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Businesses lack a streamlined approach to digital transformation

Sarah K. White | May 25, 2016
Most business executives understand the importance of digital transformation, but they aren't prepared for how quickly they need to adapt, according to research from Gartner.

Technology is transforming the business world, but for many companies, it's happening faster than they can keep up. Gartner released a report on the state of digital business transformation in 2016, polling 396 leaders of large companies in over 30 countries. The research showed that CEOs are generally optimistic about the future of digital transformation. Three quarters of CEOs reported an understanding about the future of digital transformation and that there needs to be a shift in how it's approached -- but just because they understand the implications doesn't mean they've made any moves towards going digital.

A study from YouGov, commissioned by Appian, surveyed 422 business executives identified as senior executives at companies with $1 billion in revenue or more, and found that businesses aren't catching up to digital transformation fast enough. Business leaders are certainly aware of the need for digital transformation, but only 14 percent report having "fully migrated to all intended areas of their digital business transformation plans," according to the report. Meanwhile, 48 percent report that they have migrated in some areas, but not all intended areas.

"Transforming a business is complex and highly involved. It requires considerable time and executive buy-in to execute well. Additionally, as the survey points out, there are quite a few obstacles standing in the way of even the most forward-thinking leaders. So we don't believe CIO's have just woken up to this. They have been thinking about it, and are now realizing how they need a new approach if they are going to be successful," says Michael Beckley, co-founder, CTO and chief customer officer at Appian.

A shift in leadership

The Gartner study points out that leaders have started to realize the importance of digital transformation in mapping out the future success of their businesses, and that leading this change will require a top down approach, starting with the c-suite.

"In order to fully embrace digital transformation and realize these benefits, the decision must stem from the very highest levels of the business. From there, businesses need technology tools that are powerful, simple to implement, manage and use, and allow positive change to happen fast," says Beckley.

However, businesses have also realized that digital transformation requires a different type of leadership. For some companies that might mean defining a new C-Suite role, or leveraging the CIO or CTO into a position to lead this change, according to Gartner.

When asked in the Gartner study, "Which member of your executive leadership team has primary responsibility for leading digital strategic changes to your business," the results revealed that, for the most part, businesses aren't using the CIO or CTO for digital transformation. Rather, 16 percent of businesses said the CEO is leading digital transformation, but as Gartner points out, the CEO typically isn't the person with the technology background or experience in the necessary software and hardware. After the CEO, 15 percent said that the CIO was in charge of digital transformation, with another 5 percent stating IT managers were heading the shift.


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