More global companies are creating Chief Transformation Officer role

Greg Douglass, Global Technology Strategy & Advisory lead at Accenture

With seven in 10 enterprise transformation efforts failing to meet business leaders’ expectations, many companies are adding a new executive role to the C-Suite: the chief transformation officer, according to a new report from Project Management Institute’s Brightline® Initiative developed in collaboration with Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

Why is the role widely adopted?

Chief Transformation Officer: Why They Matter, What They Do, and What They Need to Succeed examines how firms are driving transformations that are characterized by demands: far-reaching in vision and pragmatic in execution; deliberate and adaptive; competitive and collaborative; continuous and schedule-driven; value-focused and explorative.

Based on a survey of over 350 transformation leaders in 25 countries and 18 industries, the report finds organizations that are successful with transformation share three characteristics:

  • a well-formulated transformation vision,
  • a permanent transformation office, and
  • a chief transformation officer who reports to the CEO.

Nearly all respondents (95%) agree that the chief transformation officer role is critical for achieving transformation goals, and over 90% believe a permanent transformation office improves the alignment between strategy and execution, and the orchestration of multiple initiatives. These actions deliver more value than those with ad-hoc assembled teams.

What were the executives’ thoughts on the findings?

“The rise of the transformation office and a chief transformation officer role in the C-suite signals that firms are embracing bold, concurrent initiatives designed to support innovation and sustain growth. The success of these programs depends on leaders having strategic vision for making the transformation a reality across the firm and building credibility and trust in the process,” said Greg Douglass, Accenture’s global Technology Strategy & Advisory lead.

In addition, the research report highlights the capabilities a chief transformation officer needs to excel, and the conditions that set them up for success. According to the survey, these leaders of enterprise transformations have broad experience across technology, business intelligence, business development, strategic planning and project management.

Additionally, most also have long tenures with their organizations, suggesting they have earned trust across functions and the C-suite and are well-positioned to communicate the vision to all stakeholders. “As we have seen since the onset of the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic, the ability of organizations to adapt to rapid and sometimes unpredictable change is a key differentiator,” commented Tahirou Assane, Portfolio Leader of Brightline at PMI.

“Organizations that invest in and embrace the role of the chief transformation officer now will be well-positioned to not only survive but to thrive in the continuously evolving business landscape,” Assane said. When it comes to measuring success of transformation efforts today, the top three criteria companies listed were revenue, productivity and cost reduction.

But when asked to look ahead to 2025, the top success criteria they cited were non-financial, like customer experience, environmental, team diversity and inclusive structure.

The different view of current and future success criteria may indicate that pressure to demonstrate financial results may divert efforts away from focusing on the longer-term value of transformation. What leaders of large and complex transformations highlighted is that every ounce of effort must be clearly aligned to transformation objectives.

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