Pete Yates
October 11, 2017

Who's Leading your Digital Transformation? Job Titles vs. Characteristics

Who's Leading your Digital Transformation? Job Titles vs Characteristics

Who leads your Digital Transformation effort is more important now than ever.

Lack of vision, clear strategy, ineffective leadership and the ability to attract and retain talent will seriously inhibit any organisation’s digital aspirations. Having the right Leader to champion transformation is critical in bringing those that are less digitally inclined along for the journey, by being a visionary and story teller who can navigate through what is bound to be periods of uncertainty and change. Their role is to lead the business strategy and vision creation, execution and to give guidance, but they must empower their people to deliver on that strategy and vision rather than dictate.

In reality, Transformation 'Job Titles' are largely irrelevant in deciding who should lead transformation efforts on behalf of the organisation.  That said, current trends seem to indicate that the people with the technology remit such as the CTO, CIO or CDO are the key execs leading organisational transformation. So, is the title of the person leading the transformation as important as the characteristics/personality of that leader, such as being transparent, visible, with the ability to model the new behaviours required?  A visionary leader is critical to leading transformational efforts, especially for their ability to quickly gain organisational trust, with the mandate to create, execute and embody the transformation vision and business strategy. 

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Engaging your People, Teams and Talent are critical

The appropriate culture and empowering of teams is key to attracting and retaining your talent, whilst also providing a working environment that supports cross team collaboration.  Leaders must show true empathy and listen to their teams and customers so they are able to identify the root cause of any problem, rather than going straight to a Technology solution. Critical to any transformation is the ability of the Leader to get the organisation excited by their vision and strategy for the transformation – this will help bring teams and people along for the ride.  By creating a clear vision, it will also help your people decide if they actually want to buy in to the transformation.

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Digital Transformation - a Cultural Shift?

Martin Gill states in his “the race to digital mastery is on” article, “Executive teams will slowly begin to realise that digital transformation is a cultural shift, not a technology problem. It’s no coincidence that many of the most digitally mature firms are smaller, leaner and employ fewer people than their least mature counterparts”. So “Going Digital” really is a change in mind-set (e.g. learn fast, lean, agile, User Experience, HCD etc), supported by engaged people with technology as an enabler.  Hiring and retaining talent within your organisation will be absolutely fundamental to the success or failure of your transformational efforts. Your people must be able to adapt to the new ways of working, be guided by the leadership of the organisation and given the tools and environment to succeed. 

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Not more of the same

When hiring, you may have defined the type of person you are looking for, such as smart creatives who willing to positively challenge the status quo or who are open minded and willing to accept change, you don’t want more of the same.  An avenue for identifying suitable talent could be through intern placements or taking a more unique approach to recruitment that showcases your company’s culture.  Essential to retaining your talent is allowing them the freedom and time to innovate, learn or take intelligent risks as well as creating and cultivating a company culture that they want to be a part of (and want others to be a part of).  

Is Your Digital Transformation Working?

But how do you know it’s working? Well, try listening and engaging your team, by gaining valuable feedback on how they feel the transformation is going or you could even involve your influencers at the beginning by sharing your ideas and concepts up front and incorporating their views at that point.

So who leads the transformation effort in your organisation? Is it because of their job title, or their personal characteristics?

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About the Author

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Pete is currently the CTO for a Health system integrator based in Auckland, New Zealand and a passionate tech blogger ( and writer. He brings a unique experience spanning both enterprise & start-up/SME environments in industries such as health, local and central government, telecommunications, software, media and IT service providers.

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