FTSE companies not taking digital transformation seriously

A digital audit of FTSE 100 shows only 2 per cent of large firms have a digitally-focused executive on the board.

While many businesses claim digital transformation is a priority, only 2 per cent of FTSE companies have a chief digital officer (CDO) or equivalent on the board, with just 5 per cent having a CDO on their senior management team or executive committee.

The research, by customer management consultancy PeopleTECH, shows that overall, many firms are not addressing digital transformation seriously.

“The sheer impact and importance of digital cannot be under-estimated. I think that a large number of companies confuse IT and digital, and in 2016 still aren’t focused enough at a board level on digital transformation,” according to PeopleTECH MD, Mike Hughes.

Not having a chief digital officer in a senior role does not necessarily mean that organisation is not focused on digital transformation, Hughes added. “But it can be no coincidence that organisations said to be ahead of the game with digital transformation, generally have a senior digital executive to bring it all together.”

Related: The role of the chief digital transformation officer (CDxO) and the need for a vision

The PeopleTECH audit also took in the FTSE AIM 100, which comprises younger and more high-growth companies. Perhaps surprisingly, not a single firm had a chief digital officer on the board. Just 2 per cent had a chief digital officer on the senior management team or executive committee, while another 2 per cent had people with digital prominent in their job description listed elsewhere on their website.

“The chief digital officer (CDO)is arguably the most important role in an entire organisation. Instead of digital transformation falling under the remit of the CIO, CMO or even a COO, having a CDO in place means there is a focus on integrating digital throughout the business and it prevents digital becoming isolated,” Hughes explained.

According to Hughes, companies run by “digital natives” tend to have naturally digital-heavy operations. These firms may not necessarily need someone to integrate digital at a senior level.

“If a company has digital embedded in its DNA, then there is less need for a CDO, and that’s certainly the case for many of the firms on the FTSE AIM 100. But that’s not to say that high-growth companies shouldn’t keep focused on digital transformation – it’s vital to all companies irrespective of size, industry or maturity level.”

Digital transformation is a highly complex process and many organisations on that journey are simply not integrated digitally. The digital team (or teams) can be siloed and don’t always have input into the overall strategy or direction of a company, or its products and services.

“There is no blueprint for universal success in digital transformation. But it stands to reason that without someone to work with the rest of the board, defining and delivering a digital vision for the company, and integrating it across the entire organisation, it is hard to imagine many firms being successful.”

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.