3 questions for digital transformation leaders

Digital transformations start with great talent but finish with strong leadership. This week we share three questions every digital leader should ask.


Even the best-conceived transformation can go wrong if you’ve neglected your talent. Vision often takes a backseat to talent. This is why human recruiters are still very much needed in our technology-driven world. It takes time to vet and place talent, leveraging their experience.

Let’s not forget about the role of leadership. A strong leader helps usher decision-makers and teams into a new chapter, championing different ways of thinking that may be radically different from the existing company culture.

Even the very best talent does not always guarantee the success of a transformation. However, ‘a lack of it’, as Harvard Business Review notes, will almost guarantee failure. Here are three questions every leader should ask, before embarking on a digital transformation:


1. How strong is my case for a digital transformation?

The role of a technologist or product owner is never easy. The enormous technical debt that comes with outdated systems or embedded technology is difficult and complicated to change.

While many organisations recognise the importance of updating systems from a technical perspective, people are inherently resistant to change as it often represents the unknown. A little handholding helps teams and decision-makers change the way they work by integrating solutions or building new ones from scratch. Technologists, leaders and product owners must make a bulletproof case for a business need to offset the technical debt that comes with transforming legacy systems.


2. Is our data clean?

It’s something everyone talks about as ‘best practice’, but the reality is that most companies’ data is disparate and incomplete. This means not only does it not meet the basic standards of good data practice, but it also fails to meet the requirements of any digital transformation project. In one 2017 study, HBR found that only 3% of companies’ data met basic quality standards.

Because transformation usually requires understanding new types of unstructured data, external data and propriety data, integrating and cleaning up the data presents an enormous task, not least because of the volume of data. If a business’s data isn’t in a good place to start with, you can imagine the huge number of resources needed to carry out a digital transformation. Leaders may point the finger at IT, but this is not a departmental failure. It’s usually an organisational failure, where leaders fail to put proper roles and responsibilities in place.

These failures extend to post-transformation when leaders have not thoroughly thought through the transformation, communicating what data needed after transformation. Doing so means reviewing work processes and tasks to create data.


3. Are we radical enough in our thinking?

Many organisations make incremental improvements, which are important and helpful in the day-to-day running of the business. However, these improvements lack the end-to-end mindset to drive true transformation and innovation. Radical transformations start with radical mindset shifts.

We think this analogy sums it up quite nicely: ‘Technology is the engine of digital transformation, data is the fuel, the process is the guidance system, and organizational change capability is the landing gear. You need them all, and they must function well together.’ We would add that innovation is the destination. Growth and relevancy are the signs, you’re headed in the right direction.


Embarking on a digital transformation

Wherever transformation happens, it must always be geared to the appropriate teams. If you’re transforming your customer experience and working with customer data, customer service must have a large input. Radical change must be championed by the teams and leaders it most impacts. It seems fairly obvious, but hierarchical structures and mindsets often prevent true collaboration and adoption. However, by building a strong business case, making sure your data is clean and championing radical thinking, leaders can push past these obstacles.


Ready to get started with your digital transformation? Please do get in touch to arrange a chat.