Digital Stakeholders Should Better Understand CEO Reluctance to Change

In a presentation designed by the MIT Sloan School Management Review, and Capgemini Consulting, Embracing Digital Technology (the 2013 Digital Transformation Global Executive Study and Research Project), CEOs of businesses with over $1 Billion in annual sales are admonished to ” . . . achiev[e] digital transformation . . . within the next two years”. The authors of this presentation, Michael Fitzgerald, Nina Kruschwitz, Didier Bonnet, and Michael Welch, argue the urgency, for CEOs, is to embrace this imperative.

Presumably the points made in this presentation are credible. After all, the positions taken in it are based on the results of a survey of ” . . . 1,559 executives and managers in a wide range of industries.” But somehow the points echo very similar points made over the years about office automation. The old themes (really cliches) pop up again in this piece. Businesses failing to embrace new technologies (in this case social media and online transaction processing) will lose ground to competitors who successfully make the required transitions.

What’s missing is any real depth of detail about why the recalcitrance evidenced by a full 62% of companies surveyed, may make sense. For these respondents ” . . . digital transformation . . . [has not become] a permanent fixture on their CEO’s agenda”. Surely there must be a compelling reason for these CEOs to take this position about whether or not the “urgency” of technological change makes sense this time around?

Perhaps the reluctance of these CEOs is understandable if one chooses to consider the substantial increase in the success rate of malicious attacks on websites, or the growing divide between successful IT projects, and the more common variety of IT projects which are prone to substantial cost overruns and disappointed users.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget the quagmire of “user adoption strategies.” There are few CEOs willing to simply digest the cost of these campaigns, which are designed to achieve little, if anything, more than persuading end users to change one method of successfully performing daily computing chores, for another.

An adoption strategy, for better or worse, should be a mandatory component of any “modern” office automation project, regardless of whether the type of computing is “digital” computing online, or a legacy on-premises computing solution. After all, any changes in computing, at this point in the development of information technology, is really a matter of abandoning one method of office automation for another. But do most IT project plans include this strategy? From the results of this survey, perhaps not. CEO reluctance, when considered in this light, becomes understandable and certainly worth exploring. Pity this article did not dive into it.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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