Nick Gold, Managing Director at Speakers Corner, discusses why the C-Suite, not just the IT department, needs to get involved in the digital transformation process.
Companies undergoing digital transformation need to map out the path. Responsibility for driving digital transformation across the enterprise lies with the C-suite. The CEO, chief marketing officer (CMO), chief human resources officer (CHRO) and chief operations officer (COO), among others, must work together to make the transformation happen. However, this can be difficult to achieve as certain members of the C-Suite are more proficient with technology than others. This article will look at how to overcome resistance/challenges at a senior level to any digital transformation strategy.
I find the interesting aspect of the rapid development in technology is that it has little to do with ‘digital’ but it is instead fundamentally driving businesses away from linear based workflows to neural programs where all parts are interconnected.
The challenge for any business embarking on a digital transformation project is moving away from a business culture where siloed work streams could deliver their parts of the project at specific points in a pre-ordained project plan. This would be mapped out using project management techniques such as the use of visual Gantt charts which gave clarity over the breakdown of every item required for delivery within a transformational project with the business owner and/or team members expected to deliver this portion of the plan at specific times.
Digital transformation has taken this well-worn methodology and crumpled it into a ball and created change where nothing can be done in isolation and every action has consequences on all areas of business. The result of consumers becoming ever closer to brands and brands striving for authenticity and purpose to deliver to their consumers means production, sales, marketing, technology, finance, human resources and any other function within a business all need to deliver with ‘joined up thinking’ or in real terms, the same focus and goals.
As such, companies have realised that their processes, their products and even the reason for their entire existence needs to change in order to survive this revolution. However, the C-suite are struggling to adapt because this isn’t a clearly defined problem and there isn’t a historical precedent to follow.
So, what does this mean for those C-Suite executives who had their fiefdom, where they, with their teams controlled and implemented the strategy in order to deliver the objectives of their sphere which would feed into the wider business objectives?
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 were clear and there was a clear delineation between their roles and responsibilities.
Now any change or decision has consequences that affects other areas of the business and similar change in other areas of the business affects them. The fourth revolution has bought the historical business divisions closer together, technology has meant that when discussing strategy or plans, the decision makers need to understand the effect across all areas of the business.
Every business needs to operate as a single collective, it could be said they need to operate with a start-up mentality, with entrepreneurial spirit where the focus is the end goal not immersed in the process to achieve it.
The business needs to have that drive where everyone is focussed on the overall strategy and interested in delivering it together for the benefit of the business, not for the benefit of their specific expertise.
The C-Suite need to understand this doesn’t mean they need to know the answers or become far reaching experts in areas they have limited to no knowledge of. They have to have their personal goals aligned with the right questions and be open minded to understand their responsibility as leaders is to create the environment where the people within the business can deliver for the success of the business not for the betterment of the division they are part of.
This moves the discussion at a C Suite level away from a technological 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 other who they view as experts. It moves the transformation away from digital to strategic.
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 new transformed business, but it is everything to do with the strategic path that the company needs to take in this new era.
The fourth industrial revolution, where change is happening at an ever increasing pace, requires the C Suite to 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 their business.