5 Key Roles of a Digital Business Leader

Digital Business Leader

According to a recent article by McKinsey, the number of Chief Digital Officers doubled from 2013 to 2014 and is expected to double again this year as more organisations begin to realise that they cannot achieve digital business transformation within current structures.

The article lists 5 ‘mission critical’ roles of a Digital Business Leader.

1. Make digital integral to the strategy

According to McKinsey, digital isn’t a ‘thing’ – it’s a new way of doing things. Successful CDOs focus on integrating digital into all aspects of the business, from channels and processes and data to the operating model, incentives, and culture. Rather than developing a ‘digital strategy’, companies with a high Digital Quotient (DQ) (high level of digital maturity) fully integrated digital initiatives into their overall strategic planning process. This requires that the CDO works closely with the CEO, the chief information officer (CIO), business-unit leaders, and the chief financial officer; providing detailed analysis of market trends and developments in technology and customer behavior that will impact on the core strategy. They also require a bold vision; they need to become known within their organization for something that is courageous, new, and adds value.

2. Obsess over the customer

With technology and customer habits changing so quickly, CDOs need to develop a deep and detailed view of customer behavior across all channels providing a common reference point to all business discussions. Using the concept of customer journeys and big data to highlight opportunities and pain points, digital leaders can challenge the status quo, destroy myths and pave the way for change. A passion for ‘knowing your customers’ is a core competency of a successful digital leader. The ultimate objective of becoming digital is to enhance the customer experience.

3. Build agility, speed, and data

CDOs must build strong foundations for change by creating a “spirit of digital” throughout the organization. They must look at how the organization operates and find ways to inject speed into processes. This may require radical change in how the company works.

4. Extend networks

In a digital world, threats often do not come from established competitors but rather from innovative technologies that enable new businesses, start-ups that undermine established business models, or new developments outside the way the company defined its competitive space. Successful digital leaders need to be very aware of such trends.They need to build networks of people, technologies, and ideas far outside of their company, constantly scanning the small-business landscape to identify possible acquisitions or partners that can provide complementary capabilities. Building an internal network is just as important because company systems and technologies need to be flexible enough to work with outside parties. In particular, CDOs need to work with IT leaders to develop application programming interfaces and cloud-based architecture that work with a broader ecosystem of providers.

5. Get stuff done

CDOs are ultimately judged not by the quality of their ideas but by their ability to lead different types of teams, guide projects, overcome hurdles, and deliver integrated change. Getting stuff done often requires hard-nosed negotiating skills.

Defining characteristics of the new CDO

The article also examines the defining characteristics of a successful digital leader where a combination of hard and soft skills are required.

The former includes the ability to articulate a strategic vision, the means to take on problems by identifying root causes across functions and making the tough decisions necessary to resolve them, experience in “pure play” digital and larger company transformations (typically in the consumer and technology sectors), and the managerial ability to lead and see programs through to fruition.

The importance of soft skills should not be understated with some CDOs estimating that they spend 80 percent of their time building relationships. Having the patience to navigate complex organizational structures, collaborating to get buy-in across functions, being diplomatically while challenging the status quo, leadership and charisma are also important soft skills to posses.

Based on the above, are you a Future Digital Leader?

You can read the full article here.

Take care.

Jim H

Dr. Jim Hamill

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