The Implications of Shifting Digital Transformation Responsibilities

By Marty Greenlow, CEO, Ensighten

Today’s senior executives are under great pressure to transform their organizations for the digital world. Although this digital transformation imperative has been underway for several years now, we’re currently seeing a significant shift within the C-suite when it comes to ownership of these colossal undertakings. This shift could have significant implications for the paths—and ultimate success—of these important initiatives.

As responsibility for these weighty projects changes hands, it’s understandable that the priorities behind digital transformations might likewise alter course. But as some of the finer points of a digital transformation are reshuffled, there’s one element that must remain front and center within the project roadmap: data security.

Marketing’s Diminishing Role in Transformation

According to Altimeter’s fifth annual “The State of Digital Transformation” report, successful digital transformations require an enterprise-wide, cross-functional effort. As such, it should come as no surprise that these initiatives are increasingly being owned by executives with broader organizational oversight. Altimeter found that, for the second year in a row, CIOs are most commonly cited (28 percent) as the official owner of transformation initiatives. They’re followed by CEOs, who saw a 35 percent uptick in their ownership of transformation initiatives in the most recent survey.

Perhaps most notably, the role of the CMO in owning transformations has diminished over the past year. In 2017, 19 percent of survey respondents said transformation responsibility lay with their CMO. In 2018, that percentage fell to a mere 5 percent.

Of course, this shift in executive responsibility makes a lot of sense. Many initial digital transformation initiatives were sparked by the need for companies to get closer to their customers, particularly as emerging (and disruptive) direct-to-consumer business models have flourished. CMOs—by virtue of their proximity to the consumer, not to mention their experience in transitioning their organizations from traditional to digital channels—represented the most logical candidates to guide these initial pivots. But as transformations have matured into enterprise-wide movements, they’ve increasingly required enterprise-wide oversight.

Increasing Touchpoints, Increasing Vulnerabilities

According to Altimeter, most digital transformations in 2018 are focused on better understanding customers, improving their journeys across touchpoints, and enabling greater customer centricity. Over the next three years, 54 percent of companies said that they are focused on integrating all social, mobile, web, commerce and service efforts and investments to deliver an integrated, frictionless, omnichannel customer experience.

While these are necessary initiatives for modern-day companies, creating a more-seamless digital journey for customers opens up organizations to new data security vulnerabilities. As additional vendors and partners are employed help companies connect with consumers across their myriad devices and preferred platforms, the possibility of data leakage and breaches rises exponentially. In fact, a recent survey of 300 CISOs and CSOs by Fortinet found that 85 percent of CISOs said security issues during digital transformation had a “somewhat” to “extremely large” impact on their business.

Here’s the good news: Today’s executives understand that security needs to be a part of their digital transformation initiatives. In fact, Altimeter found that, in addition to customer experience, 45 percent of companies undergoing transformation are prioritizing the development of an agile IT infrastructure and technologies with increased flexibility, manageability and security within the next three years.

But there’s a caveat: “Security” takes many forms. With marketing executives increasingly shifting to a secondary role in digital transformation initiatives, it’s important that enterprises still adequately account for the complexity and vulnerabilities that today’s marketing technologies and relationships introduce to the organization. Standard IT-led cybersecurity measures often fail to account for these types of marketing security vulnerabilities, which promise to only increase in number as companies broaden the reach of their customer journeys.

Digital transformations shouldn’t open up companies to new risks of data leakage and breach. Quite the opposite, in fact. Thus, as responsibility for digital transformation increasingly settles at the enterprise level, it’s imperative that companies today continue to bring all stakeholders—including marketing—to the strategy table.

Marty Greenlow, CEO, Ensighten

Marty Greenlow, CEO, Ensighten
Marty provides the strategic and operational leadership for Ensighten and brings a wealth of experience in high-growth companies. Prior to joining Ensighten, Marty spent 15 years with Spectrum Equity, a leading growth equity firm in the software and internet markets. In addition, he held senior leadership positions at venture backed start-ups and was the Director of Acquisitions at a public company. He began his career with Ernst & Young. Marty holds a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Baltimore.