The Role of The Chief Transformation Officer (CTrO) in driving Experience-led Transformation and Dual Transformation


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In the last decade, agile and scrum theory has proliferated – a boon for XM, if you ask me. This ‘insights to action’ loop is analogous to a burndown chart. Agile teams or pods/ squads the author fondly calls them become increasingly efficient at solving user stories ( user requirements) over time- that’s to be expected as everyone collaborates better. Presumably small increments and improvements(definitions of done) foster collaboration across teams spanning the entire org – this almost ‘viral’ agile movement is not to be underestimated. It’s really is the Future of Work; independent teams coming together fluidly to solve problems (remove pain points). This also puts some of the more ‘traditional’ organisations on skates, having to adapt quickly. The composition of these agile teams also shift- they’re made up of 6-9 specialists that are multi-disciplinary. Team members may hail from different parts of the org, but are all brought together, working on a common journey/episode. For example in a Telco , the pod(s) may belong to a macro Transformation A entity- focussed on innovating core jobs to be done e.g. digitalising parts of the Retention journey. Now in the Retention sub-journey, we may even have teams working on different Episodes – e.g. Team A1 on self-service chatbots and another Team A2 on contact center related user stories (these may include anything from optimising the IVR Tree to enriching the FAQ and Knowledge Base agents rely on) This ‘way of working’ is quite a big move away from the traditional siloes still prevalent in most organisations. What ends up happening, rather how we measure ‘progress’ is sometimes via the degree of agility practised e.g. % of scrum certified practitioners/ total FTEs. We could layer on more metrics, but it’s important to note that these are ‘internal’ and it’s best not to overcomplicate things – we want to get a feel of trends, momentum – not arrest it with the effort to report progress (which ends up happening – especially if there’s a project admin function within the Transformation setup)!This the Chief Transformation Officer (CTrO) has to seek a fine balance. He/she is a custodian for a % of each C-suite members’ budget allocated for the Transformation. The CTrO is a transient role – typically terms are 2-3 years – focused on delivery and execution.

We propose the Board has direct line of sight to the CTrO’s work as well – and another reporting line to the CEO. This helps keep the Transformation efforts ‘honest’ and gives us a tie-breaker during conflicts – and trust me, there will be plenty of conflicts.

The CEO will have to preside over Core and NewCore/NewCo Transformations A and B. The Core biz teams will feel they’re neglected whilst funding the NewCore/NewCo and NewCore/NewCo will constantly feel they’re not getting enough investment, not enough leeway to ignite dynamism and break into new markets (often times cannibalising the Core’s business, disrupting it).

Not an easy job being a CEO when a company is in it’s Dual Transformation journey. The CTrO really helps provide an objective lens – but truth be told, the NewCo/NewCore should be getting more attention – it’s the spaceship that’s going to bring us to new habitable planets – think Earth and New Eartth in sci-fi movies.

The CTrO typically works with the ‘business’ and the ‘delivery’ teams – the business, i.e. with P&L responsibility would be the likes of the Chief Customer, Commercial, Sales, Distribution, Marketing and Experience Officers. The ‘delivery’ titans would be the Chief Digital, Chief Technology, Chief Information Officers. There’s the corporate services teams as well, led by the Chief Human Resources and Financial Officers. Most (digital) transformations in the last decade have been focused on being ‘customer-obsessed’. In reality – beyond lip service – most companies have been stuck in a constant loop of ‘quick wins’ and MVPs (minimum viable products). It’s almost akin to cherry-picking in that teams/pods work on demonstrable (window dressed) outcomes – and these typically have been channel (web, online, social) related enhancements. These tend to be literally skin deep – they’re in fact just facelifts, reskins, UX/UI and mobility/app development efforts. There’s nothing wrong with these – just that they’re only a small % of the experience gaps/ pain-points identified. In fact, I argue that tech focused and initiated Digital Transformations only account for CX in recent times post pandemic) – but it’s usually the CCO and CXO with the lion’s share of the backlog – with arbitrarily fewer CFO user stories on top of the pile. So that’s been happening in the last 10 years, every org supposedly fixated on being customer-centric. But there’s not much to show for it, sadly. What do I mean by that? There’s a lot of effort, a lot of scrums and sprints, and there’s a lot of new skins, interfaces, and enhancements omni-chanelly (that’s not even a word). There’s not much movement on the ‘needle; though – and by that I don’t mean NPS and other survey mechanics/scores. I’ve seen many ‘world-class’ NPS scores at par, even surpassing those of Apple’s (and Apple’s Genius Bar, flagship store experience at that!). The economics aren’t commensurate to say the least. There’s not much causality to show for, and it’s not reflected in the balance-sheet (save the operational cost savings, deflection and self-service efficiencies). This could have been the nail in the coffin for some of the pure survey (NPS, CES etc) metrics driven programs – as Boards started asking for justifiable returns.

Two sides to this – an investment in XM should be long(er) term. I would classify XM as part of Transformation A, which is effectively to innovate on the jobs to be done. Given that it’s part of Transformation A, the time horizon should not be too arbitrarily ‘long’ e.g. spanning years and years. Having said that, leadership should give these investments at least a year to germinate. At least. It’s hard isn’t it? Short termism gets the best of us. It should be authentic – the CEO should really set expectations up front, early on, that XM takes time and if Boards agree that it’s enhancing the Core to NewCore, they should give the CEO and his/her team headroom and legspace to execute against this plan. Again, easier said than done – especially when you’re running a publicly traded company.

I dedicate a whole chapter talking about the ‘real’ problem – something we’ve come to call the ‘Messy Middle’. I go further to call it the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of XM (where XM breaks, gets lost and attenuated).

Luke Soon
Luke is a business transformation professional with over 25 years’ experience leading multi-year human experience-led transformations with global telcos, fintech, insurtech and automotive organizations across the globe. He helps clients activate their Purpose by monetizing innovation and building new revenue streams (experience equity), starting with their why. His personal purpose is to install the primacy of humanity in the experience economy and exponential age.


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