A clear vision, communicated throughout the organisation.

Finding the #1 factor for data in digital transformation

Logical specialises in contract and permanent recruitment at the technical and management level for data & analytics and digital transformation.

Conversations are at the heart of succesful recruitment. I’m constantly asking what people are doing, and what motivates them to go to work each day. I was interested in the biggest issues my clients face in leading the digital strategy for their respective organisations. The best source I could think of were 16 of the business leaders I work most closely with: the Chief Data Officers, Data Managers, the CIOs and the Practice Managers within consultancy, corporate and medium sized enterprises.

The most common issues

To give the conversation a framework I came up with a list of what I would consider valid issues that could significantly impact implementing a successful digital strategy. They were:

  • Ineffective data management – where existing data was siloed within systems, applications, divisions or teams.
  • Lack of the dedicated skills in the team – there has been a lot of discussion about skills shortages particularly at the senior level.
  • Organisational change management or more specifically, a lack thereof.
  • Scope creep – always a firm favourite.
  • Business lacking a defined goal and priorities – stakeholders, divisions or teams being on different pages.
  • Executive buy-in.
  • Budget concerns and constraints.
  • Not having great business processes in the first place. The data management not being the issue, but business not reengineering and not vastly improving from the legacy systems.
  • The rate of IT change too fast for a business to adapt.
  • AI and large language models being a disrupter.

A good start I thought, plenty for us to get our teeth into there. I wasn’t disappointed. Unanimously, the subject matter experts approached agreed that these were issues they faced and that we had covered most bases.  I asked for 5 minutes of their time for a brief conversation, but these went on quite a bit longer than anticipated as we got stuck into the subject. I gleaned their insights and quickly found a common recurring theme that was the most significant issue to all.

A clear vision, communicated throughout the organisation.

When I’m asked to recruit within a project team, it’s because there are a lack of skills or resources. I naturally assumed that this would be high on the agenda. But, from where my contributors sat, this, along with the other issues, were by products of the single most critical factor to get right. Without exception, they all agreed that the key was Executive buy-in; a clear and unified vision and strategy from the business, and the ability to communicate that throughout the organisation.

It was the #1 factor for predicting success. With Executive buy in and the ability to communicate that throughout the business the other issues could be managed. Without it, these other issues would rear up and potentially derail progress.

The Chief Data Officer

Starting with a Chief Data Officer, tasked with managing data governance, data risk, privacy and security for one of our largest and most high-profile organisations. He said their organisation has got it right. They are dead clear in terms of where the goalposts are. His previous experience had shown that there was a surprising lack of common sense in many transformation projects and no real communication about the end goal. “How does anyone know when we get there if it’s not clear where we are going?” was the rhetorical question posed.

For this CDO, it starts with the C-suite, and more specifically the CEO. Pleasingly, leadership in his organisation does not appear to be lacking. The CEO is highly visible, responds to all communication personally and even has a TV screen installed in his office. The CEO can see customers in real time at their most high-profile site. He can see if customers are experiencing long queue times or having a frustrating experience. He noted that it’s real time data like this that trumps a metrics report, even the most beautifully presented one, every time. The CEO has to be on the shop floor and not in an ivory tower, was the clear message.

The Consultancy Director

On a very similar line, the Practice Director for a major Data Consultancy said that the key for them delivering on their projects is agreeing on success before they start. This means defining a goal and securing executive stakeholder buy in. Transformation, they said, by definition, is significant change, and putting in a framework, the change management structure, allows and facilitates that change.

They continued, the work for a consultancy often starts with educating the customer, making sure they are not looking for something that doesn’t exist. To have the best chance of success, the communication with the exec team needs to be at the right level. Before getting into the technicalities of the transformation it’s imperative to find out how the client measures value as it might be different from your own measure. Quite often IT professionals can be disconnected from the business, focussed on the technical and not on the business outcome.

He said a smart executive team understands the business implications of having a greater insight into their data. The exec must appreciate the significance of business intelligence or at least understand the necessity of compliance to regulation and the mitigation of risk. There can be major corporate and personal repercussions for getting the data strategy wrong.

As a consultancy, if you are responsible for the delivery, you not only have to know how the client measures value but how you will measure value and show it. The conversations about time, people and technologies become more straightforward when you can show the business benefit and communicate it in a way you know the client values.


So, what happens when the c-suite doesn’t get it. There’s a lot of hype around digital transformation and most organisations would like to take advantage of smarter and more efficient systems. Not all understand the complexities or the reluctance to change from the business itself. According to the CIO of a mid-sized finance company, this issue is common. He was formerly a tech savvy CEO and a program manager responsible for many complex IT projects way before they were called digital transformation before becoming a CIO. From this position, he really understands the disparity between the board, the CEO and those senior technical managers charged with delivery of projects.

He said that without a “unified organisational vision and clear strategy” you are going to run into silos. Not just data silos, but technical architecture silos, business divisions, teams and groups of people, sometimes even on the same board! He couldn’t over emphasise the need for organisational change management, sponsored by the CEO to orchestrate a strategy. When it’s not executed properly the vision is not realised and success is unachievable.

The Data Manager

So it’s the CEO’s fault then.  Well, not according to one Head of Data for a large finance company who was willing for the technology teams to shoulder some of the blame. He leads a team of 12 and remains a hands-on technologist. He has seen organisations take a technology first approach where innovations and ambitions allowed the pace of technology change to outstrip the pace that business could adapt. If technology is given the freedom to reengineer the business, it can lose sight of the goal.

This type of issue seems to be coming to the fore with AI. As we all know, the surge in interest in AI and in particular large language models (LLM) will have every CEO in the country asking themselves what they need to know about this world, and what should their business be doing to adopt it. It seems only logical that the team the business will rely on to provide these answers would be within data and analytics. Unless there is a mandate for R&D then the tried and tested questions would still need to be asked:

  • Is the business need clear?
  • Is there a vision and strategy for implementing the solution?
  • Is the process for change management, organisational and technological in place?
  • Will the vision be communicated from the top down and permeated throughout the business.

Without these fundamental questions asked we run the risk of implementing a technological solution for the sake of fear of missing out.

Steering the conversations to AI,  I concluded that there is a fine balance at the moment between exploring AI, particularly LLM, and identifying the business requirement. One CIO’s answer has been to advise his CEO to champion LLM and to mandate pilot projects in every division to explore applications. It’s a brave move but one that he feels will unfreeze their organisation. He said the alternative is to wait for competitors, consultancies or for the technology to evolve to demonstrate how the technology provides a competitive advantage. This solution takes the bull by the horns.

I’m looking forward to the follow up conversations over the coming months. We’ve started quite broad, but we’ll drill down into specific areas as we progress. It seems that communication styles when presenting to the CEO or enterprise applications for LLM could be great topics for the future.

If you’d like to contribute and be part of the conversation, please drop me an email at ashley@logicalconsulting.co.nz

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