How To Be A Leader Of Your Digital Transformation

17 July 2017 | Will Sargeant | About a 3 minute read
Tags: Agile, client acquisition, clients, Culture, customer, Development, Digital, Kanban, leader, Leadership, process, Scrum, skills, transformation

As a leader in your organisation, digital transformation is almost certainly on your radar and even if you’re digitally mature, there is always space to improve. But as a leader what should you do? We have been on this journey with a number of partners of varied scales across multiple industries. There are 5 elements we have consistently seen that have led to success:


  1. Understand today – really understand the situation today. Many people say they are doing agile development but are just doing a morning huddle or a have a few Kanban boards around the office. On their own, these practices reflect a level 1 maturity not a level 4 out of 5 that many think (or at least suggest) they do. Some cultures may need an empirical reference point to evidence this and show people the evidence, this can be done in a week and can be a powerful tool.
  2. Understand agile development – understand the key principles of agile and reasons for doing this as a business. This is vital to not only position the need for change, but being open and able to lead some of the unnatural changes ahead for yourselves like, signing off budgets without a Gantt chart or a ‘fixed’ scope, time, cost business case. A 1 day Agile 101 course for an LT (including finance) can be a real game changer. One of our partner’s reflect on this exact day being central to the success of their transformation.
  3. Start small and scale up – The team of purists in the corner trying to drive change often leads to the “body rejecting the organ”. Firing everyone in the old world to start from scratch creates a whole world of other challenges. Pick off something (a new digital product or part of an existing digital product) that can be built in a different way and show the value by doing, bring people on board and build buy in. Don’t try too much too fast and start with a team that can deliver pragmatic agile in an enterprise setting. One of our partners, demonstrated success by first establishing just one team and delivering new features on a website that wasn’t driving the bulk of the revenue. With confidence from here and buy-in, they scaled up rapidly with multiple teams and turned to the main revenue generating site.
  4. Core leadership skills – empathy, courage, strength on mind and clarity of direction are as important here as any leadership challenge. Also look out for individuals within your team or organisation that can support. Often the middle management layer can be the most challenging group. Servant Leadership and uncertainty can be the polar opposite of how they built their careers and operate today. Don’t write anyone off though. Leaders are consistently surprised at those they earmarked as naysayers become raving advocates!!
  5. Find comfort in pain – this will be painful and needs to be as with any change and many things in life that are worth doing. Make sure that everyone knows to expect this and is supported. One CDO partner recently framed the initial piece of work in exactly this context and the team reference this with positivity after every challenging session.


A painful journey may lie ahead but the alternative slow demise will be more painful in the long run. These elements can be a great friend on that journey.


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