“Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat” (Satre). Digital transformations involve every function in the organisation. In turn this requires the entire leadership to row in unison. But if everyone owns digital then no-one is leading. Finding an effective leader is perhaps the biggest challenge for firms wanting to digitise. This is the 5th post in a series building on 10 reasons why digital transformations are difficult. So how can ownership be established? Here are a few principles that work:
- Face into the issue. Some firms have a habit of ducking complex organisational issues, hoping that they will resolve themselves in time. This issue can’t be allowed to fester – there is too much value at stake.
- Don’t accept the obvious choice. Most organisations have a Chief Digital Officer (CDO). But not every CDO has the skills and experience to drive a digital transformation. Sometimes another leader (COO, divisional leader, CIO or other) is better qualified.
- Set the role for success. Even the most capable executive needs a clear mandate, a strong team, substantial funding and strong governance to succeed with digital transformation.
- Give every senior leader a role. Everyone needs skin in this game. Whilst one leader may be ultimately accountability for digital success, many others will need to contribute. For example the HR function may need to develop new career paths, compensation structures and recruiting approaches.
- Govern at the highest level. The importance, complexity and cross-functional nature of digital demands frequent board and executive committee attention.
In summary, everyone needs to row the digital boat. But one leader needs to steer it.