Digital transformations can be a huge undertaking for a business, and their success is largely dependent upon putting the right people in the right leadership roles. It might seem like a no-brainer to put a digital expert in charge of your digital transformation, but business insiders are more likely to be successful in this role. The Harvard Business Review featured a study of 50 cases that found 80% of the time insiders with little digital experience were more successful when placed at the head of digital initiatives. This is because a digital transformation at its core is just as much about organizational change as it is about technology. Business insiders have higher success rates because they already understand how the business works, have important relationships within the organization to get things done, and they understand the necessity of hiring digital expertise into their team. So, which business insiders are best suited to lead?

Bringing the Team Together

Historically, the CIO has been responsible for leading transformations within the company. Although the CIO still plays a front and center role in most of today’s digital transformations, the responsibility of these efforts is moving toward a set of tech executives. Market research company Forrester believes that tech executive teams are on the rise in the business world and will only become more popular. Forrester further emphasizes that companies seeking market differentiation and explosive growth should take this tech-driven approach in addition to their current innovation practices. Similar to how creating successful innovation teams drives growth at the base level of your organization, creating a successful digital transformation team rather than relying on one person to carry out these responsibilities will prove more successful.

Bringing together a multitude of IT departments across other departments and locations for a full company-wide transformation often requires a team effort. This can include the chief data officer (CDO), various members of the C-suite, digital services product development leads, digital engineering leads, sales and service leads, and the increasingly popular chief digital information officer (CDIO). The chief digital officer can approach the technology changes from an insider business perspective to help bring the digital transformation plans to fruition. However, the International Data Group’s “Digital Business Transformation 2019” report reveals that the CIO still takes charge of most aspects of the digital transformation process in the organizations surveyed.

The Role of the CIO

Tech leadership teams may be more viable for larger enterprises than smaller companies. Big or small, many companies still opt for CIOs to manage their digital transformations. To successfully lead the transformation functions and drive innovation forward, the CIO must adopt the responsibilities of a chief innovation officer, chief digital officer, and chief data officer all at once. Many companies feel that creating a separate CDO role to take over this project does not add value to the process beyond the initial phases of the transformation, so sometimes it can save time and resources for the CIO to step into this role as needed. Utilizing specialized software to keep a record for innovation can help organize the initiatives taking place. Over time, the CIO will transition out of their multi-hat role as the digital transformation concretes itself throughout the business. It is important for the leader to leave ranks and titles behind and be flexible to change for the greatest success. As previously discussed, it is equally important for the leader to build a team of different expertise when beneficial for the sake of a more fluid transition.

Is Your Leader the Right Fit for the Role?

Now that we have taken a look at who should really drive your digital transformation, it is important to assess whether or not the right person is in the right role. Evaluating their traits and understanding of the business is essential to securing your leader’s role in driving the digital transformation successfully. Below is a list of questions that can guide your evaluation.

  • Does the person understand the current business strategy and objectives?
  • Is this person trusted by fellow employees?
  • Does the person have an understanding of the customer?
  • Is this person a flexible risk taker?
  • Does the person have a clear vision of what digital transformation is?
  • Is this person able to work in an agile manner?
  • Does the person collaborate well with others?

In our previous blog 7 Tips for a Successful Digital Transformation, we discuss a more holistic view of how your organization can ensure a smooth transition. One of the key aspects of a successful digital transformation is having a strong and capable leader to execute your plans. Click here to learn more about how our agile innovation platform and program can help you successfully manage your digital transformation initiatives on an ongoing basis.