Who Owns Digital Transformation?

Forward thinking leaders know that while specialism may sit within one team, the responsibility to bring those ideas to light and generate ROI is a shared one.

Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary

June 26, 2019

4 Min Read

One of the things that amazes me every day is the pace of change in our world, and the exponential nature of change within technology is a prime example of how fast things move. I (sometimes fondly) remember the pre-email, pre-social media era, the days before hard drives where load/save read/write times were significantly longer than it takes us to skim read an article now. Things have changed, and this is only the beginning. Many of our clients are working on artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, and so much more, and this places a huge, and obvious, responsibility with the chief information officer and IT teams.

When I consider the question, “Who owns digital transformation?”, I know that many people would point in the CIO’s direction, though I also feel that this is somewhat myopic. When I work with a cross-functional leadership or executive team, I share our research and practical experience from almost 20 years of looking at high-impact teams. The traditional, and thankfully outdated, view is that each function is accountable for their outcomes and the silos operate independently.

Forward thinking individuals and teams know that while the capability for a specialism may sit within one functional team, the responsibility to bring that to life, to maximize outcomes, and to generate a ROI is a shared one. Furthermore, gone are the days when one function, be it marketing, customer experience, HR, or any other function, should feel comfortable in sitting back and letting the CIO and IT teams define their vision and bring it to reality.

In the most successful teams, IT is an enabler, though it requires a shared responsibility and accountability to be successful. And the last time I checked with CIO contacts, they were just as unable to read the minds of their colleagues and predict what they want, as we all were 20 years ago in considering the likes of Uber, Lyft, and so on. Really, Uber is only 10 years old, and Lyft even younger.

Looking to the executive teams and how they should operate together to focus on ideation, design, delivery and implementation, it is entirely a shared responsibility. This is also the case for the effective transition from a behavioral point of view, and support for the life of the new outcomes that technology will bring. Do we see this? Yes, sometimes. Other times, we see leaders of functional areas engaging to be a part of the process, and on occasion we see what I call the “tennis player” leader, who volleys the ball over the silo net and effectively says, “deliver this”, “solve that”, or “fix it.”

If we measure success as organizations with leadership teams that can push the technical boundaries in each of their functions and divisions to delight customers, reduce costs, and make their teams’ lives more joyful, then the starting point will always be the opportunity to feel psychologically safe, to speak candidly about their experiences -- whether good, bad, indifferent, on time, delayed, and so on -- and to get to a healthy place where nothing is left unsaid.

I have to say that this is a high bar, though a critical one if we are to push the boundaries of technology in all functions of an organization to advance our mission. Do keep in mind that even if you, your leaders, and your organization haven’t achieved this, then your competitors have, and that means that you are falling behind, perhaps like your local taxi service. With the increasing pace of change comes a new level of responsibility within organizations.

Whatever your role, are you doing your part?

Rob Whitfield is CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a boutique management consulting company that provides keynote speaking, coaching, and consulting services to Fortune 1000 organizations. Whitfield has spent over 20 years in consulting working globally with Fortune 500 C-suite executives and their teams with the specific intent of helping clients deliver a return on investment from behavior change in the workplace. A magnetic speaker storyteller with a self-deprecating sense of humor, he can connect people to ideas and inspire them to think differently, and critically, hold them accountable to taking action that will lead to new behaviors and results.  Whitfield’s mantra is to ignite a passion for challenge and change so that everyone achieves their true potential.


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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary

The InformationWeek community brings together IT practitioners and industry experts with IT advice, education, and opinions. We strive to highlight technology executives and subject matter experts and use their knowledge and experiences to help our audience of IT professionals in a meaningful way. We publish Guest Commentaries from IT practitioners, industry analysts, technology evangelists, and researchers in the field. We are focusing on four main topics: cloud computing; DevOps; data and analytics; and IT leadership and career development. We aim to offer objective, practical advice to our audience on those topics from people who have deep experience in these topics and know the ropes. Guest Commentaries must be vendor neutral. We don't publish articles that promote the writer's company or product.

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