How the C-Suite Should Divy Up Ownership of Digital Initiatives
Digital transformation is inevitable, according to an MIT survey of C-suite executives. Nearly 60 percent of the executives believe technology will greatly disrupt their industries in the coming years. All evidence in the trucking world points to this being true.
Despite evidence of increased profits and market share, some leaders are uncertain about managing digital transformations. It involves an extensive and time-consuming investment. Digitization involves retraining staff, reshaping corporate culture, and redirecting workflows into more efficient patterns as much as it does investing in new technology.
The biggest concern is also defining KPIs and metrics for success once the digital transformation is complete. Without goal tracking in place, companies run into inconsistency that makes it hard to assess the true value of digital transformation. A company could be gathering lots of valuable data, only to miss out on how to extract the data in a meaningful way tied to specific definitions of success.
Creating assessment guidelines must be done on an individual basis. Every organization doesn’t adopt technology at the same pace, in the same order. One might focus on improving internal procedures in the warehouse first while others look to upgrade their analytics software for sales and prospecting new customers. This means revenue is not the only success metric a company can and should look at for digital initiatives.
Uneven adoption within a company also hinders the efficiency of technological initiatives. It takes flexibility to enact change across an organization; flexibility many companies don’t have. Internal politics and organizational cultures that do not accept failure, when coupled with a lack of clarity on goals, are the biggest threats to success.
Those that are successful not only use tailored solutions for specific problems rather than jumping from trend to trend, but also have a solid C-suite family, or what is referred to as the CxOs. CxOs must work together to create a digitally optimized workplace that serves the needs of the company. It’s no longer possible – or even sensible – to expect the CEO to be an expert in all areas of their company.
Defining Success Through Clarity
Let’s first focus on some common areas the CxOs can look to for defining success: conversions, operational costs, customer satisfaction, website behavior, and corporate climate.
Judging revenue may be misleading, but web-originated conversions are a reasonable metric that please shareholders and board members too. Trucking and transportation have services and products to sell – having an inbound marketing strategy to not only yield a strong online presence, but to generate leads and convert visitors to customers is key. Using conversions as a success metric would apply to a digital initiative in your marketing efforts or sales pipeline, tracking campaigns such as e-newsletter blasts, ad buys, social media efforts and more. There are several simple extensions that sort incoming traffic according to the campaign that generated it. These extensions can follow visitors to the point of purchase, providing a clear visual of performance.
A core aspect of digital innovation is automation, making it easy to track lowered operational costs. Repetitive and tedious steps can be managed or eliminated by machine learning programs and other software. Automation is a great way to reduce overtime, as employees will be able to readjust to spending time on valuable tasks and not routine, housekeeping items machines can do. Readjust is the key here too – most businesses are looking to make employees more productive with technology, not eliminate the human element. CEOs may consider reduced payroll, lower utilities (and other costs associated with overworked staff) and benefits gained from “bonus projects” as part of their success metrics.
We’re only two years away from realizing some expert opinions that by 2020 customer experience will be the most important brand differentiator. Your customers will naturally gravitate to partners that are easy to connect with and problem-solve with. One digital initiative may be to empower your customer service team through online tools for customer engagement. An industry trend of lowering freight rates for shippers thanks to oversupply and competitiveness has also lowered the customer service shippers would like to receive from container companies, for example. Using data to determine these customer service pain points will lead to change in operations. You can use a CRM and a TMS to keep information aligned on the digital front. Having a custom-built enterprise solution will tailor data and communication for each company’s needs.
A final metric to consider is the hardest to measure but a powerful one we hit on in our piece about removing barriers to opposition. Companies who manage smooth digital transformations have happier employees, more creative low-level managers, and key leaders with a stronger commitment to the ultimate success of the company. One way to measure this change is to check retention rates among mid to senior level executives.
The Revived C-Suite Team
One of the biggest changes involving technology is the growth of the CxO branch once your company has clarity in its purpose for the digital transformation.
While everyone benefits from increased efficiency and productivity, some members of the CxO family bear a greater share of the responsibility for guiding their organization through the digital transformation. While the CIO/CTO still leads the charge, a new level of responsibility is shared by the CEO and COO.
The Business-Minded CTO/CIO. Finding CIOs and CTOs leading the charge on digital change is no surprise. The pace of technology and innovation is inspiring, and it’s important a CIO is inspired by what technology could be “cool” to have. But now, CIOs need to have more than insight into what is cool; they need to understand the what benefit it serves to address inefficient and broken processes or unmet needs.
In the past, CIOs tended to have a very narrow focus. They dealt with technical projects: keeping the IT systems running, managing ERP software, and serving as the “voice of technology” in the boardroom. They were generally found in their offices reconciling reports and managing their subordinate IT departments. Now every company is a technology company. Technology has become an integral part of how a company operates at all levels. Technology is both causing problems for organizations and solving them, and the C-suite turns to CIOs to know how to deal with this.
In response, CIOs are shifting from “functional” to “transformational” mindsets to reflect their greater involvement in the organization’s overall digital strategy. CIOs are spending more time outside their office learning what other departments need, what types of technology work for them and which programs aren’t meeting their needs.
Enterprise Technology’s Newest Advocate, the CEO. Directives from CEOs are taken more seriously – that hasn’t changed with the digital transformation. The inevitable challenges discussed before are the reasons the digital transformation benefits from a high-level advocate. Additionally, the digital transformation is fairly new, so it only makes sense that the CEO would be involved more in relatively uncharted territory.
However, CEOs can’t spend the same amount of time a CIO has to really investigate the technology needs of their company. It means trusting and listening to the CIO to suggest the right technology solutions based on business strategy. Once the technology investment has been landed on, CEOs should focus on finding ways to deploy innovative ideas quickly in a fiscally conscious manner and ultimately, makes the final decision on what specific challenge the new technology will address. This means setting priorities for improvement based on what has the potential to cause the most disruption. The CEO is the leader for how to solve roadblocks and providing guidance on when to pivot. This creates a unified digital strategy so that the other roles and leaders can charge forward, empowered to make changes within a guided framework.
COO, the Master Planner. The COO is the logistics manager of the digital transformation; they take the technologies decided on by the CTO and oversee implementation according to the CEO’s business plan. That includes everything from helping source vendors to planning space requirements for new offices and equipment. Additionally, COOs must hire employees as needed to support the developing strategy or retrain existing employees to fulfill those roles.
It’s been mentioned that getting employees on board with new technology is key. The COO must create a path to universal adoption that minimizes the disturbance while also assuring a smooth integration of new technology and processes.
Reducing the stress of transition doesn’t have to mean lowering expectations for digital transformation. Some COOs choose to divide the process into discrete phases, where any slack from one department while they get up to speed can be picked up by another. Others periodically enact small changes company-wide until everyone arrives at the same level of integration at the same time. Thoughtful integration plans reduce the stress on employees, which also helps with retention.
Ultimately, the hardships of transition are worth the benefits of the digital transformation. To simplify the new relationships between and roles of the executive team, focus on consistent communication and a unified front.
Humberto Farias is a seasoned technology professional with over 18 years of experience guiding companies around the world through the custom software development process. Humberto’s work across more than 10 industries and 3 continents, including work with Fortune 500 companies such as Walt Disney World and GE, has given him a keen ability for approaching every opportunity with fresh ideas and out-of-the-box thinking to find the most impactful technological solution. As a dynamic business leader and a Certified Scrum Master, Humberto leads a team of highly skilled software engineers and developers at Concepta, providing tailored web and mobile applications to small-to-medium enterprises.
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