How enterprise digital transformation impacts your organization

Digital transformation is urgent and complex, and one or two C-level executives won't be able to handle it — especially on top of their day-to-day workload. So, how do you divide up such a big responsibility? We have some thoughts.

Enterprise digital transformation is no longer optional 

We've firmly entered the digital-first era, where companies who prioritize their digital offering are the most successful. A digital transformation is no longer optional or a nice-to-have –– it's a necessity. 

Even before the events of 2020, rapid digital transformation should have taken priority. But this year's challenges have made it an essential –– and added a sense of urgency to finish the task. In the early 2010s, businesses had the luxury to go slowly and test as they go, now, slow is no longer an option. Any enterprise that wishes to stay afloat needs to start their digital transformation as soon as possible. But the question is, who is the person that should be taking the lead? Who should you light a fire under? 

Is getting an outsider a good idea?

Enterprise digital transformation and the work it involves has opened up new positions and created new responsibilities for existing ones. 

When it comes to the new positions, do you look for a business insider, someone who knows the business inside out, or do you bring in a digital expert, someone who has led digital transformations before? 

The idea of opening up a new position or positions to outsiders is a particularly interesting and contentious one. In the early days of digital transformation, it was popular to hire an outsider in the form of a digital guru or consultant. They would come into the company and lead the charge, usually basing their strategy and execution on work with previous companies. However, this choice was a bad one for a lot of businesses. Often, the outsider wouldn't understand the business, follow a textbook strategy and fail to acknowledge the real needs of leaders and customers. 

It takes more than one person or even one side of the company to become a digital-first company. And interestingly, in a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), insiders with little digital experience who are placed at the head of digital initiatives succeeded about 80% of the time. Why? Because digital transformation is more than technology. It takes someone with in-depth business knowledge to undertake organization, which, when it comes down to it, is what enterprise digital transformation is really about. 

When it comes down to it, these positions benefit from the builder ethos. The builder ethos suggests choosing a "builder," someone internally who has excellent ideas, knows the business inside-out and will follow through from concept to finished product. 

What about our C-levels? Where do they fit in? 

Without bringing in an outsider, it’s up to your existing C-level executives to decide who does what. Who is going to lead the transformation? And where do the rest of the C-suite fit in? Shouldn’t this just go to a forward-thinking CIO? While there is no one right way to do it, here’s some ideas on how to divide up the responsibilities and roles involved in the process. 

  • CIOs, CTOs, and CIOs share technological knowledge and competencies. 

  • It's up to the CMO, CGO, CIO, CDO, and CEO to share the responsibility of identifying the direction of enterprise digital transformation. 

  • CDO, CCO and CMO share the responsibility for the customer-facing final product. 

While digital transformation has typically fallen to the CIO to lead, this has changed slightly in the past few years. Now, with Chief Innovation Officers (CIO) and Chief Digital Officers (CDO) arriving on the scene, the CIO's main task is to collaborate with the CTO and provide internal tech support for digital transformation. 

Combining responsibilities into a single position might work best for your company. Your business doesn't need the full suite of C-level executives to succeed at digital transformation.. Certain responsibilities and competencies overlap across officers. 

The main requirement for a successful digital transformation is the builder ethos within the company. It can start with one digital builder who envisions the product, gathers the talent and acquires the products needed.

So, who is leading your digital transformation? The answer is a whole lot of people. 

We’ve rounded up our best resources on digital transformation.

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