Increasing Number of Companies Create Chief Transformation Officer Role, According to New Report from the Project Management Institute and Accenture

Successful enterprise transformations require a new chain of command and support structures

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With seven in 10 enterprise transformation efforts failing to meet business leaders’ expectations, many companies are adding a new executive role to the C-Suite: the chief transformation officer, according to a new report from Project Management Institute’s Brightline® Initiative developed in collaboration with Accenture.

Chief Transformation Officer: Why Transformation Leaders Matter, What They (Should) Do, and What They Need to Succeed examines how companies are driving enterprise transformations that are characterized by competing demands: far-reaching in vision and pragmatic in execution; deliberate and adaptive; competitive and collaborative; continuous and schedule-driven; value-focused and explorative.

Based on a survey of more than 350 transformation leaders across 25 countries and 18 industries, the report finds organizations that are successful with transformation share three characteristics:

  • a well-formulated transformation vision,
  • a permanent transformation office, and
  • a chief transformation officer who reports to the CEO.

Nearly all respondents (95%) agree that the chief transformation officer role is critical for achieving transformation goals, and more than 90% of respondents believe a permanent transformation office improves the alignment between strategy and execution, and the orchestration of multiple initiatives. Together, these actions deliver more value than those with ad-hoc assembled teams.

“The rise of the transformation office and a chief transformation officer role in the C-suite signals that companies are embracing bold, concurrent transformation initiatives designed to support innovation and sustain growth,” said Greg Douglass, Accenture’s global Technology Strategy & Advisory lead. “The success of these programs depends on leaders having strategic vision for making the transformation a reality across the organization and building credibility and trust in the process.”

The report highlights the capabilities a chief transformation officer needs to excel, and the conditions that set them up for success. According to the survey, these leaders of enterprise transformations have broad experience across technology, business intelligence, business development, strategic planning and project management. Additionally, most also have long tenures with their organizations, suggesting they have earned trust across functions and the C-suite and are well-positioned to communicate the vision to all stakeholders.

“As we have seen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability of organizations to adapt to rapid and sometimes unpredictable change is a key differentiator,” said Tahirou Assane, Portfolio Leader of Brightline at PMI. “Organizations that invest in and embrace the role of the chief transformation officer now will be well-positioned to not only survive but to thrive in the continuously evolving business landscape.”

When it comes to measuring success of transformation efforts today, the top three criteria companies listed were revenue, productivity and cost reduction. However, when asked to look ahead to 2025, the top success criteria they cited were non-financial, including customer experience, environmental, team diversity and inclusive structure. The different view of current and future success criteria may indicate that pressure to demonstrate financial results may divert efforts away from focusing on the longer-term value of transformation. What leaders of large and complex transformations highlighted is that every ounce of effort must be clearly aligned to transformation objectives.