Raising the digitisation bar higher

Results of Transformers 2019

Which large Dutch companies are leading the field with their digital transformation, and who still has a long way to go? Once again, this is the starting point for the third edition of Transformers, a research project by Vlerick Business School in partnership with Het Financieele Dagblad. The goal is to gain insight into the efforts towards digitisation being made by the big Dutch companies, as well as serving as a reality check and sharing useful insights to help them in their transformation process.

No fewer than 23 of the 51 companies participated for the third time in a row this year. That means that this edition of Transformers is more than just a reflection of the latest results: it also offers insight into the evolution of the phenomenon of digital transformation over the last few years.

Read the entire Transformers 2019 magazine (Dutch only) 

Front runners in 2019

This year thirteen companies really stand out with their efforts to achieve digital transformation. What makes them exceptional are their high scores for the six core skills required for a successful digital transformation: strategy, governance, talent, culture, technology and business processes. They stress that their activities have a very positive impact on their operating results. A new phenomenon this year is that some companies now see themselves as tech companies.

B&S Group SA
De Persgroep
Rituals Cosmetics
Royal HaskoningDHV
Royal Vopak
Wolters Kluwer
* In alphabetical order

Key conclusions

The digital transformation at large companies in the Netherlands does not work through a series of phases on its way to achieving a specific final goal. What is clearest of all in this third year of research is that the meaning and substance of digital transformation in itself is evolving. This is especially apparent in the self-reporting of the 23 businesses that have now been participating in this research for three successive years. Their benchmark for the extent and quality of the digital transformation is constantly being refined.

With the emergence and further integration of digital leaders in the workplace and, especially, in the boardroom, an increasingly critical view of efforts towards digitisation, new accompanying business models and concrete results is developing as well.


In 2017, pilots and experiments still seemed to be sufficient to put a company among the front runners in the research. That is no longer the case. To have an impact on company performance, the digital strategy requires an integrated approach that affects the entire company, and a larger number of more ambitious initiatives rather than a single experiment or pilot.

The vanguard of digital transformation is characterised by a high level of engagement and determination on the part of senior management and the company’s directors.

Digital talent

A fundamental difference is that front runners specifically focus their HR policy on attracting and retaining digital talent. Nevertheless, this aspect of digital transformation is lagging behind the efforts and achievements in terms of strategy, governance, technology, culture and business processes. Given the high level of competition between businesses to attract and retain the best people, this is a source of concern. The development of existing staff and their involvement in the digital transformation of their organisation also deserves more attention.


The digital transformation has no final goal, but represents ongoing attention to the rapid changes in the market and society. Technology is not the problem, whether it is a question of finding one’s own commercial applications for existing new technology, or inventing the very latest technology oneself.

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