Being digitally transformed is not your goal

The concept of being digitally transformed exists in various forms on most companies’ agendas. Some add roles such as Chief Digital Officer (CDO) or Transformation Manager, with a gigantic responsibility to change business and operations using technology.

I take my hat off to the people who take these roles. I’m sure you’re driving change. The crazy thing, however, is that this change should lie with those responsible for the company’s core processes. For example, the ones in charge of Manufacturing, Product, Sales and Marketing.

The reason is that the company’s business goals are likely to be the same as always, i.e. growth and profitability. Maybe with supportive goals such as customer satisfaction and time to market.

Customer groups’ behaviour and buying processes are increasingly digitally borne. Competitors, new and old, are coming up with digitised products and digital add-on services. They make it easy to purchase online and have high relevance in their marketing, which is largely put into digital channels. Then the responsibility for our competitiveness cannot be placed on an individual role nor delegated downwards in the organisation.

Separating the responsibility for continued competitiveness from the management of the core processes is sometimes justified by saying that we can only succeed with change and innovation if it’s run in small agile teams outside of “business as usual”. That can probably be true but not necessarily correct, and actually highlights leadership and cultural problems. It’s the responsibility of management and, ultimately, the CEO, to manage the business in a way that makes it obvious to use technology in the core processes. Besides, to achieve growth and profitability goals, it must be done at the same high rate that customer groups change behaviour and expectations.

Goals about being digitally transformed

Setting goals about being the most digitised company, the degree of innovation, or delegating down or away responsibility from the company’s management, is to jeopardise the company’s competitiveness. And in more and more cases – not least in retail – the entire company and thus shareholder value.

Management knows that change is needed and relevant skills are often found within the organisation. What’s missing, is enough people with relevant skills. Another issue is that the organisational structure is silo oriented, rather than teams working towards reduced and relevant key figures to achieve the company’s business goals. In short, an inability to be as competitive as before in the now digitised market.

Ultimately, it’s the CEO’s responsibility to break down the business goals into key figures to govern the business. That creates the opportunity to break the classic friction between, not least, IT, Marketing and Sales. Because these parts of the business almost always need a new operating model that increases the speed between insight and implementation. And it’s the responsibility of each manager to keep track of how the impact of their investments supports the business goals. For example, how the relocation of the marketing budget from inefficient advertising to increased numbers of employees with digital skills can boost growth. Furthermore, it usually helps if both employees and management have fun on the job as well. And there, I believe, curiosity is the keyword.

Björn Alberts
Partner at Curamando
+46 709 888 900