, Mexico struggles with digital sustainability, scoring less than a third as many points as its neighbour and placing twelfth overall. Its bottom placement in the Agility dimension suggests the country’s hierarchical corporate cultures are stalling collaboration or sharing of ideas and preventing a move towards a more digitally sustainable way of doing business.

« to china
to brazil »

13th   Brazil

AGILITY:

Rank: 11th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 13th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 13th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 13th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 12th

Brazil has a way to go to prepare itself for success in a digital future, placing second from last of the 14 countries included in the Digital Sustainability Index. Action is required across all five dimensions of digital sustainability meaning the pace of change and innovation must speed up if businesses are to keep up with the rest of the world. Brazil does, however, have pockets of excellence that other organizations can learn from. The Financial Services industry, for instance, with the top five banks – most of which are still Brazilian-owned – experiencing on-going strong results.

« to mexico
to turkey »

14th   Turkey

AGILITY:

Rank: 8th

CONNECTIVITY:

Rank: 14th

DISCIPLINE & FOCUS:

Rank: 14th

EMPOWERMENT & ALIGNMENT

Rank: 14th

OPENNESS & TRANSPARENCY:

Rank: 11th

Turkey places last overall of the 14 countries included in the Digital Sustainability Index, as well as in three of the dimensions required for digital sustainability. A glimmer of hope comes from its eighth place ranking for Agility, suggesting the potential to adapt to market and environmental changes, and timely decision-making and execution. Organizations must focus on putting the right strategies in place to reach maturity, as well as overcome regulation and macroeconomic issues.

« to brazil
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The top five countries are pulling away from the rest of the world, with no sub-6th place ranking between them.

Despite its status as an economic and digital superpower, China is among the mid-to-low performers across all measures of digital sustainability, suggesting that digital maturity does not add up to digital sustainability.

So how do organizations become more digitally sustainable and seize the opportunities of the digital economy?

Read the new Digital Sustainability Index report to find out.

download now

Take the journey toward digital sustainability.

Our new thought paper looks at the journey organizations need to make to become digitally sustainable.

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