May 23, 2023
Forbes (Iang Yim Forbes Councils Member)
Digital transformation is to a chief technology officer what a director is to an orchestra. This role ties in with digital innovation in a leading sense. But what ensures success when it comes to regular and long-term duties and vision? I’ll try to answer this question in the current article.
Digital transformation is no longer a choice if we want to stay competitive.We should start by acknowledging how much digital transformation has stopped being a choice in our competitive business world, especially in tech-oriented companies and industries. This doesn’t mean innovation in digital terms has stopped being challenging, demanding and, for some, even fearful. It’s an innate human trait to be afraid of that which we cannot grasp, dominate or fully comprehend. The BBC has been one of many to report just how uncomfortable uncertainty is, especially at a biological level.
We need to incorporate company culture and context into our digital thinking.While making technological choices, a CTO’s role in digital transformation must today also include having an eye out for their company’s cultural component as much as any impacting policy and regulatory items within their specific regions of operation.CTOs are justifiably looked at as and often represent the tech-savviest people in any given organization. At times acting as role models, they must be able to translate and even bridge highly technological decisions within much broader ecosystems that aren’t necessarily equally technical or tech-driven.With a tech-oriented vision as a natural part of the CTO role, it may seem easy to identify many opportunities—though maybe not all and certainly not at once!—for key transformation on the digital side. Yet, other leaders, people in different roles and staff working outside tech departments might have a harder time accepting, validating and even seeing the same room for change in their day to day.As technology leaders, CTOs bear the responsibility of expanding organizations’ vision and, at times, they must even tap into their social context. They must also do so in those parts of the business in which they especially see room for profitable digital boosting.
CTOs need to be able to say “no” to push change forward.Working on a sort of visionary tone in this role as a CTO drives innovation where none can be foreseen, the timing might not always be the perfect one. Therefore, it is important to exercise a robust final say when needed. Think of established legacy technology, for example, or any other approaches or implementations that can’t count on popular opinion. CTOs need to be fierce, particularly when certain systems or go-to mechanisms get in the way of transformation or have become obsolete.How CTOs implement these new measures and when they do so are key questions for careful thought. CTOs should seek a positive impact on organizational culture, both internally and externally. The whole team as much as clients should be able to recognize the value of proposed changes, particularly when these impact them directly. User experience is no small consideration in this aspect of our daily duties.
CTOs need help.To achieve the above, accept that this can’t be done alone. CTOs need help. From their executive peers at the C-level to a supportive board and especially tech teams who report to them, in this role as much as in any other, leaders need teams to help them achieve their goals and follow through with their vision.The CTO position constantly calls for a lot of planning and strategizing with valuable data backups for innovative thought and its corresponding implementations. Seen as a journey rather than a fixed destination, digital transformation is a collaborative process that involves multiple internal and external stakeholders in any organization.From groups of people who are talented in the latest technology to resources that include the latest tech advancements, teams also need to be able to stand for and even personify digital acceleration in the greatest of lights for companies. Foster in them a shared vision to be able to guide your teams in the direction in which they need to go. Inspire people for shared ambition, but moreover seek to empower potential allies as a leading force for ultimate and innovation-driven change.
Performance reviews and economic drivers can boost accountability.Though acting at the C-level with often autonomy, CTO roles can benefit from measured performance reviews linked to compensation benefits as much as any individual. Successful implementations that positively affect previously discussed company performance indicators can be rewarded with bonuses, for example, to ensure delivery doesn’t just sit at an ideal value.Coming through with effective change on the CTO side can be costly in numerous ways, including running long, complicated, and visionary cross-functional projects in the short and long terms. Personal investments from a CTO position include tolls in emotional, strategic, technical and soft skill areas. Their results can also considerably alter an organization for the better. I believe no role is ever too “big” for recognition in this way, and the extra miles offered by a CTO are no exception.
Open communication is key for sustained performance.Running decisions by the board and CEO should also be a simple process. Open communication in that direction can free up much-needed personal and corporate room for CTOs to channel any organizational or even market resistance, negative feedback, behavior and other risks tied to their role.Achieving such an environment also frees time for CTOs to deal with their pending items at hand, such as computing and development opportunities and needs, along with any other of the latest technological decisions and processes.Consider how crucial CTOs are for strategizing and transforming digital operations. The burden on their shoulders can be positively managed for significant transformations to a business structure. For that, CTOs need to be able to operate with sustained support for their continuous efforts, especially when they need to overcome rough patches.
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