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  • Lori Aleman

Overcome Lack of Experience, Methodology, and Discipline Using Results-driven Leadership

The solution to this issue is a results-driven leader who manages a straightforward, tested approach and oversees its disciplined execution. This involves significantly more than a project manager who identifies and tracks a list of tasks. It involves three interrelated disciplines that we call Leadership, Governance, and Accountability.


A digital modernization leader (DML) is pivotal in steering an organization through digital transformation. Digital modernization leadership transcends traditional project management roles. In addition to demonstrating essential leadership qualities like integrity, decisiveness, adaptability, and empathy, DMLs foster a culture of innovation, encourage risk-taking, support the executive sponsor, and communicate the journey's significance to all stakeholders. DMLs serve as cross-functional change catalysts who guide the entire organization through the challenges of modernization. Without this capability, projects quickly veer off course, and costly mistakes and delays pile up.

DMLs focus on the big picture, drive others toward the ultimate business goal, embody the benefits of change, and provide clear, consistent direction. Chaos reigns if an organization does not fill this indispensable role, overestimates a leader’s abilities, or underestimates the challenges associated with the modernization effort.

First, the organization will lack alignment. Users, project contributors, functional leaders, and vendors will be on different pages and moving in competing directions.

Second, people rarely welcome change. Users will fight to maintain the status quo or derail the necessary changes when a leader does not account for this. Adoption suffers as a result.

Third, the organization may lose sight of the desired business outcome. Instead of improving business outcomes, the project becomes a futile exercise of micromanaging minutiae and checking boxes. This tediousness impedes individual work, demotivates people, and causes everyone to lose sight of the end goal.

Ultimately, the project fails to meet intended objectives, and the organization squanders critical time and resources.


If Leadership provides the energy and direction for change, Governance provides the structure and oversight necessary to align digital initiatives with the broader business strategy. Digital modernization is not a generic, one-size-fits-all project management process. It requires a deep understanding of emerging technologies and evolving best practices. It demands a tailored approach considering an organization's unique needs, existing infrastructure, and long-term goals. Governance ensures everyone understands the roles and responsibilities required for a successful digital modernization, funds each role appropriately, and fills those roles with proven resources.

Governance aligns digital investments and organizational goals, mitigates risks, and allocates resources efficiently. Well-defined governance frameworks establish clear goals, roles, responsibilities, and decision-making processes. A robust governance framework will drive employee and stakeholder engagement, prompt decision-making, and a continued focus on outcomes instead of tasks. Poor Governance leads to increased costs, wasted time, and a less successful modernization.


Finally, Accountability is the linchpin that holds the entire process together. Every stakeholder, from leadership to frontline employees to software vendors to consultants, must be accountable for their roles in the modernization journey. Each person must be able to support the initiative's overall goal.

Even with the right team and methodology, projects can stall without strict execution, discipline, and accountability. The DM leader must have the ability and authority to hold all players accountable. This is typically where a third party has an advantage over an internal employee. A third party in a digital modernization leadership role has the authority, battle hardiness, and soft skills required to have difficult discussions with all stakeholders (from senior leadership to employees to vendors) that organizational norms make more challenging for an internal leader. The bottom line is that no matter how good the planning and governance are, no DM initiative can be successful if all parties are not held accountable for their performance.

Digital modernization is a complex and multifaceted responsibility. It involves collaboration across diverse levels, departments, and vendors. Who is the right “leader”? There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. While the DM Executive Sponsor holds ultimate accountability for the DM initiative, choosing the right day-to-day results-based DML is mission-critical. The right DML needs to have the time, capability, and experience required to drive the day-to-day performance of the initiative. Without this crucial role, digital modernization will fail. Combining a solid methodology with experienced people positions the organization for a successful digital modernization.


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