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Digital Transformation: Who is Steering the Ship?


November 28, 2016

First in Europe, then across the pond to the United States, the Industrial Revolution proved a watershed incident in history, transforming the spectrum of industry, and resulting in what historians refer to as a modern urban-industrial state. While this was some time back, the expansion of innovation and infrastructure put the nation in a position to succeed for some time. Recently, the enterprise has entered an industrial revolution of its own, except this digital transformation is taking place with software, the cloud, automation and more.

Digital transformation is a theme sweeping far and wide, as it is proving to be a difference maker from the executive level to the data center. With the digital era upon us, this enterprise evolution is front of mind. For this reason we addressed the question, “Who drives Digital Transformation initiatives in your organization?” and, while I don’t say this often, I have to disagree with our readership and the poll’s results. So let’s get to it!

Image via Pixabay

Keeping on the “things I don’t normally do train,” I have to cast shade at the leading vote getter. One-third of respondents selected “Interdisciplinary Group” as the primary driver of digital transformation, and I simply don’t buy it. While I’m sure a team in place certainly eases the plunge into the digital pool, I’m shocked to hear that’s the little voice vying for the venture to dive in head first.

There are two categories I do however wish to focus on, as the two options of “CIO” and “CEO” garnered nearly 50 percent of votes. Why is this so interesting? For a few reasons. The buck may stop with the CEO; it’s a typical misconception that the company’s technological prowess is pushed forward from the top dog. Research illustrates that as far as the c-suite goes, the CIO and CMO are the two more likely candidates to steer this ship.

For instance, “The 2016 State of Digital Transformation” report from Alitmeter highlights the impetus for digital transformation coming from the CMO (34 percent) and 19 percent of respondents declaring the CIO/CTO as the cause – for reference, CEO/VP/GM received 27 percent of support.

The Gartner 2016 CEO Survey notes the “CIO/CTO/IT” as the force behind the transformation, receiving 36 percent of support. For comparison sake, the “CEO/VP/GM” selection came in a close second with 32 percent and the CMO was only viewed by 3 percent of respondents to be a key component in the process of transformation.

I offer the above two studies as evidence of a key point: There is definitely a divide in thinking. From one standpoint, customer facing is shepherding the process; modernizing processes and workflows to deliver improved user engagement and customer experience. The flip side of the coin is good old IT taking the reins and being tasked with network enhancement and supporting the next generation of engagement, applications and innovation. CIOs stand on the precipice of a redefinition of the role – moving from rigid days of the past, to a less technical and more creative component of today’s enterprise.

The fourth Industrial Revolution, known as the digital transformation, is no passing fad. It is a key cog in a prosperous tomorrow. Innovation is elevating business operations to a point where software is doing all the heavy lifting, leaving the bottom line and other important business operations to remain front of mind.

Following up, this month’s poll asks “when will your company complete their first successful digital transformation initiative?” For your sake, I hope it’s soon!




Edited by Alicia Young

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