Successful Digital Vision Starts at the Top


Business change is tough.   Just try it at Cloud speed, and you’ll know what I mean.

That said, digital business transformation is reshaping companies and industries around the world, at a rapid rate.

If you don’t cross the Cloud chasm, and learn how to play in the new digital economy,  you might just get left behind.

Sadly, not every executive has a digital vision.

That’s a big deal because the pattern here is that successful digital business transformation starts at the top of the company.  And it starts with digital vision.

But just having a digital vision is not enough.

It has to be a shared transformative digital vision.   Not a mandate, but a shared digital vision from the top, that’s led and made real by the people in the middle and lower levels.

In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share how successful companies and executives drive digital business transformation through shared transformative digital visions.

Employees Don’t Always Get the WHY, WHAT, or HOW of Digital Business Transformation

You need a digital vision at the top.   Otherwise, it’s like pushing rocks uphill.  Worse, not everybody will be in the game, or know what position they play, or even how to play the game.

Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:

“The changes being wrought through digital transformation are real.  Yet, even when leaders see the digital threats and opportunity, employees may need to be convinced.  Many employees feel they are paid to do a job, not to change that job.  And they have lived through big initiatives in the past that failed to turn into reality.  To many, digital transformations is either irrelevant or just another passing fad.  Still other people may not understand how the change affects their jobs or how they might make the transition.”

Only Senior Executives Can Create a Compelling Vision of the Future

Digital business transformation must be led.   Senior executives are in the right position to create a compelling future all up, and communicate it across the board.

Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:

“Our research shows that successful digital transformation starts at the top of the company.  Only the senior-most executives can create a compelling vision of the future and communicate it throughout the organization.  Then people in the middle and lower levels can make the vision a reality.  Managers can redesign process, workers can start to work differently, and everyone can identify new ways to meet the vision.  This kind of change doesn’t happen through simple mandate.  It must be led.

Among the companies we studied, none have created true digital transformation through a bottom-up approach.  Some executives have changed their parts of the business–for example, product design and supply chain at Nike–but the executives stopped at the boundaries of their business units.  Changing part of your business is not enough.  Often, the real benefits of transformation come from seeing potential synergies across silos and then creating conditions through which everyone can unlock that value.  Only senior executives are positioned to drive this kind of boundary-spanning change.”

Digital Masters Have a Shared Digital Vision (While Others Do Not)

As the business landscape is reshaping, you are either a disruptor or the disrupted.  The Digital Masters that are creating the disruption in their business and in their industries have shared digital visions, and re-imagine their business for a mobile-first, Cloud-first world, and a new digital economy.

Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:

“So how prevalent is digital vision? In our global survey of 431 executives in 391 companies, only 42 percent said that their senior executive had a digital vision.  Only 35 percent said the vision was shared among senior and middle managers.  These numbers are surprisingly low, given the rapid rate at which digital transformation is reshaping companies and industries.  But the low overall numbers mask an important distinction.  Digital Masters have a shared digital vision, while others do not. 

Among the Digital Masters that we surveyed, 82 percent agreed that their senior leaders shared a common vision of digital transformation, and 71 percent said it was shared between senior and middle managers.  The picture is quite different for firms outside our Digital Masters category, where less than 30 percent said their senior leaders had a shared digital vision and only 17 percent said the shared vision extended to middle management.”

Digital Vision is Not Enough (You Need a Transformative Digital Vision)

It’s bad enough that many executives don’t have a shared digital vision.   But what makes it worse, is that even fewer have a transformative digital vision, which is the key to success in the digital frontier.

Via Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation:

“But having a shared digital vision is not quite enough.  Many organizations fail to capture the full potential of digital technologies because their leaders lack a truly transformative vision of the digital future.  On average, only 31 percent of our respondents said that they had a vision which represented radical change, and 41 percent said their vision crossed internal organizational units.  Digital Masters were far more transformative in their vision, with two-thirds agreeing they had a radical vision, and 82 percent agreeing their vision crossed organizational silos.  Meanwhile, nonmasters were far less transformative in their visions.”

Where there is no vision, the businesses perish.

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