The Board Directors You Need for a Digital Transformation
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July 13, 2017
Next Generation BoardsTransformation InnovationBoard and CEO AdvisoryBoard Effectiveness
The ​Harvard Business Review article, “The Board Directors You Need for a Digital Transformation,” was co-written by Russell Reynolds Associates Consultants Tuck Rickards and Rhys Grossman. The piece talks about the vital role board directors play in digital transformation. The article is excerpted below. ​
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Harvard Business Review

When the term digital transformation was first bandied about by consultants and business publications, its implications were more about keeping up and catching up than true transformation. Additionally, at first it was only applied to large, traditional organizations struggling, or experimenting, in an increasingly digital economy. But true digital transformation requires so much more. As evidenced by the recent Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods, we’re living in a new world. 

Early transformation efforts were focused on initiatives: e-commerce, sensors/internet of things, applications, client and customer experience, and so on. Increasingly, our clients are coming to us as they realize that in order for these disparate initiatives to thrive, they need to undergo an end-to-end transformation, the success of which demands dramatic operational, structural, and cultural shifts. 

We started tracking the role of digital in the boardroom in 2012. Our formal research echoes the sentiment we hear from our clients in every engagement: The board of directors has a vital role to play in digital transformation. Though 63% of executives say that the partnership of the board is critical to the success of transformation efforts, only 27% report that the board serves as an advocate for current strategies. 

Early role descriptions for the addition of digital directors were focused on reacting to immediate disruption. These companies sought executives with experience running digital pure-play organizations, who would bring tech savvy and a Millennial mindset. Over the past five years, we’ve seen the role mature into four categories of leaders: 

  • Digital thinker. The director has had little direct interaction with digital as an operator but conceptually understands the digital environment. They have been a board director or adviser in a digital business but are not a digital native.
  • Digital disruptor. The director has been deeply embedded in digital, often with experience from a pure-play company. This type of leader typically has less general management breadth. 
  • Digital leader. The director has had substantial experience running a traditional business that leverages digital in a significant way (retail or media, for example). It’s likely that this person has less hands-on digital experience but has managed disruption as a general manager.
  • Digital transformer. The director has led or participated in a transformation of a traditional business. Typically the person does not have the seniority of a digital leader but is more digitally astute. 
     

To read the full article​, click here.