By DCX on 11 Jul, 2023

Digital leadership is a crucial piece of the puzzle in making sure an organisation thrives in the long run. It bridges the gap between business leaders and digital technology, and it enables a business to achieve their digital goals and meet customer needs more efficiently.

Having someone in your business take the lead and keep digital transformation on the agenda, evaluating opportunities, communicating their advantages, and driving change, is vitally important. 

Traits of a digital transformation leader

Being a successful digital transformation leader is not an easy task. Success demands certain skills and traits in abundance which include the following:

  • Driving a clear vision - the key to any sort of successful transformation is to have a clear picture of where you want to get to, ensuring you have a firm roadmap of how to get there and the key milestones. This clarity of vision demands a solid understanding, not necessarily just of the technological intricacies, but also of the strategic benefits.

  • Leadership and communication - equally important is the ability to communicate that vision to others, from team members and senior stakeholders to collaborative partners. Communication needs to start from the top and filter down through an organisation. Taking a lead role in a transformative process is not always easy. Team members might need to upskill, and Board members might need to be constantly reassured that the transformation is strategically necessary.

  • An appetite for acceptable risk - digital transformation sometimes demands a leap of faith. Change can be perceived as risky, and fear of short-term disruption can lead to inertia. However, the opportunity risk associated with standing still can be even more damaging. Go digital or go bust, said the World Economic Forum in 2020. A digital transformation leader must have a clear-headed approach to risk, and a vision of long-term benefits that can outweigh short-term disruption. 

  • An open and curious mind - Frank Zappa is credited with the homily that a mind is like a parachute - it only works if it is open. That’s certainly an essential trait in a digital transformation leader. He or she needs to have a pioneering spirit, and that means thinking outside the box - for example, taking inspiration from innovations in entirely different industries.

What you need to become a digital leader

Some traits come naturally; others can be acquired over time. An understanding of what the right digital transformation tools do, combined with comprehensive industry experience and knowledge, is a prerequisite to becoming a digital leader.

Bringing in the right tools and processes

In-depth tech know-how is not a prerequisite to digital leadership. Understanding the strategic benefits that technology can deliver is more important than knowing how it does so. This demands a working knowledge and understanding of the different digital tools and processes that are available, such as automation technologies to content management systems, and which ones will be most effective in meeting your company’s objectives. 

Know your business

In all but the largest businesses, ‘digital transformation leader’ is a hat, as opposed to a role. In other words, becoming one probably won’t mean giving up your day job. That might be a role in IT, operations, or strategy, but one thing is certain - to do the job well, or wear the hat effectively, you will need to get out of your comfort zone. 

Be ready to spend time in other functions and departments, learn how they tick, what they do, how they do it, and what their pain-points are. You’ll need a clear, holistic image of how the business operates, in combination with the ability to zoom in on any specific activity or department with perfect clarity.

Develop leadership skills

If you’ve climbed the corporate ladder as a lone wolf and never had to manage a team, the interpersonal side of digital transformation leadership can be the hardest part. Never forget, people have an instinctive distrust and suspicion of change. It’s not something you can bring about single-handedly. Some solid team leadership experience is a huge advantage.    

Becoming a better digital transformation leader

Technology is evolving all the time. The best digital transformation leaders do the same, moving with the times and keeping abreast of how the digital landscape is changing. 

Integrating the right tools into business processes

A digital transformation leader has a whole host of tools at their disposal. But identifying the appropriate ones for your business is only the first step in the transformation process. The bigger challenge can be around integrating these into everyday business processes. 

  • Data analytics can help understand changing demands and customer needs, and thereby shine a light on where to focus. Of course, data analytics is only useful when it has a clearly-defined frame of reference. This means having a firm grip on the company’s strategic goals and KPIs, and identifying those data metrics with which they are most closely aligned. Only then can you start to derive meaningful insights from the mountains of customer data, financial reports, and website traffic logs that are available to you. Integrating data analytics into existing processes is likely to be a disruptive but positive process requiring a wholesale review of reporting practices. 

  • Enterprise integration and automation are among the most common digital transformation initiatives. The important thing here is identifying what opportunities there are for integration and automation. Then, you need to analyse how these would fit with your existing business processes, what would the gains be, what trade-offs might need to be factored in - in terms of disruption to daily business and upskilling staff. From here, you can develop a coherent enterprise-wide integration and automation strategy, which you can always measure against your KPIs and strategic goals.

  • Cloud services are invaluable for streamlining processes and slashing costs. Practically every business uses cloud technology to a certain extent, but like everything, this is a moving target that requires constant monitoring. Monitoring is made more challenging when departments use separate cloud systems and apps. Connecting services into one, centralised cloud system can help IT teams bring everything together, increase efficiencies, and break down silos. Managing a successful integration may require your teams to use a cloud integration platform or build their own custom data integration solution.

The above list is nothing close to exhaustive, but it is indicative of the kinds of tools that a successful digital transformation leader must get their hands on and make use of in order to drive the business forward. 

In conclusion

Digital transformation is not optional in today’s commercial environment.

And successful digital transformation is dependent on successful digital transformation leadership.

This, in turn, demands a blend of skills, including having a good grip on technology and what it can do, in-depth understanding of the business and the industry in which it operates, and exemplary leadership skills.

Perhaps most important of all, however, is flexibility and the willingness to see around corners to identify the next major transformation opportunity ahead of anyone else.

Taking the first step in identifying the best tools to aid digital transformation and how to iterate them into your business can be daunting. However, our experts are here to help you get started, and can support you every step of the way. Get in touch with us to learn more.

Do Digital Transformation. Better.