Written by Marci Nigro
Digital transformation is no longer optional for businesses — it’s mandatory. Companies must integrate technology into their business models in order to thrive. This requires 21st-century business leaders who can rethink the role of technology to enhance the customer experience, create competitive advantages, and drive productivity. In truth, digital transformation is business transformation.
As a result, the makeup of the C-suite is changing significantly. CEOs increasingly are recruiting new members to join their teams and oversee strategic digital initiatives. These additions include chief digital officers, chief product officers, and chief customer experience officers. But the shift to digital goes well beyond IT. Every functional leader in the C-suite — sales, marketing, operations, and finance, just to name a few — is responsible.
Yet many leaders struggle to keep up with digital capabilities. Only 52% of executives at large corporations feel their digital IQ is strong, down 15% from a year ago, finds PwC’s 2018 Global Digital IQ Survey. To fill this skills gap, CEOs need to incorporate new roles and responsibilities into their C-suites — and encourage their leaders to embrace a whole new digital mindset.
How technology is changing the C-suite
Technology isn’t just changing the composition of the C-suite — it’s influencing how business leaders operate. Chief marketing officers, for example, have considerably more digital ownership than any other time in history. CMOs probably understand customers best. Their roles in digital transformation should be integrating technology to enhance the customer experience, making it authentic, relevant, and engaging.
This has led to the rise of chief customer experience officers, who must also embrace technology as applications provide more widespread contact points with customers. This role enables companies to gather plenty of customer feedback, demonstrating a commitment to collecting and acting upon input. By bringing customers into the creative process, companies can provide great experiences that enable them to gain and retain clients.
In the digital age, brands must leverage technology to spark improvement. Identifying areas where you have weak or missing digital capabilities is a great start. A second critical step for any business leader is driving digital role clarity, defining how each role contributes to the organization’s digital transformation and ultimate goals. Finally, it’s imperative to find the right talent with the skills to execute on your initiatives.
Some of the key considerations with digital transformation involve truly understanding who your customers are, what drives those customers, and how they buy your product or service. These elements should be the guiding star of any transformation — digital or otherwise.
Foster a new mindset
Change is never easy. It involves adding key executives to your leadership team whose digital skills will create the foundation for your transformation. Try the following strategies:
1. Own your digital efforts.
Leaders should foster change at all levels, but any digital transformation must begin with a clear strategy and buy-in from the top. As CEO, get involved. Inspire and hold your C-suite team accountable for leveling up its digital prowess.
Make digital a leadership discipline that all top-level leaders must embrace. The more buy-in you get from your C-suite, the more the team will collaborate and get excited about driving new strategies.
2. Get your board aligned.
Your board needs to have the appetite to become digitally fluent and work with you to make digital a strategic imperative. This is a prime example of the increased demand for digital expertise at every level of a company.
Get your board in the know and in agreement with the new direction because it will bring a lot of changes to your numbers. You will likely have to adjust your go-to-market strategy, recruit new executive talent, or undergo a major brand refresh. And there’s always the possibility that your operating expenses need to increase to support your transformation. You’ll want board members — and investors — to be informed of your digital initiatives and how they affect your financials.
3. Consider new job titles.
Revisit the job titles associated with these new roles to ensure they fully reflect the new scope of responsibilities. Those legacy titles may not accurately reflect the new skills and scope of these digital leadership positions.
New titles also can be a strategic weapon for recruiting. Chief digital officers are in high demand — as are heads of data, heads of analytics, and heads of cybersecurity. Many candidates are eager to step into these fresh, exciting roles. You may have to adjust titles to attract better talent. Someone who’s a chief digital officer today may be less excited about stepping into a chief technology officer role.
When it comes to digital transformation, the worst thing businesses can do is cling too tightly to their old ways. Take charge of your digital transformation, get board buy-in for your digital strategy, and explore whether changing the size and structure of your C-suite team is the right move. By leveling up your leadership team for the digital age, your company can gain the competitive edge it needs to thrive.
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