When it comes to digital transformation (DX), a qualified and effective leadership can fast-track business success.
The role of the transformation leader has evolved a lot in recent years. From selecting the right digital tech stack to facilitating the new systems rollout, a transformation leader has to address different challenges in digitization.
And, oftentimes they find it hard to guide the organization through a digital revolution. It requires a new set of leadership traits to tackle modern business challenges and make a long-lasting impact. Therefore, in this blog, we will be discussing the top 10 qualities of a successful digital transformation leader.
With digital transformation on the rise, companies have started experiencing a shift in the responsibilities across different roles. The role of transformation leader is filled with challenges and learning curves.
Traditionally, CIOs and CTOs are in charge of a company’s IT (information technology) modernization. But, their roles have now become a lot more focused on heading up business strategies for the digital age.
Today, these C-suite leaders are not only responsible for company’s overall IT strategy, but also for:
- Establishing objectives for digital transformation initiatives
- Analyzing the costs and potential value of technology
- Designing company-wide digital transformation strategies
- Managing other key players in the digital transformation process
- Motivating and aligning team members to embrace transformational initiatives and technologies
- Building a culture that supports innovation and technology-driven initiatives
So, what new qualities should the CTOs and CIOs possess to successfully lead the DX initiatives? What are the characteristics that help a CIO or CTO in driving an impactful transformation?
A successful transformation leader always thinks customers first.
You see, the customers’ expectations are rising day by day and therefore having excellence in a single channel is not just enough for your business. Customers expect the same frictionless and smooth experience in a physical store as they do when shopping online and vice versa. They have become less tolerant of poor experiences.
Improving customer experience should be the core of your digital transformation strategy. You can get actionable data from every single customer interaction and use this data to test your assumptions about how customers use digital platforms and how you can fine-tune their experiences further.
EY’s Global Microsoft Alliance Lead and America’s Technology Strategy Lead, Jim P. Little, says, “There’s a real focus on having much more of an experience mindset. It’s really about thinking through the customer experience and then applying your digital technologies against that.”
Tim O’Reilly, Founder, and CEO of O’Reilly Media, said, “Every industry and every organization will have to transform itself in the next few years. What is coming at us is bigger than the original internet, and you need to understand it, get on board with it and figure out how to transform your business.”
Implementing digital transformation in a business is about reimagining how the organization functions – from its processes to systems, to data, to customer experiences, to people.
Although the need for change is nothing new, the challenges of the year 2020 bring in the sense of urgency to it.
Today, businesses do not have the luxury of ample time at their disposal. Therefore you need to recognize the urgency and respond with a clear strategy and strong vision.
When deployed at the right time and right place, the new technologies can help drive an impactful transformation. But there’s a catch.
Leaders must keep the goals in front and shouldn’t get distracted by the latest shiny technologies that everyone seems to be using.
Jeff Immelt, the CEO, GE at an IT conference, said, “IT leaders, CIOs specifically, need to stop being so passive. I view IT’s role, the role of the CIO, as being frankly one of the most important, if not the most important, role at the leadership table today. Because company CIOs that can’t understand how to use technology to change their business models are going to find themselves somewhat out of jobs.”
Whether you are tempted to use the IoT, blockchain, or AI, understanding how any specific technology contributes to your transformational initiative is extremely important.
Remember, adopting new technology to the particular business needs, and integrating it with existing systems can sometimes be a complex endeavor. So, make sure to partner with people who have the technological know-how.
Data is the new gold and this is especially true when it comes to transforming businesses digitally.
Data can help you make smarter decisions. Collecting, processing and drawing analysis from data is an integral part of the DX process.
The data is generated in different forms, structured and unstructured. Therefore, you need to ensure you choose the right technologies that can process the large amount of unstructured data. It also involves dumping enormous quantities of data that may have never been used and never will be used.
“Less than 1% of data in businesses is analyzed and transformed into benefits.” — SAP.
The role of DX leaders includes actively looking for all sorts of data from all business areas to create a unified database containing a single version of the truth, accessible to everyone. They then use it to drive personalized customer and team interactions.
Let’s take the example of US Xpress, a USA transportation firm, which gathers real-time data from multiple sources, including in-vehicle sensors and geospatial systems. It uses Apache Hadoop, an open-source tool for data analysis and other business intelligence tools.
The company has been able to extract valuable insights about its operations. In the first year of transformation, the company managed to save more than $20 million in fuel consumption on idling.
Jeff Bezos (Amazon Founder) said, “In Today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility; that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable, everything else you create, somebody else will replicate.”
As a CIO or CTO of your company, check if you have deeply ingrained core beliefs about your organization.
Such core beliefs can potentially create blind spots.
So what needs to be done?
Challenge these beliefs to make sure they still stand in the current business scenario. Identify how and when the new belief will work; check this against your competitors’ actions. Do this to analyze which core beliefs should be altered or even dropped.
If you don’t do this, you run the risk of maintaining the status quo to the detriment of your organization’s progress.
Continue challenging the status quo rather than accepting the old, historical norms. Examine how everything is done – the products and services you offer and the market segments you cater to and seek answers to “Why?”
Examine all aspects of your business in detail—both customer-facing and back-office processes—for digitally driven innovation.
Digital transformation is not only about modernizing your business platforms, but also about digitally empowering your workforce.
You don’t have to get too obsessed with new technology. Instead, you accept that change begins with people. Encourage your coworkers to ask questions, develop innovative solutions or ideas, and challenge decisions.
Transformation leaders should be willing to not only lead and facilitate change among the teams but within themselves too.
“You cannot delegate digital transformation for your company… You and your executives have to own it! Executives need to engage, embrace and adopt new ways of working with the latest and emerging technologies.” — BARRY ROSS, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, ROSS & ROSS INTERNATIONAL.
Silo mentality creates problems. Teams are often unwilling to share information with colleagues from different departments. And, it often results in low team morale, adversely affecting the company’s workflow.
You, as a DX leader, can play a crucial role to bring teams together. The market disruption is no time for fostering friction between teams, even if it’s called “friendly rivalry.” You need to actively work to transform the silo mindset in the company by creating shared objectives and accountabilities.
You can develop tools to facilitate and sustain cross-departmental cooperation and encourage and reward the behaviors that promote teamwork and collaboration.
Implementing transformation is best done by a leader with a ‘beginners’ mindset.’ Basically, someone who does not believe they should have all the answers, someone who has the self-confidence to experiment and support activities for which the results are not known.
Someone who faces challenges and opportunities with an open mind. Someone who is ready not only to learn but also to unlearn.
A ‘beginners’ mindset’ is one in which assumptions are challenged, judgment is dropped, and curiosity is encouraged.
The business world continues to have challenges that need solutions. These will provide an opportunity for you to learn and grow. Remember, you have to continue challenging the status quo. Do not be afraid to fall or fail. Do not shy away from new challenges.
Internalize the new mindset for transformation. It’s not very easy. You may hear two voices in your head – the old and new mindsets in conflict.
For example, one may say, “Let us move forward despite the uncertainty.” The other voice might say, “Let’s study it and wait until we are sure we can do this.” It’s crucial to change that brain monologue.
Carefully assess when and where did you use the new mindset versus the old one. And take action accordingly.
An effective digital transformation leader understands what business outcomes are important and drive a successful business.
They also know how to connect those initiatives to the people, processes, and technology required to achieve them.
Leaders of successful digital enterprises know that it’s not sufficient to develop just a handful of above-mentioned traits. The innovators must learn to excel at all of them.
Digital transformation leaders are experts at displaying the right mix of knowledge and skills to bring about large-scale transformation in business.
To succeed in your digital transformation endeavors, you need to partner with expert technology services providers such as Imaginovation.
Imaginovation is an award-winning web and mobile app development company with vast experience in crafting remarkable digital success stories for diverse companies. We can help you plan and implement your company’s digital transformation strategies and achieve the desired goals.
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