Digital Transformation Must Be Driven by C-Level Executives

‘Digital transformation’ has become one of the biggest items on many business’ agendas over the last 12 months, consuming almost every industry that is eligible for the change, b

But according to Jon Payne, Manager of Sales Engineering at InterSystems, it’s only possible with the drive of c-level teams.

Digital transformation is all about changing the way a business operates and to become an organisation that is agile, data-centric and capable of evolving rapidly. However, many are still missing a trick when it comes to implementing change, with a lot of companies building their transformation projects from the bottom up. This explains why 70% of digital transformation projects don’t reach their stated goals. In order to succeed, they must be led from the top, with every member of the board having an important part to play. Digital transformation has to be a collaboration of minds and leadership from every board member is critical.

From the Head of HR to the CIO and CEO, everyone must be engaged with the digital transformation project in some way.

The roles of the c-suite

From the Head of HR to the CIO and CEO, everyone must be engaged with the digital transformation project in some way. For example, the CEO must take the lead, set a direction and decide where they want the business to go. The role of the CIO should be to look at how all the information flows might change and who owns that information. For the CTO, the priority should be to decide what technology is needed to enable digital transformation. The CMO should look at how the company currently deals with customer engagement and how they should do it moving forward. They must think about how they could they do customer engagement differently and more effectively in a digital world and the new channels they could potentially use. The c-suite as a whole must also consider security and information ownership challenges that digital transformation may bring, as well as the risks, all of which will differ radically as the business model evolves. If the culture of the organisation is being changed during the digital transformation process the HR team must also be heavily engaged and supportive.

Where to start?

The most effective, least risky way of approaching digital transformation is by starting with one business unit. This contained method will allow the business to apply learnings to other parts of the company as time goes on. Too much change at once isn’t feasible and is likely to mean the c-suite loses control of the process. The c-suite should be involved in the entire process, from the planning stage right through to implementation. However, that’s not to say they shouldn’t delegate. Before delegating, the c-suite must first understand what success means.

Digital transformation is often an evolutionary process for organisations. Rarely do businesses get everything right the first time, so metrics must be in place to determine what success looks like and whether a change has worked or not. Once these metrics are in place, members of the c-suite can then delegate authority to employees so they can make decisions but with the understanding that it’s permissible to fail. In these scenarios, the c-suite member must still be accountable for any decisions those employees make and any resulting successes or failures.

There’s no denying that digital transformation can be a difficult process, however, the involvement of the c-suite is vital to its success. For the entire organisation to buy into the process, the example needs to be set from the top. While the c-suite is unlikely to drive day-to-day implementation, their continued support and involvement is crucial. Smaller organisations without a traditional c-suite shouldn’t be deterred from undergoing digital transformation. These companies should appoint one person to take charge but get all employees round the table, engage everyone and work together to decide how to approach it.

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