Who should lead the digital transformation of your business?

Blog by: David Griffiths, Managing Director, Adept4 - 23-Apr-2018

Digital innovation continues to disrupt the business landscape, but not all companies are keeping up with the transformation. 

It’s understandable that Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) feel almost obliged to buy into each technological evolution. Competition is so fierce that there’s strong temptation to try and purchase efficiency and a cutting edge. Yet very little thought is often given as to how to use the latest hardware and software, where to use it, or even if it is needed. On the other hand, localised areas of the business might be technologically adept, but they are often working and deploying solutions in isolation, without any central coordination.  

What every business needs is someone to help lead the digital transformation process, creating an agile organisation that can identify the digital threats and opportunities—and respond accordingly. But is this the CEO, as most would assume? Or another role with the ability take a holistic view of the digital aspects of the business and manage them to ensure the ongoing transformation is in line with your overall vision? 


On paper, the CEO is in the ideal position to lead the digital transformation of a business. However, they often don’t have the digital savvy—or the capacity needed—for managing such a universal change to the level needed. 

The next steps down the senior management ladder might be the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO), but these roles, conversely, might be too focused on their individual specialties. It would be difficult for both to be able to pull themselves back from marketing and IT enough to gain the overall perspective needed for managing digital transformation across the whole business.  

What most companies need to be looking for is more of a Chief Digital Officer (CDO). A new permanent role (because the digital transformation process is ongoing) for a digital specialist who can work closely with the CEO, at a senior level that provides the oversight and power needed to be able to lead a business through such a potentially disruptive (and occasionally controversial) process.  

What qualities does a good CDO need? 

The type of person who will make a successful CDO will be someone with a range of good technical qualities across the board. The don’t necessarily need to be experts in any one area, but they will need a solid grounding and a good grasp of the language in all those specialisms they’ll be dealing with, such as IT and marketing—as well as a thorough digital knowledge across them all. 

Most importantly of all, however, are the personality traits that often make or break a company’s digital transformation. These are the core qualities that every CDO needs to make a success out of the process.  

Want to know what to look for? We suggest the five following key traits: 

  • Strong leadership—there are a lot of moving parts and people to manage and guide in a single direction, all the while keeping the company’s objectives in view.  
  • Persuasive personality—this is a change not just of process, but of culture. The CDO will need to overcome resistance from those unwilling to change and encourage them on the transformation journey.  
  • Negotiator—there will be a lot of internal politicking to deal with. Being persuasive is one thing, but solid mediation skills to minimise inter-departmental clashes will be a must too. 
  • Unafraid to break things—the old silos that make up traditional business models must come down to be able to build a more transversal way of working that digital transformation needs.  
  • Strategic thinking—the CDO will need to be smart about their approach, making sure they properly identify the opportunities and threats in each area to help target those that require the most attention (and investment). 

Whether you promote from within or make an external hire, ensuring you fill this role with the right person is invaluable to making sure your company’s digital transformation is smooth and efficient—and gives your business the edge it needs in an increasingly digital world 

Don’t have a CDO to help steer your digital transformation? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to guide you in the right direction with a one to one with our CTO, Mike Williams. 


Topics: Business Agility, Digital Transformation

Sign up to our blog