What Does ‘X’ in CXO Signify in the Age of Digital?Cigniti Technologies
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Change is inevitable, you can either evolve with it or perish with redundancy. Every century or half, a major revolution swoop on the mankind and bulldoze it to metamorphose. The history is replete with examples of those who tried to resist the change and are consequently, eliminated out of existence.
From man to machines, physical machines to virtual machines, hardware to software, and now from physical reality to digital and virtual reality – the transformation has been humongous, both in terms of scale and scope. Quality at speed is the core differentiator of the modern industrial revolution –Industry 4.0. In order to deliver it to the customers, the digital path is inevitable for organizations that strive to yield the best user experience.
Today, we are living in an “Age of Customers” and “Age of Digital”, where one drives the other to excellence. In this era of digital transformation, customers serve as the purpose while digital serve as the means to fulfill that purpose. The scope of Industry 4.0 has rendered the legacy tools, systems, and processes redundant. It has created a need for a leader who can visualize beyond what is to what can be. Technology is the fuel but only a leader can steer the wagon to the digital destination, while skillfully avoiding the potholes on the road.
Who should wear the leadership hat?
With every revolution and disruptive change emerges a leader who has the capability, tactical expertise, and vision to successfully row the boat of transformation to the other side. The likes of Andrew Carnegie, Andrew W. Mellon, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller were some of the prominent leaders who drove the previous industrial revolutions. The C-suite in that time was relatively lean. Well, there was only the CEO, so the organizations basically relied on the competence of a single leader.
With the disruption of technology, new roles have emerged in the form of Chief Technology Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Information Security Officers, and Chief Security Officers. When organizations started to understand the value of customer-driven strategies, they began hiring Chief Customer Officers, also known as Chief Experience Officers.
McKinsey reported that adopting digital ways can increase revenues by 3.5% and profits up to 15% more than that of the competition. In another report by Gartner, 67% of the leaders acknowledge the criticality of digitization and agree that they must do it by 2020.
Digital transformation has become a necessity in the present scenario for organizations to climb the charts of success. Having so many strategic minds and decision-makers might be indispensable to achieve the level of change that digital transformation demands. But who should actually lead them all? Will too many chefs end up spoiling the broth?
The demanding role of a digital leader
There is an overlap of responsibilities among a lot of these emerging roles. In order to ensure that the overlap promotes collaboration instead of internal competition and chaos, one strong leader is required – a leader who can proficiently navigate the organization on the other side of the journey. A leader who is technically apt and has the skills to motivate the people to change and evolve.
As Hilda Clune, CIO of PwC, points out, “Digital transformation is not just about technology or being technologically enabled. It’s about lifting the digital competency of your people and accelerating your digital culture. It’s about recruiting and nurturing talent that meets our future needs, and it’s about creating the environment where technology is a part of the fabric. It’s about a vision and strategy where being digital is a part of the organization’s personality and purpose, not just a part of the infrastructure. It’s an ecosystem.”
Defining the “X” in CXO
The X stands for Digital Transformation, so should the name for this role be “Chief Digital Transformation Officer” or a “CDxO”? Do we need to create a new role, or are the existing leaders efficient to drive this evolutionary change? The need for technical-aptness brings forth CIOs and CTOs as the natural choices, but what about the needed people skills?
Irrespective of their present responsibility, the ideal role of digital transformation leaders requires them to wear multiple hats, while leveraging the expertise of their capable C-suite. Popularly known as “Digital Change Agents”, the C-suite in this digital age supports its leader to efficiently complete the digital transformation journey. While the leader visualizes, the agents facilitate.
Michael Brummer, Vice President of Experian Data Breach Resolution, argues, “The C-suite is critical to the success of a company’s digital transformation. As the leaders of their organizations, they are uniquely positioned to set forth the strategic vision for embracing new technologies, streamlining operations, improving customer experiences, implementing organizational changes and developing new internal skill sets.”
Digital transformation is a not a solo bike trip. It is a massive train journey with everyone, from top to bottom level, onboard.
More than the nomenclature, it is essential to have clarity in the vision and goals. Digital transformation needs to be all-encompassing. It’s not digital transformation if one unit of an organization is working with modern digital technologies while the other is still juggling with the legacy systems. Having such a disproportionate system will fail the actual purpose of this revolutionary evolution – Quality at speed. All the processes, all the systems, and all people must be in tandem with each other, striving to achieve a shared goal, which is visualized and steered toward by a capable, digitally-oriented, executive leader.
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