Emerging Role of CEOs in Digital Transformation

In the past, it was the CIOs, CTOs, and CDOs who led the digital transformation initiatives for companies.

But things have drastically changed now – CEOs are increasingly taking the leading role these days.

CIOs who lead and participate in digital transformation programs should focus on when and how to leverage CEOs throughout the program. There will be times throughout the transformation process where the CEO will have to market the strategy, clear obstacles, prioritize investments, and cope with conflicts.

As per stats, CEOs are increasingly taking the leadership role in digital transformation at 23%.

Other stats show that the top two priorities of CEOs in helping their businesses sustain amid the Coronavirus pandemic are:

  • Leading digital transformation projects at 37%.
  • Boosting remote work experience at 37%.

But what is digital transformation?

Digital transformation can be understood as the process of implementing digital technologies to transform current outdated and non-digital business processes and services or coming up with new ones to align with the evolving market and customer demands.

When digital transformation happens, you will be targeting new markets, addressing growing customer demands, and leveraging technology to automate more of the tasks at hand.

Here’s the emerging role of CEOs in digital transformation:

1.   Focusing on Digital Transformation Programs and Defining Leadership Responsibilities

While a CEO is a leader himself, his role also includes overseeing other leadership roles. At the same time, a CEO’s role also includes making sure that everyone is able to adapt to the new digital wave in the industry.

A typical digital transformation program includes a pre-defined strategy, onboarding process, full execution plan, pre-defined roles and responsibilities, and more. And most importantly, the CEO also needs to oversee the funding aspect of the program. It’s the CEO’s duty to allocate funds and make sure the right amount is going to the right initiative.

At the same time, the CEO should repeat the mission to the leaders and employees many times.

The CEO also needs to analyze and determine the following:

  • Would the company benefit with the defined business strategy? Or are there any concerns with the model?
  • Who are the target audiences? What are their demands and expectations?
  • Who are the new competitors?
  • Why is this particular digital transformation crucial? Can the company do without it? Is there any cheaper alternative? Or is there a need to upgrade to a better, more expensive version?

While communicating these, the CEO should also spill out the program’s short-term goals and how people can take part.

Moreover, there has to be clarity on the way the program is being led and how roles are assigned. Until and unless everyone is clear of the main goals, objectives, and responsibilities, there are always going to be issues in the company.

Again, this is where the CEO comes into the picture. The CEO has to be aware of where responsibilities lie and answer queries when alignments are unclear.

2.   Allotting funds and resources

The process of digital transformation will cost money and time, regardless of whether your business is large or small. You need funds for every step of the process, team members, and all the tech machinery involved.

The CEO will again be responsible to allocate appropriate funds and resources to the different teams. He/She should also set clear priorities early in the digital transformation process, allowing business leaders and employees to align themselves with what they need to prioritize first.

The CEO’s role also includes freeing up other essential resources, including human resources,  from various departments so that they can invest their time in the digital transformation program. It will involve freeing up the top performers who can realize the short-term objectives of your business.

The CEO should clearly spell out why these persons are the best fit somewhere else to aid the company to achieve long-term goals and assist business leaders in aiding their managers in reallocating responsibilities.

3.   Removing the blocks to digital transformation

Basically, digital transformation occurs when you’re changing the tech and the management of the company. Thus, it faces similar kinds of blocks, such as people resisting change, some desiring to adapt to things speedily, among other issues.

A survey found that cultural issues pose blocks to digital transformation with deep-seated viewpoints, resistance to change at 26%.

The CEO should intervene and ensure that the selected transformation leadership team is frequently meeting the members at every business level. He/she should also encourage open discussions about how the program is going and give employees a chance to raise concerns or cope with resistance.

Since no organization is the same, the barriers you face will also be different. And all those differences would also need individual solutions.

4.   Implementing a future-fit ERP solution

A CEO should control enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that are used for business management to keep a tab on things that are going on in the company and recognize the gaps in the business where they can add exponential value.

A future-fit ERP solution allows businesses to easily integrate with new emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and Digital Citizens into their operation.

It will simplify the digitization process and at the same time make way for superior efficiencies and growth and help recognize new opportunities to innovate.

Other than this, an ERP system will provide you with more significant and more efficient controls. The CEO will have more precise and real-time information, and it will allow management to maintain a firm hold on operations. The ERP dashboard also allows CEOs to know about where their business stands with drill-down capabilities.

CEOs need to respond to challenges quickly and smoothly along the digital transformation journey to be successful. An ERP system offers the crucial information required to do this.

What’s more, an ERP system provides stats starting from weekly sales to employee performance and inventory levels. Digital transformation is all about redesigning a company to fit the way business is conducted in the future. Thus, it is vital for the CEO to have knowledge of how the business will operate in the future. Implementing an ERP system offers benefits that can support a business’s digital transformation strategy.


CEOs are increasingly taking the leading role when it comes to digital marketing programs. In the past, digital transformation was about market disruption. But now, it is about self-disruption. Each function and line of business has to redefine the way things are being done.

While other leaders are focusing on the multi-functional disruption approach, CEOs can hold the organization together via the transformation process.


Author bio

Hazel Raoult is a freelance marketing writer and works with PRmention.. She has 6+ years of experience in writing about business, entrepreneurship, marketing and all things SaaS.. Hazel loves to split her time between writing, editing, and hanging out with her family.

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This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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