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  • Writer's pictureMichael Williams

Lessons from Leicester City's Premier League Triumph for your Digital Transformation

The digital revolution is here, and ambitious CIOs, COOs, CTOs, and Chief Digital Officers in organisations everywhere are looking to propel their business to the forefront of this transformative wave.

Leicester City cheering after winning the Premier League in 2015/16


The odds can feel as if they are stacked against you – especially when you read McKinsey & Co reports of a shocking 70% failure rate for digital transformation.


The sheer scale of such an undertaking can be daunting, and fraught with complexities:


  • Creaking legacy systems,

  • Challenging talent acquisition

  • Difficulties in global collaboration,

  • A lack of clear metrics

  • Or a mixture of all of the above


Quickly, a visionary dream can turn into a complete logistical nightmare.


However, there is hope. And with the right approach (and people), digital transformation success is more than achievable.


For this blog, I am drawing upon the Leicester City 2015/16 Premier League season achievement that will forever be etched in footballing history. Leicester City, a team with 5,000-1 odds of winning the title, defied all expectations and shocked the world by becoming champions of England.


This remarkable story offers valuable lessons not just for sports fans, but also for businesses undergoing digital transformation.



The Underdogs Rise to the Top:

Just a year prior, Leicester were fighting relegation. Their squad lacked the star power of established giants like Manchester United or Chelsea. However, under new manager Claudio Ranieri, they developed a cohesive unit playing with a clear strategy and unwavering belief.

Jamie Vardy playing football

Digital Transformation Parallel:

Similarly, in digital transformation, established companies can be weighed down by legacy systems and siloed structures. Embracing agility and fostering a collaborative environment, just like Leicester City, empowers teams to overcome limitations and achieve unexpected results.


Signing Key Talent

Leicester City's improbable Premier League title win in 2015/16 wasn't just about tactics and team spirit. Smart acquisitions in the preceding seasons played a vital role in building a squad capable of defying all odds. Some of the key signings that bolstered their journey:


2014/15 Season:

Riyad Mahrez kicking a football

•  Riyad Mahrez (Winger - from Le Havre): A young and exciting talent, Mahrez brought pace, creativity, and a dangerous threat on the flanks. His dribbling skills and ability to create chances were instrumental in Leicester's attacking prowess.


•           Leonardo Ulloa (Striker - from Brighton & Hove Albion): A strong and physical striker, Ulloa provided a target man option in attack. His ability to hold up play and score crucial goals became valuable assets throughout the season.


•           Wes Morgan (Defender - from Nottingham Forest): An experienced and commanding centre-back, Morgan brought leadership and defensive solidity to the backline. His partnership with Robert Huth solidified into a formidable defensive unit.

These signings, along with the astute management of Claudio Ranieri, helped Leicester avoid relegation in the 2014/15 season, laying the foundation for their historic title run the following year.


2015/16 Season (Title-Winning Season):


N'Golo Kante playing football

•           N'Golo Kanté (Defensive Midfielder - from SM Caen): Arguably the most transformative signing, Kanté brought an unmatched work ethic and defensive presence to Leicester's midfield. His tireless running, tackling prowess, and ability to win the ball back were crucial in protecting the backline and initiating counter-attacks.


•           Shinji Okazaki (Striker - from Mainz 05): A hard-working forward with a knack for pressing and creating space, Okazaki complemented Leicester's attacking style. His tireless work rate and ability to link up with Jamie Vardy were valuable assets throughout the season.

These signings in both seasons addressed key weaknesses and added vital elements to Leicester City's squad. The combination of experience, talent, and a strong work ethic ultimately propelled them to the Premier League title.


Digital Transformation Analogy:

In the realm of digital transformation, these key signings by Leicester City mirror the importance of strategic acquisitions in the technical talent pool.

Just as Mahrez and Kanté brought unique skill sets that elevated the team's performance, businesses undergoing digital transformation can benefit from acquiring experts in specific digital, programme, project and transformation disciplines. Hiring expert transformation programme and project talent to bolster project delivery and execution capabilities or Technology specialists to enhance digital creativity and innovation, or cybersecurity specialists to improve data protection. 


By strategically "signing" the right talent, businesses can address critical gaps in their digital skill set and accelerate their transformation journey.


Playing to their Strengths:

Leicester didn't try to mimic the big boys. They capitalised on their strengths: a strong counter-attacking style, a never-say-die attitude, and a team spirit that transcended individual talent.

Digital Transformation Analogy:

Digital transformation isn't about blindly following trends.  Successful projects focus on identifying core competencies, leveraging existing assets, and utilising people differentials and technology to enhance existing strengths.

Adaptability and Continuous Improvement:

Throughout the season, Leicester adapted their tactics based on their opponents and injuries. They embraced continuous improvement, always seeking ways to refine their approach.

Kasper Schmeichel rolling out a football


Digital Transformation Application:

Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. The ability to adapt to changing market dynamics and technological advancements, just like Leicester's tactical flexibility, is crucial for long-term success.


Leadership and Culture:

Ranieri's calm and composed leadership inspired confidence in his players. He fostered a positive team culture where everyone contributed and felt valued.

Claudio Ranieri kissing the Premier League champions trophy

Digital Transformation Takeaway:

Strong leadership that sets a clear vision and cultivates a culture of innovation and collaboration is essential for successful digital transformation initiatives.



Leicester City's story is a testament to the power of teamwork, adaptability, and a clear strategy. By embracing these core principles, businesses undergoing digital transformation can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges and achieve remarkable results.


A lesson learned for sports teams, coaches and businesses everywhere.


If you’re a Leicester City fan who witnessed the Foxes football fairytale, or a just fan of seeing people and team achievement at its best, I’d love to hear your comments. 

Reach out to someone on our team at Eight Eights today and let's talk about how we can help you achieve your transformation vision.



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