Dion Hinchcliffe: The CHRO is the key new role when it comes to the digital transformation!

dion_headshot_red_backgroundWe are very happy to have Dion Hinchcliffe joining us for the conference at Social Business Arena again this year. Dion is the Chief Strategy Officer at the digital business transformation firm Adjuvi and a subject-matter expert in information technology and business strategy. As a veteran of enterprise IT, Dion has been working for two decades with leading-edge methods to bridge the widening gap between business and technology. In advance to his visit at the Social Business Arena he took some time to answer some questions on his current views on the topic and its evolution.

1) Dion, you are one of the keynote hightlights at the conference of the Social Business Arena. You will be talking even twice on March 16 and 18 – with both talks keying on the topic of the digital transformation. What is your take on this? Isn’t the term “digital transformation” just a new meme replacing the overheard “social” one?

Certainly, the wave of digital re-thinking that’s happening in many organizations today has become the largest umbrella of all when it comes to technology change today. But we must not forget that beyond the technology itself, we need to change the way we work at the same time — and in a way that better matches — the new tools that we are now using to work with. As was discussed by many at the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT in Paris recently, social business is actually a powerful entry point to enable the types of shift in mindset, behavior, and culture required to succeed in all the new ways of digital business.  Social is therefore a large and significant part of digital transformation, especially to provide people with a digital support network and next-generation operating environment that can help them adapt and succeed in the midst of these large-scale transitions.

2) So – the idea of the “digital transformation” is enabled by “social”? What are the key levers and drivers of “social” to be watched and cultivated to evolve?

There have been some powerful patterns we’ve seen emerge recently when social enables new ways of working that simply weren’t possible before. Digital skills that are really only possible in a meaningful way in social platforms, such as “Working Out Loud” or “Letting the Network Do the Work”, are true game changers in terms of the value they can provide, but the tools and new behavior — as a combined set — must be readily changed together with the workforce in order to access this business value. Digital/social literacy is therefore a key lever to unleash the value of new digital work methods. So is ready availability of both enabling digital leadership and the distributed responsibility for re-imaging your part of the organization. Organizations that won’t allow progress forward to be found and fostered widely and deeply within the organization won’t reap the benefits, so that is another, and perhaps most significant, lever.

3) Who is in charge for cultivating this? The CHRO because of the connections towards the change of the corporate behavior & culture? The CIO or (newly) the CDO (Chief Digital Officer) as technology is the key enabler for the change on a big and sustainable scale? Or the CEO himself/herself because the transformation is at the core of the company?

The CHRO is a key new role at the table when it comes to these transformations, as they have the responsibility to manage human capital strategically. They also have the resources and skills to drive digital learning and new behaviors into the organization, as well as rewarding the digital workers that make the most impact. However, the CHRO role has not typically been at the forefront of social/digital transformation, but that’s starting to change, as it should. However, when it comes to the CIO, the CDO and CMO are increasingly assuming much of the reins in many organizations for driving digital business/engagement, especially if it’s revenue generating. Despite this, the CIO is still the top role in most organizations for digital change today. But the writing is clearly on the all: Up to 60% of CIO responsibility will be lost to these two roles and others according to recent figures from IDC. Nevertheless, the CIO has a new mandate to lead these changes, and one that if they can follow it, will set them up well to lead the changes that must take place in our organizations. But in the end I believe, it’s going to be a group C-Suite effort to drive full digital transformation in 2015 and beyond.


4) How do you appraise the acceptance of these new developments on the corporate side?

These days you can actually point to real digital/social outcomes, in a way that you couldn’t before. This makes it easier to convince the remaining skeptics that change simply must happen. The good news: We now have a decent number of powerful case studies from leading global firms, like the examples we saw in Paris last month, as well as a growing preponderance of rather compelling data sets from multiple sources on the actual performance of digital/social business in companies recently. Thus I’m finding the discussion is quite a bit less aboutwhy to engage in digital business or social business, than how best to go about it.

5) What are the key issues for not yet embracing these trends and developments on the corporate side?

It’s the usual suspects: Most corporate leadership are experts in their field of business, not in digital. In addition, it can take a decent amount of time to make these changes, and senior executives — for reasons usually related to financial cycles — are unwilling to invest in what seems like uncertain timelines, no matter how urgent the changes seems. So too are cultural, bureaucratic, and regulatory barriers to digital and social, which often requires being more open, more participatory, and more connected, which can form obstacles to transformation for many structural reasons.

6) What are your expectations for the conference of the Social Business Arena @ CeBIT?

I think we’ll continue to see maturity of the industry, but also a new wave of companies start down the path, learning from those that came before. I also think that trends like Internet of Things, new “small” social tools such as Slack, wearable devices for the workplace, fundamentally rethinking the workplace in new digital terms, and many other exciting new trends will show us that innovation is not only continuing, but picking up pace in the collaboration world, and across the enterprise. I look forward to seeing and hearing about all of these at Social Business Arena and CeBIT as a whole later this month.