Tuesday, May 31, 2016


(Third in a series of articles describing how to digitally transform your business. The first two articles described why the Board of Directors needs to be digital, and explained how it should become so.)

Digi-transform is not just about technology. It certainly is not old-fashioned IT. It is about being digitally competitive in order to renew and build the business, in a digitally competitive marketplace. The C-Suite must work together daily to drive change and digital competitiveness.


It is not sufficient to have this effort led by the CIO or to appoint a Chief Digital Officer (CDO). Digi-Transform involves far more than just IT and data analytics. It is about changing the entire culture of the enterprise, backed up by technology. As digital competition intensifies, we will see a marked increase in the number of digi-savvy C-Suite teams. The required changes are simply too big for one person.

Without complete C-Suite collaboration, the odds against digi-transform success are staggering: 70% of projects tend to fail outright, and 20% fail so badly that the company's very existence is on the line. The degree of C-Suite collaboration, therefore, is the best predictor of future success or failure.

Traditional functional silos impede Digi-Transform. Digital expertise will overlay and override traditional C-Suite functions such as Marketing, IT, Operations, HR, and Finance. Competing silos are guaranteed to kill digi-transform innovation efforts. Silos also create discontinuous and disjointed experiences for the customer, severely limiting success. Silos will devolve or dissolve into a cross-functional C-Suite Digi-Transform Team. Collaboration is essential to success: the entire company must own, live, and drive digital, under the director of the Board and a digi-savvy CEO.


Digital CEO competency is particularly essential. You need people who think and behave differently. Digi-Transform leaders are new and different. They have a different persona (see table below), and are today's only qualified executives.

The digital executive's mandate is to create major and meaningful change, re-inventing and revitalizing the business. Disruptive by nature (in a positive and optimistic sense), they will boldly initiate and sustain innovative game-changing strategies, by inspiring others to achieve the digi-transform objective. They not only envision the new digital future but plan how to get there through determined, decisive, and motivated team action. 

The past and precedent is meaningless to them, unless it is a valuable aspect of root culture. They challenge traditional approaches and have no appetite or patience for antiquated ways of thinking and processes that are barriers to change. In fact, they are simply uncomfortable with status quo management and they quickly cut through bureaucracy and bottlenecks. By contrast, they are comfortable with ambiguity, uncertainty, and managed risk, quickly identifying and boldly (but safely) testing perceived limits.

Digi-savvy executives are creative, new-style thinkers, who often go against the conventional wisdom -- which usually is flawed -- to produce startling but non-obvious strategies. Steeped in innovation, they look constantly to the future and what it demands. They formulate an ambitious future objective that is feasible and inspiring, with a clear pathway to significant growth in revenues and market share. They lead from out front, and communicate with confidence and honesty, to convince and excite others of project viability.

Whether the Digi-CEO is from inside or recruited outside, they must quickly assimilate the situation and focus on what needs to change in various ways. They must seek out brutally-honest opinions from employees at all levels and in all units about what changes are desirable, and where any and all drawbacks are. If employees are inspired by the prospect of change and growth, they will be enthusiastic and contribute new ideas. Customers also must be consulted, as well as outside digi-transform experts.

Indeed (as strongly suggested in the previous article), no matter how savvy the CEO and C-Suite, you should bring in a full-time Digi-Transform Advisor.

Based on this knowledge gathering and injected expertise, the digi-savvy CEO can quickly diagnose problems and prescribe what needs to improve and change, on a time-sensitive basis, to rapidly re-invent and reposition the company in the marketplace.


To accomplish this, the CEOs must take time to energize the company and build momentum for the digi-transform endeavor, starting on day one. The CEO must always speak with authenticity and a sense of urgency. The goal should be to achieve initial and medium-term success and then maintain it.

Digi-transform executives have a different pro-change, transforming mindset. Traditional change-resistant executives simply get left behind, while the transformative executive is driven to literally get to the future first.

The Digi-CEO mindset also can be summarized is the following organic flow chart.
Overall, the Digi-Transform leader is like a digital orchestra director who:
  • Sets high expectations about the absolute necessity to change and become the most digitally competitive enterprise in the industry, with a standing ovation performance every time. Winning cultures have high aspirations and a desire to be the best, with constant improvements.
  • Sets an ambitious and inspiring "moon shot" vision, along with a well-defined digital strategy for achieving objectives, including how the organization must collectively behave if success is to be achieved.
  • Constantly fine tunes and upgrades team skills, bringing in new resources as needed, and fine-tuning performance criteria and process arrangements to keep the enterprise humming in harmony. Winning teams are well synchronized, perform to a digital beat, and pursue excellence for a standing ovation.
  • Delivers the customer-driven objective, with assigned responsibility and accountability for achieving the end goal, which is an unmatched customer "wow" experience and satisfaction.
Digi-Transform leaders constantly and consistently communicate and celebrate successes at each milestone of the journey to complete victory at every performance. Winning cultures perform enthusiastically and exceptionally every step of the way until the climax is reached.

Team members with a positive attitude will embrace the "moon shot" vision with enthusiasm, and pursue it with passion and purpose. They will embrace the vision and its design principles because it resonates with their own values and aspirations.

People want the mission to succeed and they stay with the enterprise to see the mission accomplished. They have a sense that they are part of history in the making, and they realize that a successful mission will qualify them for further career progress, let alone the satisfaction of being on the winning team.

To summarize thus far ... Digi-Transform leaders thus set a "Moon Shot" vision and walk the talk, setting high expectations and inspiring a thirst for innovation and change. Digi-Leaders are out front, appraised of digital advances, and bring in outside knowledge and expertise as needed to help drive internal change projects, with a fine-tuned C-Suite team. 


Of course, there will be resistance to change. This usually starts at the top of the organization, where moribund managers fail to lead and refuse to change. But culture can be changed 180 degrees by a new tone and mindset at the top, coming from the Board (see previous articles in this series).

Digi-transform leaders don't take anything for granted, but they must be confident about the entire approach and be determined to succeed. They will confidently proceed, knowing that they can course-correct as needed and still achieve the scheduled goal of becoming completely transformed and digitally competitive.

You cannot change the culture by writing a memo to everyone. The desired cultural shift must be articulated from the top by a transformational leader. Visionary leaders transform culture with a concerted effort on several fronts. The challenge is to deprogram the existing brainwashed and change-resistant culture and build a culture that is motivated to constantly innovate and digitize.

Digital cultures embrace and create change. They re-invent themselves as needed, even before it is needed. Their leaders are change agents, such as Richard Branson of Virgin, who has reinvented companies and even entire industries. They develop and embrace digital strategies and plans that create brand new business models to meet fast-changing customer needs and expectations. They drive change, course correcting and streamlining as they go, managing risk and opportunity, through sustained non-stop innovation and transformation.

Digital cultures are based on digital skill sets which they constantly upgrade or up-skill. Change agents recruit, develop and retain leading-edge talents to drive a leading-edge strategy with leading-edge, real-time technology platforms, all managed with digital dashboards.

The organization must itself become a digital network, with key performance measures, all managed on a real-time digital dashboard. The C-Suite must carry a Digital Briefcase full of its detailed mandates, KPIs, and measured milestone goals.


Digi-Transform will be the #1 strategic thrust for most CEOs and the center of corporate strategy of 70% of major companies by 2020. Digi-Transform will be driven by two key technologies:
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) will drive massive new digi-transform revenue streams across all sectors and product lines, many not yet even invented
  • Internet of Things (IoT) will be a growth engine that fundamentally alters yet again how consumers interact with business
Any business which fails to Digi-Transform will essentially miss out on these huge profit opportunities.

In conclusion, everything must be done through a digital set of lenses, taking full advantage of AI and IoT. As such, the entire personality and culture of the enterprise becomes digital, day in, day out, with decisions made on a second-by-second basis in real time. Only then will digi-transform succeed.

The next article in this series will explain how organizational culture needs to be transformed in order to allow digi-transform to occur.  

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Copyright (c) 2016, Frank Feather

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URL: http://digitransform.blogspot.com/2016/05/part-3-how-to-digi-transform-c-suite.html

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