Digital transformation: 4 tips to be a successful IT leader in 2022

Today's IT leaders face unprecedented challenges. Consider this expert advice to set a path to digital transformation success in the year ahead
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In 2021, leadership was about finding new ways to deliver on commitments and grow, despite global challenges. It involved coaching teams that were working out of home offices and balancing new distractions and personal commitments – all while managing anxiety about what was to come. In 2022, we hope to finally put the pandemic behind us and set the tone for a new kind of workplace and workplace culture.

Whether you are a veteran leader or are stepping into a leadership role for the first time, you likely realize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for the times ahead. The following tenets can help you craft a leadership strategy that supports your team as they deliver results without disruption.

[ Where is your team's digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What's slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask. ]

1. Create a culture that supports innovation

In the midst of upheaval in nearly every industry, it was difficult to keep teams afloat and avoid being bogged down by burnout, tight bandwidth, and health-related absences – let alone devote time to building culture. As we move into 2022, we must take a close look at the culture that we are creating in our organizations and explore how this culture fosters innovation.

Today, every organization is yearning for a piece of the digital transformation pie, but according to Everest Group, as many as 73 percent will fail to see their efforts through. Digital transformation does not fail because of a lack of good ideas or strong design; it fails because many company cultures are ill-equipped to flex their rigid legacy structures in favor of innovation and progress. Implementing initiatives that support innovation on a daily basis can equip your teams with the skills to successfully adjust to transformation on a larger scale:

Accept failure: Instead of focusing on how small failures have set your team back and becoming frustrated, celebrate and encourage new ideas. Teams that are afraid of backlash will rarely venture outside of the constraints of their job description.

Promote collaboration: Collaborative teams lean on each other in times of stress and transition. Building in time to collaborate eliminates an "every-person-for-themselves" mindset.

Generously offer rewards and recognition: Employee recognition programs are known to help improve retention and increase engagement. But beyond that, employees consistently praised for their achievements will strive to exceed expectations, thus propelling innovation.

[ Want more leadership advice? Also read Digital transformation: 4 CIO tips for 2022. ]

2. Stay up to date on trends

You are an expert in your field. Your industry knowledge and experience may have led you to a leadership position, but leading through digital transformation involves far more than being an expert in your field. It is about staying up to date with the evolving landscape.

We all know that digital technologies are evolving rapidly and companies across industries are experimenting and leveraging these technologies to bring new products and services. Be bold and learn from companies in industries that are not similar to yours. Every time you read about a successful transformation journey, tune into a webinar, or engage with another IT leader online, you build your knowledge about what is going on in the space and the technologies that are coming down the pipeline.

Making an effort to keep up with evolutions in the digital landscape that are outside your comfort zone positions you as a thoughtful leader. Your team can feel confident that you know enough not to lead them astray.

Making an effort to keep up with evolutions in the digital landscape that are outside your comfort zone positions you as a thoughtful leader.

3. Know when to lean on digital transformation experts

Digital transformation can be overwhelming. You may be tempted to hand over the reins to a consulting service that has a track record of success implementing these new initiatives. It is important to know how to determine if this is the right option for your organization.

Digital transformation often requires disruptive, cross-organizational change. Bringing in an outside expert can be the right answer. A transformation expert can help smooth transitions and have previous success to show as evidence for why the change is beneficial.

If you do decide to bring in an outside partner, make sure that the team has subject matter experts familiar with your vertical. When vetting consulting partners, choose a team that is committed to learning the history of your business, the processes you have in place, and even your internal relationships. Bringing on a partner that is interested in integrating into your organization while the transformation happens can reduce friction and increase your likelihood of success.

Monitoring employee satisfaction throughout your transformation journey can be a good indicator of your achievement and let you know the right time to engage outside help.

4. Understand the far-reaching impacts of your transformation

It is important to understand that digital transformation means more than just updating your technology and that this work is not exclusive to IT teams. Digital transformation impacts each area of your organization, from customer experience to talent acquisition and business development. Make customers and clients an integral part of your transformation journey. Just as you would do internally, survey your customers to understand how they are being affected by your transformation initiatives and make appropriate adjustments to your programs.

A strong leadership team will consider all facets of the business when developing a thorough digital transformation strategy. When you lead with the idea that digital transformation is not radical, disorderly change, but rather a well-thought-out and organized effort to continuously become more innovative, you will earn the trust and confidence of your teams without causing panic.

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

Vikas is part of the executive leadership team at Persistent reporting to the CEO. He has partnered with CXOs across the globe to deliver several transformational programs leveraging data, analytics, and digital technologies. At Persistent, his role is to bring digital capabilities together to the benefit of our clients.