How to set up a Digital Leadership Team

2 weeks ago we wrote about who should lead your Digital Transformation. No matter how amazing this person might be, he or she cannot do this transformation alone. Buy-in from the top and the board of directors is necessary, but it won’t be enough either. To book real results, you will need a Digital Leadership team.

In our workshops this is often formed by (part of) the group of attendants, but since most of you haven’t done Digital Transformation workshops, we’ll explain how we see this team below to help you form yours.

The 3 roles in a Digital Leadership Team

Depending on the size of the transformation and challenges ahead, the CDO (Chief Digital Officer) will need both a dedicated and a virtual team to assist in all the work that will need to be done in the future. It is a team formed for a long-term effort.

We understand that forming this team might seem like overkill to you and we can already imagine you worrying about your budgets, but your Digital Transformation Team doesn’t need to be costly. It will mostly consist of people who were already there before. They will simply spend their time more effectively to ensure the future of the company.

Digital Leadership Team

We introduce three different roles that come with different ownerships and tasks: Digital Officers, Digital Leads and Digital Supporters. Of course you can call them whatever you want to make it work in your internal organization.

Digital Officers

The CDO will likely need a team of dedicated people to help with all of the work at hand. Together they form the Digital Office, the headquarters of digital change in the company. It is not up to us to define how many people should work in this department. It will be up to the CDO to create a team that supports the plans full-time. The responsibility of the Digital Office will be to create and execute all aspects of the digital agenda. They have a similar profile as the CDO, but at a more executional level.

Digital Leads

Every division in the company needs to assign one or more Digital Leads that form the Digital Leadership Team, which cuts through the organization. These people also operate in a vertical line-management function, involved in traditional activities of the company. Their role in the Digital Leadership Team is virtual and they serve as gateways between their own division and the Digital Office. They build bridges between the ambitions of the Digital Office and the reality of the business division, by spreading the word in a formal way.

They are the ambassadors of the Digital Agenda of the CDO and draft suggestions for the CDO on how their own vertical division can be prepared for transformation, based on their own in-depth knowledge of the day-to-day reality in their own division. In the long term their coaching, training, guidance and planning makes everyone and everything in their division more digital.

These people are not techies; they are business oriented with a large understanding of the impact of digital on the activities. Ideally they are the highest in command for a certain division. If they are not, it should be guaranteed that people higher up in their own hierarchy do not block them. They should probably get some kind of special mandate for this reason.

Digital Supporters

Digital Supporters are all the people that make up your informal Digital Leadership Network, even if they do not have a formal role to play. These people are convinced that digital is the way of the future. They are aware of the plans and strategy of tomorrow and would like to stay informed on the progress that the Digital Office is making. They can feed the organization with their input and support and stand by their company when things gets tough, as true fans and supporters would.

Ideally this is everyone in your company, but let’s be realistic; there will always be a group of people resistant to change, doing anything in their power to protect the status quo. It will be part of the Digital Leads’s work to identify them and turn them around, even if that takes a long time. If that does not work out eventually, they likely will not be part of your organization of tomorrow.

What about external sources?

Your digital leadership team should also reach out and include people from outside the organization. We will write more about this in a future blogpost. If you already want to read more about it now, check out Chapter 4 in our book on Digital Transformation.

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