What’s a CEO’s Role in Digital Transformation?

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

With a mecca of digital and social selling tools available to modern sales organizations, many companies are in the midst of a digital transformation. They’re leveraging the power of technology by building a sales and marketing tech stack that empowers efficiencies and drives smarter (and increased) sales.

While the sales and marketing arms of an organization are most impacted by digital transformation in their day-to-day roles, this process is heavily influenced by the organization’s CEO – but many CEOs don’t yet know what role they play in that process.

A CEO is critical in any transformative business decision, and this instance is no different. Digital transformation shifts an organization at its core, changing its approach to sales and marketing operations and modernizing business processes. CEOs who want to effectively lead their companies through that transformation should adopt a new management style that empowers the culture needed to adapt in a digital landscape.

What Is Digital Leadership?

Digital leadership is the process of using strategic digital tools to achieve business goals. Digital leadership happens on many levels within an organization. For example, a marketing director who empowers a team to explore new marketing automation toolsets is a digital leader.

On a higher level, that marketing director must be empowered by a digitally leading CEO. CEOs cast a vision for the future of an organization, giving each team something to strive toward. When it comes to digital transformation, this is especially important; if a company is in the process of undergoing a digital transformation, and that company’s CEO is stuck in his or her old ways, the entire organization will stay stuck as well.

Effective digital transformation requires not only a CEO who is digitally competent, but also one who embraces and advocates for digital transformation. He or she must not just talk the talk, but must be able to lead by example as well.

Shaping Culture With Digital Leadership

Being a great leader requires a set of core characteristics, like listening to and inspiring a team. But effective digital leadership requires an additional skill set – one that, when adopted, will shift corporate behavior across an entire company.

To effectively empower a digital transformation, digital leaders must create a culture that supports it. While a digital organization must make changes to infrastructure and have specific digital roles in place to execute the transformation, it takes much more than hiring the people to do the work. Digital leaders must be at the helm, not just welcoming that change, but championing it.

New research out of Deloitte has identified the specific cultural values that the best digital organizations support. Effective digital leaders should aim to shape a culture that supports them.

Experimenting With New Ideas and Tools

Digital transformation involves a lot of trial and error as you learn along the way. This means teams need to feel empowered to try new things and see failure as a necessary part of innovation. Great digital leaders create a culture where it’s okay to fail, and where teams don’t need to navigate through complex approval processes to test something new.

Collaborating Across Teams

Digital transformation involves collaboration with all departments – sales, marketing, IT, support, operations and more will all be impacted. This is especially true with sales and marketing; while these teams may have historically been at odds, they must be aligned for digital transformation to take place. Quality digital leaders recognize the importance of collaboration throughout their organization and create opportunities to empower it.

Working With Speed in Mind

Speed is both necessary to and an outcome of digital transformation. Leveraging tools to improve efficiencies will result in faster delivery of work, and the organization’s culture should support that increased speed. Speed and experimentation go hand-in-hand as digital leaders embrace immediate delivery over delayed perfection. This means being comfortable with risk and understanding its necessary role in innovation.

Empowering a Team

Digital leadership, at the core, is about creating efficiencies and improving processes. A great digital leader doesn’t stand in the way of that. Rather, he or she empowers a team to make decisions and creates a culture rooted in trust and accountability.

Digital Leadership and Social Selling

While CEOs and digital leaders should shape an organization’s culture at a high level, these leaders are especially important when it comes to the sales-specific piece of digital transformation: social selling.

Social selling is the application of digital transformation to sales processes. Modern sales teams are leveraging a tech stack to improve efficiencies and increase ROI to achieve business goals. For a sales team to effectively undergo a digital transformation and realize the value of a social selling model, many people will play a role. Certainly, sales leaders will champion the initiative, but at a higher level, the CEO must also embrace the change that comes with digital transformation and empower a team to experiment.

Without the support of a CEO as a champion of digital transformation, a sales team will never be able to fully actualize the power of social selling. If you’re undergoing a digital transformation, ensure your CEO and all digital leaders in your company have a shared vision and understand the critical role they play in the process.

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