by Joe McKendrick, Forbes
We all know at some level that the ideal digital strategy would be to bring all these efforts together, so that raises another issue. Who’s in charge?
So far, digital transformation is largely led by the chief marketing officer. That’s borne out in a new study of 528 digital executives and “transformation strategists” by Altimeter, a Prophet Company, which finds more than one-third of executives (34%) say their CMOs are leading the digital charge. For 27%, the digital impetus comes right from the top — saying the CEO is in charge of digital.
Essentially, then, we’re seeing a highly technical endeavor being led by inherently non-tech business types. This is revolutionary in itself. Chief information officers, who have the tech knowledge and savvy to understand the technology implications of what’s going on, have taken a back seat. In the Altimeter study, only 19% say the CIO is in charge. “It’s understandable, as we found in earlier research that digital transformation is now about people first and technology second,” write Brian Solis and Jaimy Szymanski, both with Altimeter.
So far, only 15% report having chief digital officers leading the way — it’s unclear if this is still an emerging line of work, or if it’s melding into everyone else’s role, since digital is so important at all levels of the business.
This is expanding to include the operational side of things, as Solis and Szymanski predict that internal agility tops digital transformation goals going forward. The survey finds “the need to accelerate innovation” (81%) topped digital transformation agendas going forward, followed by “the need to modernize the IT infrastructure with increased agility, flexibility, management, and security” (80%).
It’s notable as well that while digital transformation is supposed to break down the silos of technology and data that have plagued enterprises for years, they may be setting up their own new silos. Eighty-one percent say they have “digital departments,” which tend to employ four to five full-time employees. As Solis and Szymanski put it, “this would imply that companies are ‘doing digital’ just to ’do digital’ without involving multiple stakeholders and making it a cross-functional effort.”
The Altimeter analysts recommend the following best practices to make digital transformation stick within even the most moribund corporate cultures:
- “Study and map the digital customer experience.”
- “Study and map the mobile customer journey.”
- “Invest in ongoing customer research to better understand digital/mobile behaviors.”
- “Develop a digital transformation roadmap.”
- “Update/Innovate customer-facing technology in digital and mobile.”
- “Drive strategies that engage and guide customers seamlessly through digital, mobile, and
- “Improve processes/operations that expedite changes.”
- “Build an agile, integrated, and scalable technology infrastructure.”
- “Executives appoint someone to lead and pave the way for digital initiatives (budget, resources, culture), as well as manage expectations among shareholders, stakeholders, and the board.”
- “Form a working team to drive initiatives, coordinate activities/resources, and be accountable.”
- “Establish new metrics that measure progress and track new outcomes.”