Is the Board Equipped to Lead a Digital Transformation?

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Nick Livingstone.



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In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, digital transformation has become more than just a buzzword; it's a necessity for survival and growth. Companies that can adapt and thrive in the digital age are those that have leaders who not only understand the importance of digital transformation but are also equipped to lead it. The executive board plays a pivotal role in driving digital transformation initiatives.

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. According to a Deloitte survey, 77% of CEOs reported that the COVID-19 pandemic speeded up their digital transformation plans. Another report explained that the pandemic sped up companies’ digital communication strategies by around six years. When it comes to digital transformation, companies often focus more on hiring talented professionals - such as engineers and data scientists – overlooking the need for change at the top, from those that allocate resources.

To put it simply, an executive board needs a leader who drives digital transformation, someone who goes beyond simply boosting employee headcount and hiring cybersecurity experts. Leaders who can speak the language of technology are better equipped to make informed decisions about digital initiatives. To truly succeed, a board needs an executive and management team that understands what digital transformation means as organisations and people naturally struggle with change and transformation.

Digital and Technological Expertise are in High Demand

Harvard Business Review analysed over 100 search specifications for C-suite positions in Fortune 1000 companies and found that 59% of searches included digital or technological expertise. As more than half of the surveyed companies were looking for these skills across a variety of positions, the information suggests that leadership roles had already been filled with individuals who understand the importance of digital transformation. 100% of the search specifications for chief information officers, chief marketing officers and chief technology officer included a mention of technological and digital skills. However, this fell to between 40% and 60% when it came to chief human resource officers and chief financial officers.

How An Executive Board Can Embrace Digital Transformation

Companies of all sizes face industry disruption, innovative technologies, and changing customer needs.

How successful an organisation is in embracing digital transformation is heavily linked to the commitment of those in leadership and senior management roles, and an executive board needs to fully dedicate itself to the cause.

  • Think Beyond Commerce – Successful digital transformation requires an unclouded vision of where the organisation is headed in the digital era. A business needs to think beyond the confinements of commerce and see that an ecommerce ecosystem goes far beyond what has traditionally been possible. Digital transformation involves more than the transaction between a buyer and a seller, and it relies on more than just having a responsive website. There are many relationships within the buying cycle, and customers expect a consistent, smart commerce experience.
  • Get The Executive Board’s Full Support – Often, due to other commitments, leaders overseeing the business become involved in the process at a later stage. However, achieving complete integration demands support from the beginning of the digital journey. Early involvement is crucial for ensuring a seamless user experience, one that embraces both data integrity and omnichannel consistency. Boards that can ensure that digital transformation is not a separate, disconnected effort but an integral part of the company's long-term vision are more likely to achieve sustainable success.
  • Plan Digital Resources – Digital transformation requires financial investment and resource allocation. Companies often struggle to make accurate predictions about the budget requirements of a digital transformation. Subsequently, falling short of their goals. To achieve success, the minimum resources needed should include website management, content creation, product content creation, content management and a strong digital marketing strategy. Digital transformation presents unique opportunities to redirect resources and create new career pathways for existing employees.
  • Work on Change Management Skills - Digital transformation often involves significant organisational change. This can be met with resistance from employees who may be hesitant to embrace new technologies or ways of working. Leaders who can communicate the need for change, provide support, and manage resistance are critical to the success of any digital transformation initiative.
  • Set Measurable Goals and KPIs - A lack of measurable goals can make it difficult to assess a company’s digital success. Digital channels provide a wide range of opportunities to enhance revenue and streamline operations, but achieving these goals requires clear aims. Data-driven decision-making comes into play here. Data is at the heart of digital transformation. Effective use of data can lead to better insights, improved decision-making, and enhanced customer experiences. The key performance indicators (KPIs) play a key role in identifying what is needed for success, such as proactive problem-solving and overcoming obstacles well before digital transformation takes place.
  • Focus on People Not Just Tech – Businesses often cite outdated or poor technological platforms as their roadblock to change. However, if you lack the right teams, vision, and processes, even the most advanced technologies will fail. It is essential to invest in digital talent and set a clear vision for success.

Post-Covid, numerous boards, and executive teams are leading successful digital transformations, but some are still waiting to take the plunge or develop and implement coherent strategies. Leading a digital transformation can seem like a daunting and time-consuming undertaking, but it’s key for any board that wants to drive an organisation toward digital success, something that is undeniably important in 2023 and onwards.

In this digital age, the role of the executive team in leading a digital transformation cannot be overstated. The leadership team needs to be aligned around the purpose and approach. A digitally literate, visionary, and adaptive board is essential for guiding the organisation through the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital landscape. Assessing the board's readiness for digital transformation and, if necessary, investing in training and development to equip them with the necessary skills and mindset are crucial steps. With the right leadership at the top, the organisation can thrive in the digital era and remain competitive in an ever-changing business environment.

Remember - If your transformation is delivering what you want, you’re doing all the right things, congratulate the team. But even with a clear strategy, purpose, and good alignment issues can arise and it’s important to know where to look to refocus and keep your digital transformation productive.

At Redline Executive we enable high-technology companies to build world-class teams, supplying exceptional professional talent to generate value for shareholders.

We understand the differing talent needs of the technology and engineering sector, where success in search requires being in tune with the marketplace both within the UK and the wider global market.

Get in touch today for more information on how we can help you and your business by giving us a call on 01582 450054 or email us on info@redlineexecutive.com.

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