Five barriers to success in the digital future

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CIO as Digital Leader

A recent global survey of nearly 450 business leaders, conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, found that most companies lack the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the digital aspects of their business. The survey results placed less than 20 percent of respondents into a category of "Digital Leaders," organizations that have both a digital vision and strategy as well as the right people, processes and technology needed to succeed.

Where did that leave the other 80 percent? Nearly half (47 percent) fell into the "Follower" category, meaning their organizations had mixed scores on both digital leadership and management. "Laggards," 34 percent of survey respondents, rated their organizations weak across the board.

Throughout the report, "Driving Digital Transformation: New Skills for Leaders, New Role for the CIO," HBR segments results into the three categories to showcase how responses from "Digital Leaders" compared to "Followers" and "Laggards." But, while the gap between leaders and laggards is significant in many areas of the report, the lines begin to blur when it comes to key barriers to digital business development. For instance, more leaders cited organizational silos and legacy processes as barriers than both followers and laggards.

What's clear is that all organizations can expect to struggle with one or more of these challenges, regardless of digital acumen. It's the role of the CIO to get ahead of these barriers before they impede success in the digital future.

Barriers to Digital Business Development

1. Lack of digital leadership: An understanding of digital opportunities starts at the top, with the CEO. Over half (57 percent) of respondents in the "Laggards" category cited this as a key barrier, compared to 18 percent in the "Leader" category.

2. Lack of innovative thinking throughout the business: IT is not everyone's job, but the organizations best positioned to succeed with digital have functional leaders throughout the business who understand digital trends and what they can do for the company. Less than a quarter of "Leaders" said this was a barrier, compared to 41 percent of "Laggards."

3. Cultural resistance to change: Change doesn't happen overnight, but rather through a give-and-take between IT and business leaders as they and the technologies evolve. Forty four percent of "Laggards" experience cultural resistance to digital change, compared to 30 percent of "Leaders.

4. Legacy Processes: Overcoming the status quo requires CIOs to step out of their day to day IT role and become a digital coach or mentor, guiding their peers to new ways of doing business. Forty three percent of "Digital Leaders" struggled with legacy processes compared to 34 percent of "Laggards"

5. Organization Silos: At 44 percent, this was the No. 1 barrier for "Digital Leaders," compared to 36 percent of "Laggards." The report called for a stronger focus on education and communication from IT leaders to enable a cohesive strategy for digital growth.

Download the HBR report, "Driving Digital Transformation: New Skills for Leaders, New Role for the CIO" to learn more ways to overcome these five barriers to digital business development.

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.  

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