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Who Owns Digital Transformation? Survey Says ... CIOs

A successful digital transformation is an enterprisewide effort that requires a leader with a broad view of the organization, according to new research from Altimeter.

The fifth annual “State of Digital Transformation” report documents the shifts and trends that are shaping modern digital transformation. For this year’s 2018-2019 edition, Altimeter surveyed 554 professionals from brands, consulting firms, and other organizations with at least 1,000 employees, across the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Germany, and China.

“This is the first year where we see digital transformation becoming much more than just digital,” explained Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter. “What we are starting to see is business transformation that is influenced by a digital economy. It’s becoming an enterprisewide initiative where CIOs and IT professionals are partnering with key businesses across the organization to use digital to facilitate business goals.”

For the second year in a row, CIOs reported that they most often lead digital transformation initiatives within their organizations (28%). Next are CEOs, coming in at 23%, followed by boards (14%), CDO (11%), chief innovation officers (11%), CMOs (5%; down from 19% in 2017), and CXOs (5%).

“Up until this year, it was a tug of war between CIOs and CMOs in terms of who owned digital transformation,” Solis said. “And this is the second year the CMO has not owned digital transformation, but it doesn’t signal a loss of influence. CMOs are taking on a different type of role within organizations, one of hyperfocus on customer experience and engagement. Today it is the CMO’s job to understand the digital customer and explore ways to modernize the complete customer journey.”

Market pressures are the leading driver of digital transformation efforts, according to Altimeter, with most efforts focusing on growth opportunities (51%) and increased competition (41%). Employee experience and company culture remained a focus for many enterprises this past year; however, business leaders continue to prioritize modernizing customer touch points (54%) and enabling infrastructure (45%) in their transformation efforts.


Altimeter also found that executive buy-in remains the biggest challenge leaders face in digital transformation. In fact, transformation is still often perceived as a cost center (28%), while data to prove ROI also remains a challenge for some companies (29%). From a cultural standpoint, resistance to change (26%) and compliance concerns (26%) continue to hinder transformation progress.

Also interesting to note is that innovation is becoming more operationalized throughout businesses, with CMOs leading the charge. Nearly half of the respondents said they are building a culture of innovation, with in-house innovation teams becoming a growing trend.


“We’re seeing that CMOs today are building entirely new marketing organizations, with new expertise and new directives, to not only modernize customer experience but to essentially innovate and reimagine what customer experience will be in the future.”

Click here for the full report

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