Today’s digital economy is evolving so rapidly that it can be difficult to keep up with the latest insights. Different organizations are dealing with the effects of digital transformation differently. That’s why regular surveys like Digital Pulse, conducted by the global executive-level recruitment consulting and advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA), have such a valuable role to play in painting an accurate picture of the current state of the market.
Every year, RRA surveys more than 1,500 senior executives across a broad range of industries and geographic locations. The goal is to deepen understanding of how digital changes are impacting organizational talent and leadership needs.
The Digital Pulse survey focuses on areas like digital strategy development and execution, organizational structure, and obstacles. As a result, the survey helps industry professionals navigate digital transformation and maximize its positive impact.
The third annual installment of Digital Pulse was issued in 2017. Read on for some key highlights and takeaways.
To ensure that survey data was as accurate and meaningful as possible, Digital Pulse 2017 limited its respondent base to senior executives working at companies with some level of digital strategy. Of the respondents, 48 percent were C-level executives (CEOs or other chief officers reporting to the CEO), 33 percent held the position of VP or director, and 19 percent were senior or executive VPs.
To ensure a balanced perspective, the companies selected varied considerably in size, location, and sector. Nearly half of responding companies had more than 5,000 employees (37 percent had more than 10,000, while 10 percent had between 5,000 and 10,000). Additionally, 37 percent had fewer than 1,000 employees (14 percent had between 250 and 999, while 19 percent had between 10 and 249, and 4 percent had between one and nine).
Companies were based primarily in Western Europe (37 percent) and North America (28 percent), with smaller proportions of respondents hailing from regions including Central and Eastern Europe, Australia, South Korea and Japan, and the Middle East. Respondent company sectors included the consumer industry (25 percent), financial services (18 percent), industrial (18 percent), technology (12 percent), and health care (11 percent).
Survey Highlights: Digital Strategy
Many other studies have demonstrated the importance of strong support from executive leadership when it comes to implementing digital strategy. But even though many CEOs are stepping up to the plate, findings from Digital Pulse 2017 reveal that there is still a disconnect between digital strategy creation and execution at many companies today.
According to respondents, the CEO is responsible for setting the digital vision and strategy at 40 percent of organizations. On the other hand, 14 percent of respondents gave this responsibility to the Head of Marketing, and 10 percent to the Head of Digital. Furthermore, 67 percent of respondents cited the CEO as the biggest advocate of digital transformation at their organization. Almost all respondents (91 percent) said that their CEOs are visibly supportive of the company’s digital vision and initiatives.
Fortunately, 60 percent of respondents felt that the appropriate leadership was setting the digital vision for their organizations. Despite this, however, only 47 percent were confident that their companies had the right team in place to ensure that the digital strategy was effectively executed.
As to the nature of the digital strategies themselves, the findings from Digital Pulse 2017 confirm the impression that most organizations are continuing to focus intensively on customer-centric digital initiatives. For example, 77 percent of respondents cited new tools and systems for customer experience and engagement as a key focus area. Additionally, 71 percent cited customer and operational data collection, and 70 percent cited the development of new marketing channels.
Survey Highlights: Organizational Structure
Digital transformation doesn’t just have an impact what today’s companies do and how they do it. It also affects how companies themselves are organized. Increasingly, companies are working to boost flexibility and agile decision-making by embedding digital talent across the organization.
According to survey respondents, 39 percent of companies are still working under the traditional centralized model of one team working under one leader. However, an impressive 45 percent of companies have moved to a hybrid organizational model. This features key digital operators embedded in dispersed business units as well as a centralized digital team.
Under digital’s influence, organizational relationships are changing, too. A successful digital transformation requires solid partnerships not only with the executive team, but with other critical departments across the organization. Marketing and IT were cited as key partners for digital by 87 percent of respondents, platforms/technology and data analytics by 86 percent, and sales by 68 percent.
Survey Highlights: Barriers to Success
The rapid pace and sweeping scale of digital transformation has led to a talent shortage in key digital fields. Given that, it’s not surprising to find that talent issues are one of the biggest obstacles to digital success for many organizations. Of survey respondents, 50 percent indicated that a lack of digital expertise and skills were the main thing holding their companies back from an effective digital transformation.
Structural issues are also a problem. For example, 49 percent of respondents cited organizational inertia (or change resistance), and 47 percent cited functional silos (or departments unable to cross-collaborate) as significant barriers.