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A CEO Cheat Sheet for Digital Transformation

August 29, 2019

Enterprise digital transformation is a major challenge for any business and traditionally falls on the shoulders of the organization’s executives, especially the CEO. In this article, we will share some of the best practices for undergoing a successful digital transformation and help you minimize the risks.

Enterprise digital transformation has been a top item on business agendas for several years now, but there is still an urgent need for innovation.

According to IDC, 96% of organizations already have a digital transformation strategy in place, shown in the infographic below.

96% of organizations already have a digital transformation strategy in place, 60% of them are planning to implement a technology-first culture by 2020

The graphic also shows that 60% of organizations are planning to implement a technology-first culture by 2020.

In an attempt to propel the transformation initiatives, top executives are taking a more active role in the process. This is why digital transformation now falls to CEOs in many organizations.

Yet, many CEOs lack the proper understanding and overall skills to ensure a successful digital transformation within their organizations. 

Our team at Eastern Peak has been helping leading global businesses adapt to change and stay competitive through innovation for almost a decade. 

In this article, we will share some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way and provide a comprehensive digital transformation guide for CEOs to follow.

How to Lead a Digital Transformation

In 2015, John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, predicted that 70% of existing businesses would initiate a digital transformation by 2025, but that only 30% would succeed. 

If you are responsible for digital transformation at your organization, you must ensure the initiative is successful and steer clear of possible pitfalls.

Here are the 5 steps to lead your enterprise’s digital transformation.

  1. Build a strategy
  2. Choose evolution over revolution
  3. Embrace agility
  4. Provide sufficient resources
  5. Build a strong team

1. Build a Strategy 

A solid digital transformation strategy is one of the cornerstones of success. 

First, find a specific purpose for your transformation. Having clear short and long-term objectives will help you create a coherent roadmap for your transformation. 

A lack of focus in your digital transformation strategy and unrealistic deadlines, on the other hand, are some of the common digital transformation mistakes that can cost you dearly in the end.

Your strategy, however, can be flexible as market demands and company needs change. In this case, you can change your initial strategy to adapt to new business requirements.

2. Choose Evolution Over Revolution

As mentioned above, blindly following your initial digital transformation strategy isn’t always the best option. Your strategic priorities might change along the way, so you must be flexible with your plan. 

This will help you change your business step by step, letting your process evolve rather than taking a revolutionary, disruptive approach to transformation. 

Focus on the key issues within your existing processes and solutions. Try to solve them with the least amount of disruption to your business.

An evolutionary digital transformation strategy has a number of pros, from the obvious cost and speed advantages to risk reduction and increased business flexibility.

3. Embrace Agility 

As a CEO, you should also consider the adaptive leadership approach – meaning your main goal as a leader is to establish a clear purpose and the objectives of your transformation, not to manage the whole process from A to Z personally.

One of the keys to digital transformation is finding a perfect balance between aligning your business goals and ensuring your team’s autonomy by empowering them to make their own decisions.

Your company should be agile for a successful digital transformation. This should involve changes in your corporate culture alongside changes in technology. 

4. Provide Sufficient Resources

When preparing for your digital transformation, understand that it’s an ongoing process that requires adequate resources. Transformation initiatives fail when organizations run out of resources allocated to the project before they can achieve any tangible return on investment. 

In this case, the evolutionary approach to digital transformation mentioned earlier is a great way to keep your transformation expenses on track. You’ll see an immediate return on investment (ROI) by solving the most pressing business challenges first.

The financial cost of transformation isn’t the only thing businesses tend to underestimate, however. Talent is a much more valuable resource, and often a scarce one when it comes to digital transformation. Before you start your transformation, make sure you have the appropriate financial and talent capacity to handle it.

5. Build a Strong Team

Believing that you can efficiently handle your transformation in-house is a common mistake. You might have dozens of great developers on your team, but that doesn’t mean they will be able to handle the transformation-related tasks as well as an outside team. As CEO, you'll be responsible for staffing and managing in-house and external teams.

You’ll need the best talent with relevant expertise and skills to make sure the process runs flawlessly. As a result, you might need to restructure some roles and responsibilities within your team, or even hire new team members for digital-specific roles and tasks such as DevOps, cybersecurity, IoT, and AI.

Training in-house talent might be a significant challenge and an additional expense item in your budget. In this case, partnering with a reliable digital strategy agency can be a viable option.

Hiring a dedicated team and an experienced manager leaves you free to focus on the bigger picture and let the professionals handle the rest. You can also expect to get expert advice and guidance when needed and make better strategic decisions as a result.

Use Your Power as CEO to Launch a Successful Digital Transformation

There are several aspects to a successful digital transformation that you, as CEO, have the power to implement.

Start by establishing an agile strategy that you can adapt to challenges as they arise. Transform your company culture to better facilitate digital transformation. Finally, provide the right financial resources and hire the right people to ensure your transformation’s success.

the keys to a successful digital transformation
Learn from mistakes some businesses have made while understanding what made others’ digital transformations successful. Apply this knowledge in your organization, blend it with your culture and account for your capabilities.