Digital transformation involves rethinking how technology, processes, and people work together to pursue new business models and revenue streams. But too often, leaders focus primarily on the technology leg of this three-legged stool.
Granted, technology is core to the transformation and needs its share of airtime, but processes and people must be addressed too. And this requires collaboration.
While the CIO or CTO is often the first ambassador for a digital transformation, they need close collaboration from their peers to be successful. Those who oversee the processes and the people in the organization must work closely with the CEO to transform all three legs to keep the stool upright.
That means the entire C-Suite – chiefs of operations, HR, finance, marketing, communications, and others – must be able to speak the language of digital transformation fluently.
[ Also read Why digital transformation is incomplete without DevOps. ]
It will take some work. The CEO, along with the CTO/CIO, will need to teach their peers what digital transformation is all about and how to make it happen. Then they all need to share a common vision, a shared commitment, and a deep sense of accountability for the success of the digital transformation.
Let’s call this the common language of change. Here are four key tenets to keep in mind:
The C-suite must align around a common vision for digital transformation – one that illustrates how the customer experience, employee experience, and business operation will be enhanced and improved with the addition of technology. This may require agreement on which ways of working will become obsolete so the team can make room for new ways, fueled by digital tools and access to data.
The C-suite must co-create a roadmap to the future that accounts for how their organization’s structures, roles, responsibilities, business processes, mindsets, and behaviors will change to deliver a digital experience to customers and employees.
The C-suite must activate that roadmap, ensuring that stakeholders across the entire organization can adopt those new structures, roles, responsibilities, processes, mindsets, behaviors, etc. This activation will likely include a series of training, communications, and employee engagement activities. If done well, it will require a refresh of the organization’s talent strategy to build and grow the digital skills and capabilities required for all to thrive in the future.
The C-suite must work together to integrate all facets of the transformation into their business-as-usual rhythms. This includes mapping the lifecycle of business processes from start to finish and ensuring that “digital” is woven throughout.
Anyone who has undergone a digital transformation knows that it is one of the most significant undertakings an organization can face. It reaches into every corner of the business, from operations to customer satisfaction to employee culture. And it sets the tone for the next transformation, whenever that may be.
Success depends on having the vision to see past today and the guts to take on tomorrow. And critically, it depends on a team of leaders willing to commit to the change.
That leadership team must be in sync and fully dedicated to a common end-state. And the entire C-suite needs to speak the same simple, relevant language, from start to finish.
This is the language of change, and it’s key to the sustainable success of any transformation.
[ Learn the non-negotiable skills, technologies, and processes CIOs are leaning on to build resilience and agility in this HBR Analytic Services report: Pillars of resilient digital transformation: How CIOs are driving organizational agility. ]
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