Turning digital transformation into a reality: a guide for CEOs

With so much hype around digital, it’s easy to talk the talk, but actually making it happen is a different story. In order to make digital transformation tangible, there has to be a connection between technology inputs and business outcomes. Digital is not just about technology, it’s about skills, staff, style, structure, systems, strategy and shared values; the seven elements that make up McKinsey & Co’s widely adopted ‘7S Framework’. As such, business leaders need to approach digital transformation as they would any other major organisational change.

Digital checklist

In analysing how well an organisation is positioned to implement a new strategy, there’s a tendency for managers to focus solely on structural aspects, such as defining the chain of command and employee and departmental roles. But as organisations grow in size and complexity, there are more and more elements that need to be taken into consideration. The McKinsey 7S Framework is a useful resource for business leaders as it addresses the critical role of coordination in organisational effectiveness by identifying the interrelated factors that influence an organisation’s ability to change.

The following table outlines ‘7S checklist questions’ for CEOs at companies looking to undergo digital transformation:


  • What is the digital strategy? How will digital objectives be achieved?
  • How will the digital strategy be communicated to the organisation by leadership?
  • How will customers’ demands change?
  • How will the competitive landscape change?


  • Does the way the organisation is divided need to change? What does the digital hierarchy look like?
  • How will interdepartmental coordination be affected?


  • What are the main systems that run the organisation (e.g. financial, HR)? How will they be digitalised or integrated with new digital systems?
  • How will staff’s daily activities and procedures change with the implementation of digital technologies and processes?

Shared values

  • What are core company values? Can they be applied to a digital business model?
  • What is the corporate culture? Is it likely to change with the rollout of digital?


  • How effective is the current management style? Does it need to change to suit a digital business model?
  • Will staff cooperate or resent the move to digital?


  • Are there any skills gaps? What new (hard and soft) skills are required?
  • Do current staff have the ability to adapt to digital processes?


  • What digital positions need to be filled? Do new staff need to be hired? Is a Chief Digital Officer or digital lead required to manage the rollout of the strategy?
  • Are there gaps in required competencies? What digital training resources need to be provided to existing staff?

Digital symmetry

Answering these questions will enable business leaders to understand how the organisation is positioned to roll out a digital strategy. But what about making it a reality? Logicalis’ created the concept of ‘digital symmetry’ to demonstrate how different aspects of an organisation need to come together to be successful in a transformation project. As shown in the image below, it uses a brain analogy to explain the two ‘hemispheres’ of a digital business.




Organisations, whether digital natives or digital adopters, must have two sides of the ‘brain’. There’s the digital side, owned by the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) or digital lead, which thinks of digital in terms of revenue streams and business processes. The CDO is responsible for mobilising the business, building analytics capabilities, generating actionable insights from big data, and enabling the organisation to become more app development centric. However, this can only happen if the other side of the ‘brain’ is thinking about how to actually make all of these things work, which is the CIO agenda.

To allow the ‘creative’ side of the brain to do what it wants to do, the CIO needs to change his or her ‘logical’ side of the brain. This means redefining the role of IT; modernising IT in terms of infrastructure and processes so that it can be the enabler of the organisation’s digital ambitions. The left and right hemispheres of the business coming together and working in sync is what creates digital symmetry, without which digital is simply not sustainable.

Broadening the view

Today, more than ever, structure isn’t alone in the organisation. As McKinsey’s 7S Framework and Logicalis’ digital symmetry concept illustrate, significant progress in one part of the organisation will be difficult without working on another; a creative thought in the CDO’s hemisphere will change something logically in the CIO’s. For digital to become a reality and be sustained, business leaders must take an organisation-wide view.

Business and IT leaders are invited to download our complimentary how-to guide, Aligning IT and Business: A practical guide for leading change in a service defined world, to learn more.


Tags business leadership, Digital Transformation, CIO Leadership, CEO, IT, digital symmetry, organisational change


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