CEO’s Role in the Digital Transformation
by Daniel Newman | February 22, 2017
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A few months ago, I wrote about the important role the CMO plays in leading a company’s digital transformation. Due to their unique perspective on customer engagement, some agree they should in fact hold the reigns as businesses attempt to re-mold, re-new, and grow themselves in the digital age. That said, one can’t ignore the increasingly complicated relationships that many C-Suite executives are now finding themselves in. It seems everyone—from the CIO to CAO—will play an increasingly important role in ensuring a successful digital shift. None, however, play a more critical role than the CEO.

The fast pace of today’s digital evolution makes it impossible for today’s CEOs to stand on the sidelines and watch their companies sail smoothly into the digital age. A recent Forbes report showed that when a CEO is not engaged in the process, a staggering majority of tech initiatives fail. Regardless of their experience—or their personal interest in digital transformation—it’s agreed that CEOs need to get onboard with not just allowing, but in leading, the change. The following are a few ways to do it.

Be Proactive

I’ve said it before: the most successful businesses are the ones that are agile and open to change. They are forward-thinking—constantly considering how technology is being used in today’s business world (not just their industries), and considering ways to bring those technologies on board for meaningful growth.

Still, according to one writer, most organizations only get serious about defining their tech strategies when they are directly threatened by start-ups or other competitors that are utilizing technology more effectively. Is that you? If so, you need to develop a proactive approach to technology. Today’s CEO’s no longer have the luxury of time. The digital space is simply moving too fast. If you aren’t prepared for the next big thing, you will undoubtedly become the next big casualty in the digital age.

Bring Order to the Chaos

It’s been said tech can either “create or destroy” value in your company. The latter can occur when your team runs amuck, throwing every possible technology at the wall and waiting to see what sticks (sometimes wasting millions of dollars in the process). As the leader in your company, you’re charged with bringing order to that chaos. Even if you feel pressured to adopt new technology options, take time to consider them thoughtfully and ensure they align with your mission. Help determine clear and targeted goals in implementing your digital strategy, and ensure that the company stays focused on utilizing tech that truly supports that vision. Communication is key in every tech transformation, and the CEO must to play a clear and accessible part in the rollout.

Think Differently—and Empower Others to Do the Same.

Digital transformation has put an end to “the status quo.” The days of riding the coat tails of one’s “brand legacy” are over. According to one writer, “Leaders who won’t embrace new thinking will simply be replaced by those who will.” If you’re working for a legacy business, you might think it’s unlikely that new models of business will take over your industry. You’d be wrong. Right now, around the world, your competitors are thinking of new ways to do your job better. With technology’s help, they’ll be successful if you fail to acknowledge the risk.

In the digital age, CEOs don’t just need to be innovative—they need to reward innovation companywide. This includes time spent brainstorming, not just producing product. Employees need to know that taking chances and thinking “beyond the now” are a daily part of the company culture. They need to know that thinking big isn’t a concept reserved for annual team retreats—it’s part of every meeting they have, every day of the week.

While there may be profound change ahead as we move deeper into the digital age, one thing remains true: strong, forward-thinking leadership is still central to a company’s success. Like it or not, the CEO plays a crucial role in future proofing one’s business. And the only way to do it successfully is to stop thinking of digital transformation as something that has to be done, and to start realizing it is something that can do wonders for your business if only you let it.

Additional Resources on This Topic
The Role of the CMO in Digital Transformation
Who Leads Digital Transformation? Not the CMO …
Strange Bedfellows: Why Your CIO and CMO Need to Deepen Their Relationship

Photo Credit: SIII87 Flickr via Compfight cc

About the Author

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio