The Importance of Close C-suite Collaboration for Any Digital Transformation Project

Nick Gold, Founder and Chief Executive of Speaker’s Corner, discusses the importance of close C-suite collaboration for any digital transformation project.

A whole new world

The fourth industrial revolution, where technology meets disruption via the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, are fundamentally changing the way we live and work. This journey is taking us further into a world which we are only starting to understand.

As such, companies have realised that their processes, their products and even the reason for their entire existence need to change in order to survive this revolution. However, the C-suite is struggling to adapt because this isn’t a clearly defined problem and there isn’t a historical precedent to follow.

In days of old, a business problem would have been identified and a decision would be made to implement a technological solution. With the recommendation approved, the C-suite, usually the Chief Technology Officer, would be tasked to deliver the project. This suited all the C-suite members as it meant that the expertise of each member of the executive was clear and there was a clear delineation between their roles and responsibilities.

The C-suite now face an understanding that they need to undergo major digital transformation projects to adapt to this new age, but it now requires a complete re-think of the way projects need to be structured as there is no clear path to defining success for this transformation, because as noted earlier it sits as a strategic imperative of the ongoing survival and growth of the business.

Agile development

The concept of agile development where a project is an on-going collaboration between the business owners and their technological partners (either internally or externally within a company) in order to deliver a successful project first emerged in the 1970s. It took hold in the 1990s, where incremental or iterative development methods were used during a project to ensure the project could adapt and shift its deliverables during the course of the project as the business objectives were either clarified or changed. In the first dotcom era, it helped companies adapt to a technological environment where the emergence of understanding as much as technological developments meant that businesses were adapting their business strategies on the fly.

Companies have realised that their processes, their products and even the reason for their entire existence need to change in order to survive this revolution.

And this concept of agile development is where we are now, but the value and importance of it has gone beyond specific projects, it sets the concept of how C-suites and the business they run need to operate in order to undertake the digital transformation work that is required for any business in these times. It is no longer an area that sits within the technology or IT division of a company but rather it sits at the strategy level of a business and is the responsibility of everyone within the business to deliver.

This last statement is something that might strike fear into the hearts of certain people who, while they are leaders in their fields, might not sit comfortably with technology. They understand the changes in the world around them but feel that their responsibilities lie elsewhere, both from a pragmatic point of view and because they do not position themselves as experts in the IT arena.

I challenge anyone with that view to change. and change fast. Understanding technology or at least the digital era we are now in is nothing to do with IT or understanding computers. It’s an avoidance technique to absolve C-suite executives from being part of a conversation they feel others are more experienced or knowledgeable to have. They will argue the case that they will provide more value by not getting involved, potentially muddying the waters and leave to people who are deeply immersed in this area.

 Strategic path is key

But digital transformation is nothing to do with the build and delivery of the systems, it is nothing to do with the evolution of the business processes to work with the newly transformed business, but it is everything to do with the strategic path that the company needs to take in this new era.

That mission sits squarely at the feet of the C-suite. Their role is to provide strategic direction for the company, understand the opportunities for the business and shape the vision and direction in order for the wonderful people who work for that company to deliver in their specific areas. This moves the discussion at a C-suite level away from a technologically based discussion, away from a place where there might be reticence due to an individual’s relationship with technology to either be part of the discussion or even worse, not commit to their viewpoints as they defer to the points of views of other people who they view as experts. It moves the transformation away from digital to strategic.

As such, the C-suite is back to a place where the focus is around the direction of the transformation programme. The discussion should be about the measurements and criteria for success of the programme.

Critical milestones

The fourth industrial revolution, where change is happening at an ever-increasing pace, the C-suite must have a clear understanding of critical milestones from a business perspective, with diversity of business views based on expertise and experience, to ensure large scale digital transformation programs stay on track to deliver the requirements to deliver the survival, growth and success of the business.

The concept of agile development has moved away from being an IT-centric term for a digital project to the C-suite taking ownership and delivering their business knowledge and expertise to projects, to ensure success in this Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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