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3 Big Mistakes CEOs Make with Their Digital Strategy


Cindy Montgenie, CEO of New Skies Nation

By Cindy Montgenie

To remain relevant and competitive, digital transformation should be at the top of all CEO’s corporate agendas, no matter the size of their business.

It’s not just juggernaut companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google that are changing the way we work and live; successful disruptive startups are being birthed around the world. In 2012, Instagram had only 13 employees and hadn’t yet produced revenue, yet it was acquired by Facebook for $1B.

Facebook, Uber, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Airbnb didn’t exist 15 years ago, and today they are part of the fabric of our daily lives. What will be life in 15 years with AI, Cloud Computing, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, and more new innovations that haven’t even been imagined yet?

Business leaders must capitalize on the mega trends and build the competencies and capacities within their organizations to thrive in the future and build unstoppable organizations.

Digital transformation for Company A might not mean the same as for Company B. However, there are at least three mistakes that will spell guaranteed doom for your digital transformations.

Mistake # 1: Assuming that digital transformation is only about tech

Digital transformation goes beyond digitization of information, business models, and processes. Digital transformation is about:

  • integrating digital technologies
  • adopting a genesis mindset
  • creating a digital culture across the organization
  • using all three points above to reinvent both the customer and employee experience
  • and to create a compelling competitive advantage

The scope of this transformation covers the entire business, so it can’t be completely delegated to the CIO or the IT head. The CEO, his/her executive team, and the board are responsible for driving the digital transformation agenda and rallying the rest of the organization around it to achieve a successful implementation.

Mistake #2: Talking only tech and business and not human

Ultimately, employees are the ones enabling change or preventing it from happening. But our brains are not wired to embrace change. Stress and anxiety trigger a “fight-flight-freeze reaction.”

Digital transformation implies radical changes in the way a company operates—from its business model to the way it engages employee and customers. Automation and AI are eliminating old jobs and creating new ones that require new skills.

Employees are nervous. Their natural reaction is to enter a fight, flight, or freeze mode, but you need them to be highly engaged throughout this digital transformation journey.

For this reason, any digital transformation initiative should not only include a strong business case in terms of business impacts and technical needs; it should address the human factor. Speak plainly to the fears and hearts of your employees.

It is imperative to anticipate resistance, deploy effective communication, enlist supporters, and provide support.

To ensure a successful digital transformation, the leadership team must model great influencing and conflict resolution skills as well as savvy business acumen and technical skills.

Mistake #3: Ignoring the need for change

Many CEOs and business owners are waiting for things to slow down to start figuring out the impact of the digital era in their business model. But there is no slowing down, only accelerated change on the horizon. The pace of change is so fast that gone are the days when companies could still turn a profit by optimizing what their pioneers created. The current business environment only rewards innovators and super-fast followers.

Change doesn’t happen overnight or by osmosis. It is a process and must be intentional. A systematic and holistic approach to change can help CEOs accelerate results without making novice same mistakes.

I would love to hear where you are in your digital transformation journey. What are the lessons learned? Have you already launched a digital transformation initiative? If not, why? As a courtesy for reading this column, you can download a free change readiness assessment from our website.

Former tech executive Cindy Montgenie is the CEO of New Skies Nation (www.newskiesnation.com). As a high-performance strategist, keynote speaker, and trainer, Cindy helps business leaders to thrive through change so they can be unstoppable and win without losing their sanity in this disruptive digital era. You can follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook (@NewSkiesNation) Twitter (@CindyMontgenie) and Instagram (@CindyMontgenie) and contact her at Cindy@newskiesnation.com