November 30, 2023


Business&Finance Specialists

The CEO’s Playbook for a Prosperous Digital Transformation

7 min read

Digital transformation is the CEO’s work. Only the CEO can make the fundamental alterations needed for a successful transformation. Which is mainly because a business product reinvention needs diverse functions throughout the business to perform together in new means, and that can only happen by building substantial-scale investments and significant-scale variations that get started from the top rated down.

That is a tall order, not the very least since handful of CEOs have the expertise of major a digital transformation, and as a result deficiency the pattern recognition to house in on the most significant make-or-crack steps. Our experience doing the job with additional than 100 significant incumbent providers on their electronic transformations more than the earlier 10 many years has proven that there is a playbook for achievements. By concentrating their energies on 5 areas of the playbook, CEOs can speed up prosperous digital transformations.

Reimagine benefit and demystify digital.

The position of a electronic transformation is not to grow to be electronic it is to create value for the organization.

A important attribute of effective digital CEOs is that they can action back again much enough from their current company to reimagine where transformative — not incremental — price is probable. We discover that these CEOs commit a lot of time viewing firms and staying abreast of how new trends are building value. That assists them to glance at their individual property with contemporary eyes and see the place there’s new benefit.

Steve Timm, the president of Collins Aerospace, finds transformative price in becoming equipped to thoughtfully reimagine the business design. “Many CEOs have domain experience and they never want to get exterior of that,” he advised us during an interview. “They’re not considering about redefining the broader architecture or ecosystem. We need to have to redefine the boundaries where by value can arrive from.”

With clarity on the organization design proven, focusing on a area — for instance, a entire core method or person journey — has emerged as a critical factor for focusing energies in a digital transformation. In our experience, as lots of as 80% of successful interventions in a struggling transformation are based mostly on refocusing it on priority domains. A area should really be massive sufficient to be valuable to the enterprise, but tiny adequate so that all the necessary improvements can be carried out finish to finish, these as the entire procedure for opening an account or acquiring a property.

Contemplate the scenario of Chuck Magro, previous CEO of Nutrien, who led a digital transformation for the duration of his tenure at Nutrien. Magro advised us for the duration of an job interview, “There ended up already lots of electronic initiatives and apps underway in the company, but it was fragmented. By sponsoring the electronic transformation, I was capable to elevate electronic and focus it on how to ideal serve our growers [customers] by generating a one platform that built-in all of our providers.”

Give a cause for top expertise to come function for you.

Selecting new talent is a person of the swiftest means to speed up a electronic transformation. Thriving CEOs are instrumental in encouraging the group concentrate on what really motivates prime talent, altering the company’s tradition and strategy to attraction to them.

Ted Doheny, President and CEO of Sealed Air, went all out to carry in digital authorities and associates. “To completely transform into a digitally driven company we should act like a $5B startup disrupting the current market, our marketplace, and our very own enterprise,” Doheny advised us. “We created SEE Ventures to commit in disruptive systems and organizations while partnering with the MIT Industrial Liaison Program and other folks. These moves didn’t contribute straight away to top-line advancement, but they’re building the lifestyle of our electronic potential.”

Communicating a better objective is essential as properly. It can not be something the CEO delegates to their CMO. Instead, the CEO requires to enjoy a deciding job in crafting and speaking the concept. Though many pushed Nutrien to open an business office in San Francisco, for case in point, CEO Magro insisted on being at their headquarters in Loveland, Colorado, and concentrating as an alternative on their reason, which was to “help feed the environment.” Magro instructed us, “I talked to dozens of workers who arrived to operate for us in Colorado because they could notify their children that they aid feed the globe.”

Extra tangibly, we see digital CEOs functioning closely with their CHROs to create versatile occupation pathways where by proficient workforce have options to development, understand, and mature their competencies. CEOs must be monitoring significant expertise “satisfaction” metrics — such as time to promotion and percentage of expertise collaborating in technological communities — as carefully as they do hiring ones.

Bring tech and information entrance and middle.

While CEOs shouldn’t be envisioned to be tech industry experts, the most profitable ones prioritize tech and data in two methods:

Initial, they concentrate on how to apply tech and facts to resolve enterprise problems or crack open up prospects. For example, Ram Krishnan, formerly the CEO of Closing Controls and now EVP and COO of Emerson, instructed us: “The essential tech architecture to generate price is acquiring a pervasive sensing system that generates knowledge, collects it, and then applies AI- and ML-driven software program to change it into actionable insights.” Backing up his philosophy, he commits almost 50% of his cash expenditure to maximizing systems. The allocation of technological innovation expend is a foremost indicator that CEOs need to keep an eye on to ensure that the business is succeeding on the electronic front.

In a related vein, Steve Timm at Collins Aerospace is shifting in direction of a linked ecosystem of abilities to empower serious-time analytics for improved plane operations and routine maintenance. To do so, they recently acquired FlightAware, an aviation information analytics business, as aspect of an effort and hard work to consolidate their engineering stack to supply the business with a platform to deploy connected aircraft units.

2nd, profitable CEOs make major organizational variations to assure that tech and knowledge are embedded into the DNA of the enterprise. A single of the most considerable differentiators among the productive electronic corporations is the diploma to which digital technologists do the job carefully with the small business. That suggests growing past the standard G3 (Group of three) framework of the CEO, CFO, and CHRO to a G4 to incorporate a top rated tech and details leader to shape choices around capital allocation, tactic, organizational design, and possibility. Thriving electronic CEOs make confident that the tech leaders are element of the internal circle in the C-suite and report immediately to them.

Rebuild the functioning design for speed.

We have uncovered that the finest-accomplishing businesses accomplish selected vital techniques — these as reviewing facts, sharing results, and reallocating expertise — much more usually than their friends. The CEO is instrumental in placing the tempo. The tough perform that a CEO should do to travel that tempo transpires in breaking by way of entrenched organizational constructs to nurture a society that values the doer more than the supervisor, and small teams more than large org charts.

CEOs are prosperous in building this performing model when they simplify the most important procedures (e.g. funding tied to digital goals), make clear governance to lessen ambiguity in determination generating, pare down the selection of administrators, and celebrate workforce progress. As significant, they construct a lifestyle that learns so the organization can adapt quickly. “[A digital transformation] represents a big wager on the long run of any organization, so we travel ahead, discover, and adapt along the way,” Alain Bejjani, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim explained to us. “Mistakes are very valuable when they are the outcome of obtaining finished your best, especially when folks discover from them so they don’t make the same miscalculation again.”

Dedicate to adoption of digital methods with the exact passion that you dedicate to technique.

The digital CEO is as passionate about adoption as they are about method. Building digital “stick” at scale is challenging to do, on the other hand, simply because of the far-achieving knock-on consequences of electronic platforms, and the need to regularly recalibrate and realign throughout the complete organization program to capture the total gains.

For example, when a corporation installs predictive servicing technology, it needs to update how its inventory is managed, how crews are dispatched, and how cost savings are reallocated to other priorities. To support make these interventions, most effective CEOs we’ve observed have a clear watch of what metrics to track and how to monitor development in direction of them. The CEO of a person significant financial institution, for instance, studies on three metrics: a) electronic product sales as a percentage of total product sales, b) percentage of transactions performed in branches, and c) NPS scores. When there are anomalies in any of them, he has the relevant company leaders figure out why.

A person error we see is that companies really don’t fork out sufficient interest to these adoption and scaling concerns until eventually the digital transformation is properly less than way. Successful CEOs, in contrast, commit the time upfront. They insist, for illustration, on electronic groups performing carefully not just with the business sponsors but also with the entrance lines. “We desired to make certain from the commencing that the business approved and preferred what we have been establishing,” states Magro. “So we crafted a digital system that dealt with their demands, this sort of as permitting our agronomists to quickly see every single account they experienced. In a lot less than two yrs, we have been processing extra than $1 billion in orders [through digital channels].”


Electronic transformation is not a desired destination it’s a long term state of evolution. It can only materialize if CEOs act as digital guardians of their companies’ transformations, and are clear on how they can very best effect the change that will embed digital DNA into their corporations.