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How CEOs can become the driving force behind digital transformation

By Kevin Dherman, chief innovation officer at SYSPRO.

Johannesburg, 03 May 2019
Read time 5min 10sec

Digital transformation is on the agendas of corporate boards and has risen to the top of CEOs' strategic plans. As the name implies, a digital transformation journey is one that, if successful, will completely transform how an organisation operates by overhauling old processes.

Data from all parts of the company will need to be digitised and taken out of silos so that never-before-seen insights can be drawn to help the company run more efficiently, says Kevin Dherman, chief innovation officer at SYSPRO.

A digital transformation journey could result in a completely different company. Therefore, it is imperative that the CEO becomes the driving force behind it. Team leaders and the chief innovation officer (CIO) will be able to make decisions for their departments, but strong guidance from the top is needed to help the process along, get buy-in from all stakeholders, and allocate the correct funding and resources.

Start by giving full support and assigning the right people

The CEO needs to become the company champion for digital transformation. Publicly displaying buy-in will not only encourage people working within the organisation to get on board, but it will also show all external stakeholders that the CEO, and therefore the whole company, is truly committed to transforming the company to fit modern times.

By giving full support to the journey, CEOs will embed themselves in knowledge of how the business strategy will change and what tweaks or major modifications need to be made to the company's business model. They will then be able to communicate clearly to employees and be able to answer any questions and ease any fears.

For a successful digital transformation strategy to be pulled off, the CEO will also need to define the roles and responsibilities of those people in leadership positions. If this is not articulated clearly, it could lead to several issues, including execution gaps and infighting, which will weaken the overall program.

Then make funds and resources available

It will cost money and time to digitally transform any company, big or small, effectively. Teams will need to have access to funding and resources they normally do not have access to. The role of the CEO here is to free up investment and allocate accordingly.

When assigning roles and responsibilities to business leaders, the CEO will also need to talk about realistic financial models. This is to prevent leaders becoming detractors if they lose funding for their initiatives. Clear priorities should be set early in the digital transformation program by the CEO so that all business leaders and employees are aligned on what needs to happen first.

The CEO will also need to free up people from different departments to leave their current jobs and dedicate all their time to the digital transformation program. This will probably entail removing top performers who are important to achieving short-term business objectives. The CEO will have to articulate why these people are better suited elsewhere to help the company accomplish long-term goals, as well as help business leaders help their managers reassign responsibilities.

Be wary of barriers that slow down transformation

Digital transformation programs are essentially change management programs, and as such, come with the same obstacles: people resisting change, and others wanting to change things too fast.

The CEO will need to step in and make sure that the chosen transformation leadership team is regularly meeting with all members at every level of the company to openly discuss how the program is going and give employees the opportunity to raise any problem or complaint.

It is important that the CEO is seen to be a part of some of these discussions and be a part of the team that helps solve these issues. As no two organisations are the same, the barriers will also be different and require individual solutions.

A future-fit ERP will help get the company there

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, often regarded as something that just runs in the background, are a fantastic business management tool for a CEO to have a bird's-eye view on what is going on in their company and identify the gaps in the business where exponential value can be added.

By implementing a future-fit ERP solution, organisations can easily incorporate new, emerging technologies, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and digital citizens, into their operation. This will not only make the digitization process easier, but also open the door to greater efficiencies and growth as well as expose opportunities to innovate.

Using an ERP system means greater and more efficient controls. This ensures the CEO has accurate and real-time information and assists management to maintain a firm grip on operations. The ERP dashboard gives the CEO a consolidated and comprehensive quick and easy reference of where their business is currently standing with drill-down capabilities.

For a digital transformation journey to be effective, CEOs need to react to challenges fast and effortlessly. An ERP system provides the critical information needed to do this. Statistics such as weekly sales, employee performance and inventory levels, are all examples of items quickly available, showing real-time growth or changes in the business.

As digital transformation is about recreating a company to fit into modern-day times, it is important for the CEO to have an idea of how the organisation will operate in the future. It needs to be agile enough to respond to challenges, opportunities and market trends.

ERP is a toolset that goes beyond management; it helps everyone in their individual roles and day-to-day operations. A well implemented ERP system will provide benefits that can support a company's overall digital transformation strategy.

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WE-Worldwide Karabo Motsoai
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