A Culture of Digital Blog Series: The Case for Moving Digital Leadership from IT to the CEO (Part Two)

Technology and Digital


October 31, 2016

Digitization can be painful, and the corporate landscape is rife with individuals who consciously or unconsciously will fight it. Why? Because it goes against business-as-usual. It smashes silos and shares valuable information. And, the efficiencies and value it delivers could ultimately mean the dissolution of entire departments.

What is one of the first departments on digitization’s proverbial chopping block? It’s the same one that 67 percent of companies put in charge of digitization itself*: IT. But giving IT leadership over digitization is the equivalent of putting a bunch of taxi drivers in charge of marketing Uber, and then being surprised when they do a mediocre job.

Being digital is as much a state of mind as it is a state of technology. Leadership must originate at the very top of an organization to inspire every department to get on board and to ensure the effort is holistic. C-suite-level leadership also prevents potential corporate antibodies from unintentionally sabotaging digitization in an effort to preserve status quo.

  • The top two enablers of digitization are “ownership of the initiative” at 41% and “C-suite sponsorship” at 38%, both valued more important than 11 other factors, including “funding/budget” and “technical knowledge.”

Organizations must think beyond technical know-how in assigning digital leadership. In fact, being a digital leader doesn’t require an IT-department level of tech expertise. What it does require is perseverance and a steadfast vision to lead through the discomfort of digitization. It requires emotional intelligence to empower the most advanced parts of their organization to be digital trailblazers, using their successes to promote a cultural commitment to a new digital way of life. And it requires a willingness to start small and prove by doing, ever marching toward the glory of an end-to-end digital framework.

Digitization is a team sport. And in what is arguably the most important game for business this decade, let your IT department be the star player, but make your CEO the coach.

In case you missed it, check out Part One of the Culture of Digital Series here and Part Three here.

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2 Responses

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  1. Jim Smith
    Nov 09, 2016 - 05:03 PM

    I’ve been connecting the CEO to IT for over twenty years and it’s been the hardest sell there is. Most CEO’s are afraid of taking on IT or just don’t want the hassle. Digital is just a word and has no more importance than any of the other numerous IT words no CEO understands. What really works is having the CIO report to the CEO and ALL IT investments are decided at the officer level. The CIO’s job here is to explain in graphic detail EVERYTHING IT resources are doing. The whole point of this approach is that there’s only one check book in use for IT, therefore not all projects can be equal. Imagine all the officers sitting around the table and competing for IT resources based on business value. Once the decisions are made, the CIO has the best job in the house. No longer are the management complaining about not getting enough IT support and shadow IT makes no sense with the approach. Again, there’s only one check book so what may have become shadow IT ends on the same table with everything else. This isn’t rocket science, it’s leadership. It’s taking the money you have and leveraging it to the strategy. Absence this ADULT approach to managing IT, it’s impossible for the CEO to leverage the company’s IT investments. The corporate bully usually wins, but not in a battle with his peers and the CEO. None have reverted after taking this approach, it’s just too easy.


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