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If Digital Transformation Is Hard, Your Board May Be Lacking Key Skills and Experiences

Guy Pearce, CGEIT
| Published: 10/1/2018 11:00 AM | Category: COBIT-Governance of Enterprise IT | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

Digital innovation and transformation is difficult when there is little in the way of clear and decisive senior leadership direction for it. However, not only may senior leadership lack the qualifications and experience necessary to guide enterprise digital transformation, they may also lack the frameworks required to oversee those innovations. So it is no surprise that digital transformation is difficult; there can be no suitable support given poor strategic direction. 

What Is Digital Transformation?

Merely deploying digital technology does not mean that an organization is digital, e.g. digitizing paper forms is just that—the digitization of paper forms. It does not suddenly make the organization digital. A digital organization would mean that every stakeholder interacting with those forms does so digitally, simultaneously increasingly satisfying various stakeholder expectations. Without the latter, why would anyone actually bother? Indeed, this is what makes up the digital business case.

Done well, there would be no further need for processes involving paper forms, and there would be no more paper forms. In other words, the fundamental processes for managing these data flows would change dramatically. Moreover, fundamental changes to these processes would fundamentally impact almost every other process in the business.

Digital transformation demands senior direction and support because it is so much more than just about the old IT promise of process automation. Truly digital organizations are no longer bound by analog concepts such as opening hours and geographical location because digital is a key enabler of anywhere, anytime convenience; a key attraction of a digital business. This level of corporate transformation and innovation succeeds for few, but there are steps that can be taken to improve the chances of success. (See my ISACA® Journal, volume 2, 2018, article, “Minimizing the High Risk of Failure of Corporate Innovation.”)

Bold Board Leadership: A Key Facilitator of Successful Digital Transformation

Some businesses maintain the status quo until profitability suffers, a case of, “why spend money of you do not have to spend?” These reactive organizations are the most likely to require digital transformation to survive. It is very risky at this point, but it becomes a matter of there being no choice. There is, however, such a thing as being too late.

Other businesses—possibly more long-sighted or without legacy baggage—proactively look to digital to realize competitive advantage. For these organizations, the inevitability of full digital transformation is less risky if they are not already digital by design.  

In either case, a task of the board is to approve strategy, one that ensures organizational sustainability. A key driver of sustainability, at least for tertiary industries, is digitization. If the board is unable to articulate or validate the need for digitization within the organization’s strategy, then the risk profile of the entire organization increases because sustainability is compromised. Read my volume 5, 2018, article, “Digital Transformation? Boards Are Not Ready for It!” to learn why boards may be lacking both the qualifications and experience necessary to facilitate enterprise digital transformation.

Read Guy Pearce’s recent Journal article:
Digital Transformation? Boards Are Not Ready for It!,” ISACA Journal, volume 5, 2018.


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