Digital Transformation must start at the top!

Transforming a business must always start at the top. As simplistic as that sounds you’d be surprised at how many leaders within traditional companies are unaware of the many digital threats and challenges. This particular view is mainly aimed at companies that predate the Internet era and technology boom – industries that haven’t historically invested in innovation or that have been hampered by outdated ingrained views at a senior level. This is increasingly pertinent in markets where many duopolies have existed across industries like Retail etc.

At DTS we peal back the layers and explore why CEOs, MDs and boards struggle with transitioning their business models and culture. Without the right vision and Culture its no wonder why more than 70% of digital transformation projects will fail.

Furthermore, DTS 2017 Subject Matter Research found that Leadership and Digital Competencies were rated within the top 3 considerations when executing your transformation strategy. We also understand that approximately 35-40% of CEO’s and MD’s drive digital transformation projects along with 13%CIO’s and 12% CMO’s.

Over the next few weeks lets review the crucial areas where companies typically struggle:

  1. Diversity at the board level and senior management layers.
  2. Inability to listen and react at speed
  3. Risk averse to change and failing.
  4. Compliance and regulatory “restraints”
  5. Ineffective partnerships at the strategic level

Diversity at the board level and senior management layers.

Diversity in a contemporary context can be categorized as Gender, Ethnicity and new experience, such as Digital Competencies brought into a company or sector


It’s been well documented that gender diversity is a major issue globally, period. Research in the US shows that senior female representation is as low as 20%. However, organisations that over index with higher female representation tend to perform better then those companies underrepresented. Moreover, gender pay gaps don’t seem to be closing fast, a disincentive for working mothers to stay or to re-enter the workforce.

“Boards Will Reach Gender Parity in 2055 at Current Pace”


“Modern workplaces’’, typically tech companies, are struggling despite investing over $150 (m) in some instances to address diversity issues. This show deeply ingrained behaviours & attitudes are in male dominated senior and executive roles.

Ethnicity is also a worldwide issue. The so-called boys clubs that are shutting out women and are also doing the same with folks from different walks of life, not just minorities.

Digital Competencies and lack of new or fresh qualified thinking is where DTS specialises. We assess the digital talent within organisations which typically  pre date the internet era. We refer to these as “leap of faith” hires. E.g. Subject matter experts, that historically have had no ties to the industry and are recruited because they posses an accomplished track record and CV – typically  high achievers within a digital roles, demonstrating an ability to influence organisational change, drive new distribution channels, product innovation and financial success.

Companies such as Seven West Media, ANZ, Facebook, AGL, Qantas are to name a few that have done this successfully in Australia. Hiring a “digital native” is only half the trick because the on boarding of new folks, especially those from digital backgrounds, is equally as important as the hire itself.

An inability to anticipate the warning signals results in the digital native becoming quickly frustrated and ultimately “throwing in the towel”. Our understanding is that it occurs consistently across companies that are late to transformation and possess outdated views or have been disrupted by more nimble challenger brands.

A proven approach to mitigating  digital staff turn over is coaching senior executives on managing organisational change. E.g. They must learn to be welcoming of new digital talent and be open to ideas that challenge traditional thinking.. At DTS we’ve observed a high level of inertia at a broad level as the “ we’ve always done it this way “ faction begin to voice their discomfort when the status quo is challenged. Its human nature to retreat to the known versus the unknown! Also, there seems to be a broad misconception that digital transformation centre

This inertia at a senior level now has organisations and their shareholders at an interesting inflection point. Shareholders now demand that the senior management layers quickly react to macro challenges and now its become an expectation or hygiene factor to be progressive and embrace a broader way of thinking and doing business! This is why diversity or fresh thinking at aboard level can make a material difference.

Whilst some companies view digital transformation as an un assailable mountain to climb there are many examples of traditional businesses like Burberry, StarBucks, Nike and many more that have pivoted and have subsequently flourished. The common denominator in these case studies has been strong leadership, desire & will to change, innovation and a culture where failing is considered learning.

Contact Marcelo Silva if you are interested in benchmarking your company’s diversity and culture progress :

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s