While global enterprise businesses are perpetually challenged to grow revenues while improving their margins, the current generation is also wrestling with the threat of industry-wide disruption driven by new, \u201cdigital first\u201d entrants.\nConsider how entire industry verticals \u2013 media, payments, shopping, travel, hospitality, to name but a few \u2013 have been up-ended by new entrants successfully leveraging digital technologies. The results are new products and services that delight customers with unexpected experiences, surprising convenience and radically lower prices. And while industry vertical enterprise incumbents possess undeniable assets \u2013 customer base, brand loyalty, global reach, capital resources \u2013 the previous two decades have provided irrefutable evidence that such assets, by themselves, are insufficient barriers to disruptive \u201cdigital first\u201d challengers.\nIn response, enterprise incumbents have the opportunity to not just defend their businesses but to lead their industries. To do so, they must transform into digital enterprises. These organizations embrace digital technologies across the entire enterprise value chain, from products to customer retention to supply chain integration to organizational agility. In doing so, they unleash their assets to serve their customers with the innovation and agility of a \u201cdigital first\u201d new entrant.\nThe enterprise IT organization, historically often a back office function in many industry verticals, has a leadership role to play in this digital transformation. In working the past few years with more than 450 enterprise IT organizations on their container platform strategy, my employer Docker has consistently seen the following as five keys to digital transformation success.\n\nPick a North Star\nStart with existing applications\nOptimize for choice\nAutomate application security\nTake an evolutionary approach to revolutionary innovation\n\n1. Pick a North Star\nDigital transformations do not happen overnight, and they rarely progress in a consistently smooth, linear fashion. The successful ones, however, are guided by a \u201cNorth Star\u201d \u2013 target outcomes or objectives \u2013 that everyone participating in the transformation is aware of and can refer to when prioritizing resource allocations and untangling dependencies.\nImportantly, the North Stars of successful digital transformations are business outcomes, e.g., \u201cbe able to respond to customer issues in 24 hours or less.\u201d Useful North Stars are not technology implementations, e.g., \u201cmove to the cloud.\u201d The North Stars of successful digital transformations avoid confusing the desired business outcomes with technical implementations.\n2. Start with existing applications\nNorth Stars and technology visions describe an exciting future state and should be motivating to organizations embarking on digital transformations. We have often seen transformations stall, when organizations attempt too large a jump \u2013 in technology, architecture and skills \u2013 toward the end state.\nIn contrast, successful organizations begin their digital transformation journey with what they already know, their existing applications. These applications and infrastructure typically consume around 80 percent of the IT spend and, as a result, modernizing them as part of the digital transformation journey delivers significant ROI, while establishing these apps as foundations for new applications and services. This transforms legacy application and data assets \u2013 often seen as \u201canchors\u201d or \u201cdrags\u201d on the business \u2013 into sources of competitive advantage against new digital entrants. For example, MetLife, a 149-year-old insurance company and No. 42 in the Fortune 500, used Docker\u2019s container platform to leverage its existing mainframe apps to create a new mobile experience for its customers.\n3. Optimize for choice\nThe rate of technological change at every layer in the stack is only accelerating. Of course, everyone from technology vendors to enterprise IT organizations try and take advantage of this in their products and services in a never-ending game of leapfrog versus their competitors. However, organizations pursuing digital transformations can, often unknowingly, find themselves locked in to a particular vendor\u2019s stack, worldview and pricing. And when the organization\u2019s market landscape suddenly shifts or their chosen technology vendor doesn\u2019t support their objectives, they\u2019re stuck.\nAware of the quickly-changing environment, IT organizations driving successful digital transformations optimize for choice at every layer in the stack. Choice of clouds, choice of app technologies, choice of infrastructure, choice of vendors \u2013 and this gives them the flexibility to quickly respond to market and technology changes with as little friction and risk as possible.\n4. Automate application security\nWith faster release cycles and empowered development organizations, traditional InfoSec checks-and-balances processes can slow and frustrate an IT organization hungry to impact the business. Yet in a world rife with security risks and ever-increasing compliance requirements, short-cutting security is not an option. What can IT do?\nSuccessful digital transformations integrate security from the very beginning of the application lifecycle. Moreover, they invest in platforms that enable them to automatically secure apps from the very first commit and then automate the enforcement of security policies throughout the lifecycle. Doing so allows the organization to move fast and empower developers without compromising security.\n5. Take an evolutionary approach to revolutionary innovation\nDocker is often brought in to enterprise organizations struggling with digital transformations. The pivotal moment is when, after investing years of effort and tens of millions of dollars, the enterprise collectively steps back and realizes the transformation efforts thus far delivered very little. Such failures are typically characterized by attempts to rebuild and rewrite the entire stack in one go, retrain the entire labor force and completely reengineer all the lifecycle processes.\nIn contrast, successful digital transformations take a \u201ccrawl, walk, run\u201d approach in which each phase of the digital transformation journey has clear, measurable objectives coupled with transparent and frequent feedback. Such an evolutionary approach enables the organization to adapt to changes, quickly learn from and correct the inevitable setbacks, and bank early \u201cwins\u201d that serve to align internal resources and secure support for the next, expanded phase of the journey. For example, Finnish Railway leveraged Docker\u2019s container platform initially to create new microservices-based apps for its existing commuter services. After refining their containerization strategy, Finnish Railway then decided to move over some of their existing applications to the Docker container platform.\nThe five keys to digital transformation are ones that we have learned over the past few years by working with our more than 450 enterprise customers on their container platform strategies. Digital transformation initiatives are not without risks, but non-stop demands from customers and competitive threats from new digital entrants make such transformations an imperative. As you and your organization consider your own journey, we hope the keys above trigger conversations to help you succeed.