Digital Transformation: The Emerging Role of CEOs

4 minutes read
on 03 October, 2018

Digital Transformation: The Emerging Role of CEOs

So far, we have seen CIOs, CTOs, and even CDOs, to a great extent, lead digital transformation initiatives for enterprises. However, lately it is CEOs who are taking over the mantle and playing a more prominent role. It has started occupying a place on the corporate agendas in the boardrooms. While some may call it a disruption of sorts, we call it a natural progression of things.

We have always propagated that digital transformation is not a functional approach but an enterprise level strategy. Unless and until it starts dominating the boardroom discussion, we believe the enterprise is still not invested in the initiative completely.

So, what is driving this change and what is the role of a CEO in such a scenario?

Disruption Driven Transformation

So far digital transformation was all about disrupting the status quo of the market and forcing competition to rethink and reimagine. But now the rules of the game have changed! Now digital transformation is not about market disruption but self disruption. Every single function and line of business of the enterprise has to reimagine the way things are being done.

When the other leaders are taking a deep dive into the multi-functional disruption approach, CEOs can hold the business together through the transformation process.

Digital Innovation

We have already seen in our previous article how there are gaping holes in digital transformation efforts at technology and business end. Digital innovation is one such gaping hole that a CEO has to fill. While the CIOs and CTOs are struggling with technical debt and IT legacy, the CEO needs to bring in the fresh perspective.

If the initiative requires the business to invest more in technology and tools, then CEO has to roll the dice for it and convince the board members. If there is a need to acquire new smaller yet tech savvy companies, then it is the CEO’s entrepreneurial intellect that should drive the decision and not the IT needs or operational needs.

Redefine Culture

Digital transformation involves a lot of trial and error. The teams need to feel bold and empowered enough to bring new ideas to the table. They need to know that it is ok for them to fail and what really matters is willingness to try. This requires a cultural shift which can be brought in only by the CEO.

We have worked with some CEOs who have redefined the complex approval processes of their companies so that they do not stifle the life out of new ideas or innovations. We have helped them redefine their processes to ensure that ideas are analyzed faster and the best ones are picked up for implementation.

Improve Collaboration

Digital transformation has got a lot to do with getting different teams and functions to collaborate with each other and share information. This is departure from the traditional way of existence where functions operated in silos and fragmented information databases were the norm.

It is the CEO’s mandate to get the teams that have traditionally been at odds with each other to shake hands and operate in a connected environment. A CEO has to not only create opportunities of collaboration but also create an environment that insists on collaboration and rewards it appropriately.

Digital Leadership

With all said and done, it is the CEO who is the face of the business. His ideas, views, and opinions are looked upon as the voice of the enterprise. So, he has to be the digital leader through the transformation process. He has to be vocal about the need for digital transformation, the strategy in place, the reassurances needed for the employees in place – his voice will matter the most.


Many leaders still treat digital transformation as a matter of choice. But soon it will turn into a matter of existential crisis for them. Within next few years, they will be faced with the choice of transform or go extinct. We will also see many traditional markets and business models getting disrupted and making way of new ones.

But within all this chaos lies an opportunity that just cannot be compared to anything else. And this opportunity still remains untapped. The farsighted CEOs are already rewriting their playbooks and their role in digital transformation.