Implementing digital transformation requires C-level ownership

11 September 2017

While digital transformations are often seen as a task for the IT department, the importance of top executive involvement in these transformations, by actively engaging and owning their responsibility, should not be overlooked. Only then can digital transformations yield lasting successes, says Ben Gorter, Partner and Head of the Business Technology Management practice at Qhuba.

Recent research of CEOs by Gartner shows that after growth, IT improvements and technology is the second priority of executives at major companies. In practice, however, a large number of digital transformations being implemented do not yield the desired results. One of the reasons for this, according to Ben Gorter, Partner and Head of Business Technology Management practice at Qhuba, is that responsibility for IT improvements is often laid deep in the organisation.

“Digitalisation has never been so high on the priority list," according to Gorter. Against the backdrop of developments in the market, he and his team say that organisations are still improving when it comes to the way in which IT change is managed. "We come across many different organisations in various sectors and see a wide variety of ways to manage digitisation. What is noteworthy is that in most organisations, the C-level is not made responsible, it is only distantly involved in projects, and it is hardly involved at all in wider governance."

Governance of digital transformation needs C-level ownership

"CEOs tend to say that digitalisation is important, but in practice, responsibility lies elsewhere in the organisation. Most often, they allow information managers of an entity or department to take their seat on the steering committee," he continues, before stating that while many IT managers today carry the title CIO or CDO (Chief Digital Officer), but many also remain disconnected from strategic role like that, still reporting to the CFO. "In short, the gap between strategy and execution within the organisation, or the support needed by the top management to complete complex change paths, is too big."

Process development for digital transformations

Gorter further explains, "When Qhuba is asked to deliver a transition programme, we first look at how IT is managed within the organisation. The manner in which this is organised says much about the importance or value that the organisation attaches to IT improvements. Then we look at the topics handled by the IT steering committee. In instances, where governance is subpar, it often appears that the steering group has limited engagement in IT strategy, let alone business strategy, and especially towards meeting operational issues. In such cases, it is likely that the projects will not be in line with the chosen strategy. "

C-level, he contends, should therefore always be involved in digital transformation and, more importantly, should act as its drivers. "A simple guide to setting up the control of digitisation from the C-level is in line with the way in which processes in the organisation are organised." This includes the primary process in which the products or services are manufactured, the delivery process, which turns about communication, the final transaction with the customer, and the supporting processes needed to perform the primary process and delivery processes.

Quote Ben Gorter - Qhuba

The control of digitisation can also be divided into these three domains. For each domain, a management group can be set up which is responsible for the direction of digitisation (or IT). In the example, the control groups fall under the responsibility of the COO (primary process), CMO, CCO or sales director (delivery process) and CxO (this role depends on the relevant support processes). Gorter: "In this way, the C-level is made responsible for part of the organisation's digitisation."

In this model, the C-level responsible domain managers are not alone, they are supported by a number of specialists, usually including a domain architect who has knowledge of all processes, data processed within the domain, the applications used to support these processes and the collection of domain relevant data. Additionally, there exists a domain director, who is responsible for the change portfolio within the domain. This is also the manager who controls all product owners in the agile teams.

Gorter considers another possible division model for CxOs, which takes digitalisation as its base aim. For example, the use of digital technology can focus on further automation, process improvement, cost reduction (compared to the typical COO interest); Empowerment, making better decisions based on better information (compared to the typical strategic (CEO) or commercial interest (CCO); or, for example, transformation of the business model or the way in which customers are treated (compared to the typical domain of the CEO / CMO).

Setting up digitalisation governance

The overall governance of digital transformation can be invested in a digitisation & data steering group, meanwhile. This includes the domain managers (COO, CMO, CxO) as well as a number of specialists who assist them in various IT areas. These include the IT controller, who is aware of all budgets and investments; the enterprise architect, who ensures the maintenance of all architectural principles; the security officer, who monitors that all data is processed in a safe manner and that any security incidents are solved and prevented; and the compliance officer, who monitors that the organisation complies with laws and regulations and provides for (mandatory) audits and inspections.

Gorter concludes, "Digitisation is too strategic to leave to the IT department. C-level stakeholders will have to take control of their own digital transformation."


How a change toolkit can help consultants deliver transformation

23 April 2019

Changefirst is a company that provides a cloud-based transformational change toolkit to consultants and companies. David Miller, Founder of Changefirst, sat with to discuss how the toolkit known as ‘Roadmap Pro’ adds value to consultants. 

When David Miller called time on his 15-year career with American Express to found Changefirst in 1995, change management was a different animal altogether. According to Miller, even as recently as five years ago, the business of change was much more manageable. The pace of change was slower and project timescales were longer.

Since then, however, the accelerating pace of change and the widespread impact of digital transformation has completely transformed the role of change management professionals. Those working in change management now face more projects, with diversified end-goals, new ways of working (e.g. agile), and are left with shorter timescales to deliver them. The drastic alteration in the sector prompted the IT and services company based in West Sussex to develop a new SaaS-based toolkit for implementing change more effectively.

An example of this is that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based services in the HR technology space have been steadily increasing in recent years, as companies explore ways in which to reduce costs and access new innovation in the space. SaaS can reduce the cost of ownership, an HR department’s dependence on IT support, improve employee experience, and increase the speed at which value is yielded by change.

How a change toolkit can help consultants deliver transformation

Speaking to, Miller explained, “The pressure from digital transformation and the race to reinvent business processes means that the sheer pace and volume of change projects can be overwhelming and chaotic. Organisations needed a whole new way to respond to the challenge – one that is quick and easy to use and supported collaborative working; one that is online and can rapidly scale across the organisation itself. We saw these trends emerging and they were the inspiration for developing the Roadmap Pro tool as a SaaS-based approach to implementing change projects.”

Consulting sector

The SaaS toolkit provided by Changefirst, named Roadmap Pro, has the potential to yield value for consulting industry incumbents, as they are so often drafted in by clients to oversee complex change programs. However, firms might still be skeptical of the need for an external tool to do something that in essence is already part of their core business, and something they theoretically know inside out.

When asked how Changefirst believes it can make inroads into the consulting sector, Miller noted that not all consulting firms have the same level of change management capabilities. Indeed, the toolkit is designed to be tailored to firms, depending on their level of know-how.

“Our solution can help and how consultants choose to use it is likely to differ based on the change management maturity of their firm," Miller explained. "The more capable firms can utilise Roadmap Pro to increase productivity, improve client delivery, consistency and to rapidly on-board new hires and contractors. Less capable firms also might want all these benefits too, but it's highly likely they also want the ability to rapidly increase their client-facing change management capabilities.”

The toolkit is an ‘Out-of-the-Box’ solution, supported by Changefirst’s service offering, which enables clients to deliver higher time-to-value returns compared to other approaches. It is mostly configurable, and the ability to customise it is increasing during 2019, with Changefirst working with new clients to make changes that ensure the software meshes with their clients' implementation methods, while giving them the advantages of the installed content. The system takes the best practice content the firm has built up since it first launched, and makes it available in a state-of-the art, SaaS-based software solution.

“We’ve spent 25 years building our ‘best practice’ model," Miller added. "We have a huge database, that we are able to query, and that tells us a lot about what is happening during change projects. We continuously synthesise that with the lessons we have learned from working with over 300 organisations around the world. This has enabled us to build a methodology which was described by Forrester Research as one of the three most used change management methodologies in the world.”

“We’ve spent 25 years building our ‘best practice’ model... We continuously synthesise that with the lessons we have learned from working with over 300 organisations around the world.”
– David Miller, Changefirst

Roadmap Pro uses this wealth of experience for three key building blocks, which integrate these capabilities: effective online learning; change management diagnostics and analytics; and pre-populated change management planning. It also creates high levels of client engagement, enabling consultants to easily collaborate with clients.


There have been some fears in the consulting sector that the leveraging of technology could risk the cannibalisation of hourly work. However, Miller regards this more as an opportunity than a problem.

He argued, “If you look at all the reporting from the analyst community, it’s becoming clear that clients want more digital support and what is called 'Reusable Assets'. In other words, they want IP that consultants have used left behind so they can continue to use it. Consultants now have a big opportunity to create continuous revenue streams and client ‘stickiness’ by using digital tools on assignments and then letting clients continue to use their tools. These firms will also sell more hours and generate more opportunities by on-selling and supporting clients' use of the tool.”

Indeed, the benefits seem to have already been judged to outweigh the perceived risks. Roadmap Pro was only launched in early 2018, but Changefirst’s partners are already using it to deliver a variety of major projects. These include usage in a major real estate change for a European media company; in the outsourcing global IT services for a Brazilian manufacturing company; for implementing a new global HR business model for a European chemical company; and for implementing industry changing technologies for both infrastructure and for new ways of working in a major transportation organisation.

According to Miller, clients have already presented the toolkit with “tremendous” feedback. The interface and the marriage of content and software have drawn particular praise, but Miller concluded that the bigger picture here is that Roadmap Pro can help the firms looking to challenge the Big Four. Indeed, with many firms looking to leverage technology to increase their competitiveness and digital presence, technology like Roadmap Pro is undoubtedly playing a role in seeing such companies win more of the bids against larger organisations around the world.