Like any good team, each individual's role in achieving digital transformation must complement one another and benefit the greater good. But with so many non digitally-native companies trying to fit the square peg of transformation into the round hole of traditional structure and processes, deciding on that team's roster can be a challenge.

We know why digital transformation is important --through use of technology we can build repeatable processes to run more efficiently, reduce churn, and better anticipate consumer needs. Once organizations start putting pen to paper, however, the journey can start to look harrowing, quickly. The good news is, the right people can help get you where you want to go.

As Jim Collins says in his book "Good to Great": Leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with "where" but with "who." First the people, then the direction.

Constructing your internal team

Digital transformation is a full-scale organizational change, both in process and in mindset, so it only makes sense that you need full buy-in from your entire existing team. At the executive level, each leader will have his or her say in the implementation of digital, but the transition in most organizations needs to be spearheaded by one individual-- and that's no short order.

The person in this role needs to needs to be an adept leader, possess digital savvy, and understand the customer experience. So, who is that? The CEO, CIO or CTO?

Turns out, it's the CMO who may be best suited for this role. According to a study by SAP, CMOs across a variety of industries recognized digital transformation wasn't just "another IT project," it was about redesigning the business. They also approached transformation with the customer at the core, and recognized the need for bringing the right people into the company fold.

Your IT department leaders matter for their technical expertise, your branding and marketing experts are key in selling digital initiatives internally, your operational teams are crucial in the implementation of new strategies and tactics. Tearing down silos and inspiring collaboration across all departments will ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction.

This is the beauty of digital transformation --it has the power to permanently alter the way companies do business. But it will be impossible to achieve your new goals if you insist on holding true to a traditional, departmental divide. If you're not used to open lines of communication, quick thinking and innovation at the speed of experimentation, then your internal team -- as great as it may be -- might not be enough to get you where you need to go.

Bringing in the fresh perspective of outsiders

Everyone has blinders. Even with the best intentions and objective viewpoints, consensus can be hard to find. You have to be honest about the fact that your organization, no matter how forward thinking, will approach any new endeavor with a set of lenses on that could present limitations. This is where turning to trusted third parties to oversee parts of the digital transformation process can help ensure you don't overlook all potential opportunities.

Outside experts and firms have the advantage of not carrying baggage into the equation and can be key players that can answer questions you didn't know to ask. Even if you feel aligned and ready to handle most of your transformation yourself, outside firms can objectively evaluate your digital readiness and help identify gaps you may have missed.

An outside team that specializes in business design and transformation can also help build and standardize the operational and customer-facing infrastructure, which is particularly useful if don't have the capabilities in-house. A partner that brings together the ability to build customized technology solutions and advise on overall business design can mean the difference between transformation done right versus an initiative that fails to see the light of day.

Filling in the gaps

Maybe you've resisted appointing a head of digital transition until an outside firm has helped get the ball rolling. Or perhaps you just don't have anyone at the executive or leadership level who feels comfortable taking on that responsibility. You're not alone.

Even if your transition is being managed by a third party, the buck has to stop somewhere within your organization. Increasingly, that means hiring for an entirely new executive position, sometimes called the chief digital officer.

A surprisingly low number of large companies employ a CDO (estimates were at 6% just two years ago), which means that executives at most organizations are being thrust into new roles they may not be comfortable handling. Because CDOs often come from marketing and sales backgrounds, they have a handle on how digital has disrupted those aspects of the industry and can act as unifying forces between your own marketing and technology teams.

Digital transformations are more about people than machines. Having the right individuals in place to lead the transition is a matter of honestly assessing your own capabilities and shortcomings. As technology continues to shape the way business gets done, placing your trust in people first will be your best strategy for success.

Published on: Oct 17, 2017