The unique characteristic of innovation for an organisation is that it hasn’t been done before so we don’t know quite how it’s going to work out
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One of the most important aspects of a successful digital transformation implementation is the role that senior management play. And the tone will be set by the CEO. The company’s leader has to buy into the change programme when it’s an enterprise-wide strategy – and drive it – or else it hasn’t a hope of succeeding.

The CEO has to stay the distance. Leadership need to have a lot of courage to commit to a digital transformation programme. By the very nature of digital transformation there will be a high degree of uncertainty of what your future state is.

That puts senior leadership in a risky position. It puts them in risky positions answering to boards, to stakeholders, to shareholders. It puts them in risky positions when it comes to dealing with their workforce, which mightn’t know what the company’s endgame is.

Having the persistence and the courage to maintain a vision for an extended period of time is inevitably the most difficult thing I see happening on the projects we work on and in the industry at large. It’s why so many digital transformation projects fail – more than half, according to market researchers such as Gartner and Forbes Magazine.

An emotional load


I don’t think it’s a case that leaders doubt themselves but they’re repeatedly asked to justify and show confidence to everybody else. That’s a big emotional load on people. It’s wearying. Often a CEO is alone at the top of the tree.

To hold that steadfast position of optimism and certainty isn’t easy, especially when as you’re a leader of an organisation you have to juggle it with a day job running the business. It’s a big emotional toll on leaders, and particularly if these are concepts that you might be questioning personally.

With the workforce it’s straightforward. You can skill them up – in terms of, say, technical skills, engineering, IT, management training and so on. That will help greatly from a technical capability perspective. It’s the emotional maturity of leading people into an uncertain future that is not so easy to do.

The great leap into the unknown. The unique characteristic of innovation for an organisation is that it hasn’t been done before so we don’t know quite how it’s going to work out. We hear a lot about organisational agility, as being necessary for these organisations going through digital transformation.

That’s because organisational agility gives you a set of tools and behaviours and ways to operate so you can manage that uncertainty and complexity.

It’s down to leadership to navigate – to show the way. It takes stamina and nerve, but the rewards can be great. According to a recent PwC report, for example, digital transformation and adoption of new technologies will add 14% to global GDP by 2030.

Philip Martin is CEO of Cora Systems. To register for the Cora Systems-sponsored “Six Guiding Principles of Transformation” webinar, which will be delivered by digital transformation guru Rob Llewellyn, (2pm GMT, 20 February), see: http://bit.ly/RobLlewellynTransformation.

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One of the most important aspects of a successful digital transformation implementation is the role that senior management play. And the tone will be set by the CEO. The company’s leader has to buy into the change programme when it’s an enterprise-wide strategy – and drive it – or...