Find the right digital transformation leaders

Grégory SalingerFor Grégory Salinger, CDO of Apax Partners, the digital transformation of a company takes many forms. Success requires the right leaders. Here’s what he had to say.

Digital transformation is a major corporate undertaking. The company must introduce a digital dimension into its overall strategic plan and bring about a more-or-less fundamental change in its modus operandi. For these two reasons, project leadership must come from the highest level – the chairman or CEO, and the executive committee – right from the outset. The objective is to clearly define the company’s ambition and vision, and in so doing, the roadmap for its transformation.

A digitalisation plan has numerous facets: redefining the customer experience, introducing a new value proposition, overhauling operations, stepping up innovation and changing the corporate culture, to name a few. The company must identify one or more good operational leaders to ensure that the initiatives taken by various managers move forward and that the entity makes progress. Who should be responsible for this multifarious transformation? The CDO? The CIO? The head of marketing or operations?

It could make sense to appoint a CDO to provide the necessary impetus, orchestrate the transformation project’s various initiatives and obtain buy-in from all employees. The CDO does not have an exclusive hold on this role, however; a functional manager might also fit the bill. This person must: 1) understand digital technologies and know how to integrate them into a business context, 2) be a team-builder, 3) have a very strong external or internal customer orientation and 4) embrace innovation and new digital trends.

To find the right leaders, companies should ask themselves five questions. What is my level of digital maturity? How well do my employees understand digital technology? How high should I aim? What are my company’s principal digital challenges? What kinds of resources will I need to change my organisation significantly and quickly?

Some companies mistakenly consider digital transformation as an important but isolated initiative. They must avoid this pitfall and integrate digital transformation into the company’s strategy and operations, with achievements tied to clear, measurable objectives. Most retailers, for example, have approached digital transformation by developing an e-commerce site. This is a good first step, but online selling is only one stage in digital transformation. The company must evolve from an online merchant to an omni-channel provider with a unified view of its customers, where digital is both a sales accelerator and an ingredient in the company’s full range of solutions and in its value proposition. The director of human resources can play an important role in helping the company improve its modus operandi and in making the corporate culture more agile, open and innovative. The HR director ensures that employees buy into digital transformation, which is the key to long-term success.

Investment funds can help a company clarify its digital ambition and roadmap. Their expertise, their knowledge of digital technology and their ability to call upon skilled partners make them important allies in a successful transformation.

Read the second edition of the Barometer on the digital maturity of mid-sized companies.

Grégory Salinger Chief Digital Officer Contact informations

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Apax Talks is a digital magazine aimed at company managers. It presents growth levers for SMEs, with a focus on TMT, consumer, healthcare and services sectors.