Shaping Digital Transformation from the Top Down

How the C-Suite Drives Disruption that Ignites Change

Welcome to the True North Tech Journal, our annual thought leadership series. This edition covers a wide variety of topics designed to help your business kick start the journey to digital transformation. From data and analytics to the changing roles of the C-suite, and how women in IT leadership roles are shaping digital disruption, we’ve unpacked the critical steps to success. 

As a business leader, you know that change is accelerating, and transformation is inevitable. Digital transformation becomes the driving disruption in an organization's day-to-day business processes. The change brought by disruption can be traumatic. You may feel as if you’ve taken one step forward into digital transformation only to fall two steps back from the organizational reaction – not unlike how antibodies attack a virus when it is introduced in your body. Comparing your disruption to the “antibodies” scenario, you can see the importance of maintaining the momentum of the change, and like a good physician, anticipate the next attack of corporate antibodies by preparing for where they will come from and treating them proactively with alignment conversations before they react. As your new ways of working spread across organizational silos, there is always a danger of new attacks. This requires investment in pre-emptive alignment strikes (starting at the top) to prevent these attacks from sapping momentum. Each business silo has a role to play in alignment. One technique I recommend is to start with one process and then evolve to deliver transformation across the entire organization. Your business benefits from the newfound speed, scale, and power of innovation. When you adopt a do-adapt-learn process, you achieve a first-mover status and competitive advantage in the digital landscape.

To be successful, business leaders must accept that digital disruption is the foundation of digital transformation and that this type of disruption can‘t be accomplished in silos. You can initiate the change by introducing Agile methodologies and delivering value to your customer more quickly. However, if you change one project function while the rest of the business stays the same, it will drastically impact your ability to ignite lasting transformation.

Here are a few tips to support your transformation needs based on common business areas: 

Sales and Marketing

Your Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) can start by implementing a culture and experience strategy that thrives on inventing new ways for multi-skilled employees to work together. Your intended outcome is the creation of an integrated, iterative, omnichannel experience designed to anticipate your customer's needs. 

Information Technology

Your Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO) can lead the charge by establishing a team that bridges existing silos to create a modern and continuously evolving IT capability. This new core competency will support everything in the organization. 

Human Resources and People Operations

Your Chief People Officer (CHRO) can cultivate cultural change by empowering a digitally savvy workforce, transforming ways of working surrounding new technology, and project managing new HR technology rollouts. The end goal for HR is a flexible workforce with the tools and skills necessary to operate in a digital world. 


Your Chief Operations Officer (COO) can enable digital partnerships that better connect the business front end with the business back end. This can take shape by leveraging digital partnerships to create an overhauled supply chain that matches the customer's expectations.

Business Model

Your CEO maps the business direction and sets strategic targets for disruption. How do you increase the flow of change and shorten the feedback loop? The answer lies in adopting a product mindset to improve time to market. This is a stark shift from the industrial age, where organizations hypothesize and preach from the center. Instead, data powers learning and evolves organizations at their edges. In the ruthless adapt-or-die digital world, the centralized power model simply isn’t fast enough to survive. Start by making tiny changes and cycle back often to keep your focus fixated on the end-user. Leaders should foster a blameless culture that rewards experimentation to increase customer value. 

Paving the Way for Transformation

Our three-pronged approach to building a culture that embraces the opportunity in digital transformation: 

  1. Align your leaders – Ensure the Agile agenda is supported by implementing a common language to explain the changes. Then, rally internal ambassadors to build energy around it, effectively avoiding "corporate anti-bodies" that discourage change.
  2. Empower your Trailblazers – Build a team that considers new ways of working. Avoid flashes of brilliance and illusions of progress by determining how to make change sustainable. Avoid creating an "us and them" culture where things are done in isolation.
  3. Establish your Trail-builders – Assign "trail-builders" that take the work of trailblazers and ensure others can follow it. Build momentum for change and clear the trail for your organization's transformation by using Agile product coaches to foster successful implementation. 

Digital transformation is attainable. You can get there by accepting that once you start, the secret to success is an exhilarating "do-adapt-change” mentality. 

Take a look at our latest True North Tech Journal blogs, and check the North Highland Insights page for related publications throughout the year:

  • Starting your Transformation with Digital or Data: In this True North Tech Journal Point-Counterpoint special edition, we debate the first ingredient of a successful business transformation–digital or data? 
  • The Chief Data Officer is the Pioneer of Enterprise Reinvention: Explore how data leaders continue to achieve data-centric business priorities while keeping disruptive technologies and future innovation top of mind.
  • Transforming Technology: Today’s Female IT Leader is Tomorrow’s Change Maker: Implement these six action-oriented steps to advance diversity and inclusion in the technology sector.
  • Enabling Transformation for Information Technology Leaders: Digital IT Operations disrupts the pitfall of throwing a new service over the development fence into operations.
  • Driving Data Monetization through Transformation: How North Highland implemented a first-of-its-kind, cross-functional visualization strategy that made data accessible for real-time production.
  • Technology Transformation in the Public Sector: A client solution rooted in change management, helped unlock the potential of technology by powering not only a change in technology, but also a transformation in ways of working.
  • Artificial Intelligence is here! How Ready Are You? An AI-Readiness quiz designed to determine if your team is ready to capitalize on the promise of AI.

Read more from our experts in the True North Tech Journal here