Article:

Digital transformation: Key challenges for boards and executives

26 May 2021

Kane Stavens, Executive Director, Digital & Technology Advisory |

It’s no secret that there has been a global shift in the way organisations are operating and managing their day-to-day processes. Digital transformation has impacted us all, peaking our awareness of threats and disruptions around us. But, does your organisation have efficient change management strategies in place to ensure successful digital transformation?

To help facilitate these digital disruption discussions, BDO recently hosted their Digital Executive Forum. With an open agenda, executive and board member attendees had the opportunity to take a deeper dive into challenges and issues impacting their organisation, from a digital perspective, to ensure long-term success.

The importance of change management was a common theme throughout the forum. Participants agreed that ingraining change is one of the largest challenges faced by digital leaders. Championing and rewarding a change mindset, and enabling innovation at all levels of an organisation, will ultimately provide fruitful rewards both for employees and leaders. Importantly, it is the combined responsibility of boards and executives to lead from the top down, preparing and supporting employees throughout the change process. 

Among the attendees was former long serving Healthcare sector Chief Executive and experienced Board Member, Kev Hegarty OAM, who said consistency in approach is key to an organisation’s digital journey.

“Organisation transformation is a journey, of which the digital component is key. The message, reason and purpose must be consistent across all levels of board and executive, and digital must enable not determine strategic direction. Changing a business model to fit a digital process is not an option,” he said.

The fast paced nature of change will continue to create challenges for those not maintaining pace, with digital literacy and the extent digital enablement can improve a business is not always equally appreciated at the executive level.

“To be effective many boards will need to move beyond an arms-length interest with digital as a concept, understand the potential challenges and impacts and take advantage of unexpected opportunities as they arise,” explained Mr Hegarty.

Digital investment was another key discussion topic across the forum series. Investment should be more than incremental productivity and efficiency gains, but rather a means to support strategic roadmaps and enhance business product and service delivery.

“All digital investment must be accompanied by a supporting program business case and upfront board approval to ensure complete transparency and the establishment of a strong governance framework on commencement,” said Mr Hegarty.

It is clear that an open and honest relationship, built on trust, between board and executives is paramount to enabling the change required to take advantage of the latest digital revolution. Remaining fixed in old ways and refusing to adapt to new engagement tools and technologies is proven to lead to a gradual decline for businesses, and result in an organisation’s downfall. Taking an open and honest approach at the early stages of ideation and business cases, and moving away from presenting go/no-go single options to boards, are effective tools for executives to master. If there is one technique to employ, it is to remember that taking the journey together, however difficult and bumpy it may be at times, will always result in a shared vision that enables success.

Get in touch with our digital experts to learn more about digital transformation and how your organisation can better plan and execute your digital strategy.