The Organization in the Digital Age: senior leadership almost on board

November 7, 2016

I believe that digital transformation is really nothing extraordinary for organizations. This statement may seem strange in the mouth of someone who has been researching it for 10 years. However, my conviction is that digital transformation is part of a continuum of change for organizations as people, the workplace and technology evolve.

Breakthroughs can happen, but organizational change—digital or other—is progressive. Organizational change is not a new topic. Digital transformation is. It has in fact become a handy buzzword for selling new technologies. In reality, organizational and digital change go hand in hand, which is why my research is now focused on the organization in the digital age, and no longer on the digital workplace, a term that evokes technology for many people.

The organization in the digital age needs people more than technology.

People from all parts of the organization are needed as change happens, or does not happen! This post deals with senior leadership, and future posts will talk about the customer-facing workforce, operational managers and many other aspects of digital transformation and change.

Let’s start with senior leadership, and I’m now quoting from the Executive Summary of this year’s report:

“Many senior managers now understand and support digital initiatives. The placement of the highest-level person responsible for digital matters is now the CEO or a direct report to the CEO for nearly 60% of organizations (vs. 40% in last year’s report).

Sustained commitment is still rare among senior leaders.

However, as the title of this post suggests, senior leaders in many cases are not really there yet. Data show that 33% of the organizations say their top-level managers understand and support digital initiatives. This was the case in only 18% of organizations in the previous report so that’s progress. However, only 15% report their managers show sustained commitment and conviction that digital is essential to the way they work which is low, but an improvement from an even lower 8% in the previous year.

Even so, the need for a quantifiable business case has decreased…

A challenge cited frequently in previous years was that management needed to see quantifiable business cases before investing in digital initiatives. In 2013, 40% of the respondents said this was a serious concern that holds us back, 25% in 2014 and again in 2015, and just over 15% in 2016. Definite progress.

…and budgets are becoming available.

Although the business case concern still exists, the drop over four years is underlined by the fact that lack of budgets and resources has also decreased as an obstacle: from 60% in 2013 to 40% in 2016. Again, good progress.

The challenge now is now to turn the increasing senior support into a strategy that is actionable. That’s the subject of a future post.

If you’d like a free copy of the Executive Summary, let me know. Here’s more information about the full report and how to purchase it if you are interested.

As always comments are welcome.

 

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