Digital transformation: It takes a village

Organizational buy-in is a key part of successful digital transformation. Here's how to tap the talent and perspective of some key roles as you build your strategy
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Why do so many companies miss the mark on digital transformation? It boils down to people. If organizations can’t get the team rowing in the same direction and ensure that everyone supports the initiatives that will move their organizations forward, their transformation efforts are likely to fail.

Digital transformation is a company-wide effort that requires buy-in and collaboration across departments. Yet it also requires that each role within the organization brings its own unique perspective, talents, and skill set to the project.

[ Get answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: Download our digital transformation cheat sheet. ]

Consider how the following roles can help accelerate a smooth and successful digital transformation:

Executive sponsor

It begins with the executive sponsor or champion of the initiative. CEOs, chief digital officers, or heads of strategy usually fill this role, empowering the organization to invest in the technology, secure buy-in, and rally around the required change.

Since human nature prefers the status quo, the executive sponsor needs to shake things up and make change happen. In addition to bringing the vision and strong commitment to the initiative, this champion should also have a digital mindset.

CFO

As the person who holds the purse strings, the CFO is important in providing the funding that’s needed for digital transformation. They need to make the business case, demonstrating the upside of the investment and how it will position the company for greater revenue and competitive advantage. It’s critical that the budget is sufficient to enable the organization to truly transform digitally while also accounting for inevitable missteps and course corrections.

CIO

Another key player in successful digital transformation initiatives, the CIO makes sure that the right tech strategy and approach are in place to achieve the company’s goals. They also need to make sure the company has the right tech team to implement the vision, bring in outside guidance and help as needed, and provide the tools and solutions required to implement the change. The CIO determines the KPIs to measure success so adjustments can be made as needed.

In addition, the CIO needs to ensure that the company’s systems are secure and user-friendly and will work as intended. It’s a tall order that not only requires the CIO to keep their eye on the ball, but also to be continually communicating with the executive sponsor to make sure the team is delivering on the vision. It’s also important for the CIO to maintain ongoing communication with the IT team as it develops new solutions and approaches and with end-users throughout the organization to make sure the team is providing solid, useable technology that will have strong adoption.

Sales VP

The sales team has unique insights into the sentiments of customers and can share key information on customer pain points, frustrations, needs, and wants, which can help shape digital transformation. Gathering customer information on how it’s performing in the field can also help to continuously improve the solution.

Chief marketing officer

Using key insights from the field as well as the overall market, the CMO is responsible for developing materials and messaging to sell the new solution into the marketplace as well as uncovering new audiences.

Unit heads and employees across the organization

In addition to the major players and the staff and front-line workers who support them, everyone in the organization has a role to play. For example, accounting practitioners may need to bill their customers differently for the new offering if it uses a different business model, such as moving from a one-time sale to a subscription model.

Digital transformation success also depends on effective change management initiatives across the organization.

How to get everyone on the same page

Digital transformation success also depends on effective change management initiatives across the organization. Here are four key practices to help get everyone on board:

Brainstorm your vision and approach to digital transformation. Bring key leaders, representatives from departments across the organization, and design thinking professionals together to brainstorm ideas for leveraging your digital assets to create new business opportunities. Take a design thinking approach to help participants challenge the status quo and old ways of thinking and come up with fresh ideas and creatively solve problems. The design thinking approach focuses on how technology impacts people, gathering information from customers in the field as well as employees to create solutions that address their needs.

Communicate openly and often. Transparency and clear communication are critical for getting everyone on board. Communicate why you are undertaking the digital initiative, what it means for the business, and how everyone plays a key role in its success. Conduct regular updates to keep everyone in the loop and engaged.

Communicate why you are undertaking the digital initiative, what it means for the business, and how everyone plays a key role in its success.

Create a Center of Excellence. To bring your digital vision to fruition, create a Center of Excellence and enlist a team of talented IT professionals. This will help you establish the strategies and best practices to guide the effective development, implementation, and continuous improvement of your digital transformation initiative.

Provide ongoing training. Everyone’s role throughout the organization will change along with your new business model. Educate your employees on what’s required in their new role and how their work supports the overall business goals of the organization, and provide opportunities for new positions within the company.

According to a McKinsey survey, the success of digital transformation projects depends on the involvement of employees across the organization, including line managers and front-line staff. It takes a village to digitally transform your organization. If you approach this strategically and get everyone on board, your company can create new business opportunities and realize tremendous value.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

Carlos M. Meléndez is the COO and Co-Founder of Wovenware, a Puerto Rico-based design-driven company that delivers customized AI and other digital transformation solutions that create measurable value for customers across the U.S.

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