March 17, 2020

Digital Transformation Case Study: USG

Digital transformation has the power to disrupt traditional ways of working and unlock new capabilities and opportunities in practically any industry sector. In this case study, we examined the digital transformation journey of USG, a 118-year-old company best known for producing Sheetrock® brand gypsum wallboard panels.

We demonstrate that digital transformation enables a wealth of innovative opportunities, even in an industry that on its surface seems highly commoditized and without much room for differentiation. Rather, we found that digital transformation is enabling USG to reinvent critical aspects of its core operations, from automation and predictive analytics in its manufacturing plants to new ways of engaging with key customers through web-based, mobile, and virtual digital tools. The impacts of these efforts are providing tremendous value to USG and its customers.

This case study highlights several factors, many of which are still ongoing, that have contributed to USG’s digital transformation successes thus far:

  • Support and funding from executive leadership who established digital as a priority for the organization: USG digital leaders consistently pointed to executive support as critical to their success.
  • The power of simple frameworks: In both USG’s digital organizational structure and digital strategy, we saw evidence of the power of simple yet effective frameworks. A three-person digital team is equipped to lead significant change via coordination and collaboration. A five component strategy helps convey a common understanding of what digital means at USG and how USG approaches digital efforts.
  • Application of lean methods for digital projects: USG has learned from its experiences with startups and applied lean methodologies to explore digital initiatives, learn quickly from small experiments, and scale up efforts when impacts are proven.
  • Partnering mindset: Another important aspect of USG’s digital journey, related to a lean methodology, is a willingness to partner externally to gain access to digital talent rather than using internal staffing prematurely. Small, nimble teams of USG staff coupled with external talent have proven effective.
  • Operating lean, but not spending lean: USG’s lean mindset is coupled with a willingness to invest large sums of money when necessary to fully scale new digital tools.
  • Clear focal points for digital efforts: USG’s digital strategy is built on clear focal points (e.g., enhancing customer experience, improving manufacturing processes, creating new digital ecosystems).

Acknowledgements: RTI greatly appreciates the time and insights provided by USG leadership and digital team. Many thanks to Dilip Balachandran, Sam Immordino, Srinivas Veeramasuneni, and Leah Washburn.


IRI Members: To read and download the full case study, click here.  You can also view a presentation of the case study and Q&A with a member of USG’s digitalization team here.

Non IRI Members: Please email Gary Schiffres to request a PDF copy.