Asking one hundred or so CEOs for their definition of digital transformation would inevitably lead to more than one definition. Despite a probable proliferation of descriptions, an increasing number point to it as impacting their industries, with around half of executives confirming this, compared with only 15 percent in 2015[i].
Multiple technologies can be held up as transforming industries yet it is important to keep in mind that digital transformation is not just about adding new technologies or channels to existing organisations but rather about structural changes in the way an organisation operates. The two are related however; more than half of executives believe one of their biggest barriers to implementing digital technologies is their internal corporate culture.
A key component of this lies in skills and education. Some 70 percent of CEOs say they’re worried about the digital skills of their senior leadership team[ii]. In such instances delegating digital transformation to a CIO, for example, is unlikely to prove successful. It will take holistic executive planning and action that targets talent pathways, skills shortages and an aligned tech and overall strategy approach for digital transformation to succeed. This must include the entire workforce, not only are executives typically lacking in digital skills, nearly 6 in 10 of them believe their workforce isn’t ‘…sufficiently security savvy,’ enough to move forwards with digital transformation[iii].
Executives are often bombarded by the forecast of dire consequences of failing to digitally transform, and neither stalling out and irrelevance nor the efficiencies and new value propositions that can be unlocked by digital change should be ignored. Rushing blindly into digital transformation risks one of two unfortunate outcomes, however. The first remains the possibility of a lip-service grafting of new technologies onto old processes, structures and ways of thinking that does little to boost competitiveness or open new channels of business. The second is the lack of skills that mean that digital transformation without adequate cybersecurity could be a ‘…train wreck waiting to happen[iv].’ Some 1.5m cybersecurity positions are expected to go unfilled by 2020.
Organisations still to undertake digital transformation, or stalled part way on it, have a significant task awaiting. Attracting new talent now requires technologically savvy workplaces and ways of working, yet the implementation of such technologies requires a skill and talent base often lacking. This chicken and egg scenario necessitates the somewhat risky rebuilding of the organisation on the fly. Although a mainstay of strategic thinking and management articles for a while now, it is likely that the impacts from digital transformation are only just starting.