Ronald van Loon
Ronald van Loon 14 May 2019

Why C-Level Executives Need to Close the Digital Transformation Disparity Gap

The digital transformation has become such an important part of organizational culture today that it is extremely easy for stakeholders to forget what it actually means. The fact that this term has been thrown around quite a lot recently has meant that we now have a disparity in what stakeholders perceive about this term, and the actual meaning that it carries. 

This disparity in perception and the actual progress is concerning. C-level executives believe that they have made solid progress towards digital implementation, but the reality is often starkly different. Here, we shed some light onto the digital transformation, and how C-level executives should be on the same page as everyone else in identifying the progress made towards a data oriented future for their organization. 

I am really excited to let you know that this article has been written in partnership with Tata Communications based on their ‘Cycle of Progress in Digital Transformation’ research. 

Understanding the Perception vs. Reality Gap 

While many businesses in this day and age have taken up the steps to implement AI within their organization, there is still a significant disparity with the level of progress C-level executives believe they have made in this area versus reality.

To begin their research, Tata Communications interviewed stakeholders such as board members, C-Level executives, directors and department heads. All of these professionals were asked about the progress that they had made in their AI campaign in the form of percentage of total work achieved. 

Board members happened to be the most optimistic; as they felt that their organization has done 41 percent of the work that is required for full fledge AI implementation. Interestingly, C-level executives were also on the higher side of things, as they mentioned that they had done 33 percent of the work in this regard. 

However, when it came to the business end of the hierarchy, the people actually involved in the process of AI implementation thought differently. The directors tasked with overseeing the project thought that only 18 percent progress had been made, while the actual department heads keeping tabs on everything happening around them, only felt that 14 percent progress was made. 

This research and the figures from it, only go to prove that there is a big disparity in how C-level executives perceive progress in AI, and what the actual progress is like. 

Perception in Developing Markets 

Additionally, the study by Tata Communications also went on to examine the perception towards AI strategies in developing markets. Business leaders from developing and developed countries were asked about their confidence in the fact that AI could make them stand out in their industries. 

Business leaders from developing countries had completely different answers compared to those from developed countries. Business leaders in UAE had 39 percent confidence in AI, making them stand out in their industry, while leaders in Saudi Arabia and India marked 46 percent and 41 percent confidence respectively. 

This figure seems like a massive climb compared to the confidence displayed by business leaders from some of the more developed countries in the world. Business leaders in the UK and Canada displayed only 19 percent confidence that AI systems would help them jump ahead of their industry, while those from Singapore and Germany displayed 14 and 15 percent confidence respectively. These figures have got a lot to do with the fact that developing countries are still seeing widespread AI implementation, while developed markets have already gone through this phase. 

Thus, businesses in the developed market do not feel that AI can truly make them stand out. However, harnessing its potential surely will get the dividends for them. 

Closing the Perception versus Reality Gap 

It is extremely important for businesses and C-level executives to realize this perception versus reality gap and close it off immediately. The perception of C-level executives is that they are already on the move towards widespread AI implementation, while the reality is starkly different. In such a scenario it is pertinent to note that this disparity can lead to separate goals for the business and the C-level executives. 

C-level executives would start planning separate goals for the business, while the business itself would be at a different level of growth. To make sure that you fully augment the potential of the latest innovations and extract the most out of your AI campaigns, it is best that you keep yourself at par with the reality around you. 

The Positives  

The research by Tata Communications also unearthed certain positives that business leaders across the globe expect from the data revolution in the future. 

To begin with, almost 34 percent of all business leaders interviewed as part of the survey mentioned that AI would lead to better customer satisfaction. The analytics generated through AI will help businesses cater their offerings to the interests of the consumers they have. By being able to react well to their customer needs, organizations will be keeping customers hooked for more. 

Additionally, 35 percent of business leaders also spoke highly about the potential of blockchain in releasing better quality products. 41 percent of those surveyed were excited about the launch of IoT and how it would add efficiency to business processes. Finally, 38 percent of those surveyed were extremely excited about the impact of predictive analytics in the market, and how it can improve overall morale. 

The Challenges 

There still exist, however, numerous challenges, as per the opinion of the business leaders surveyed by Tata Communications. 43 percent of all business leaders believe that cost is a big challenge for their organization. 40 percent of those surveyed believed that security of the system and the data being stored in it is going to be a worrying point for the future. Finally, 37 percent believed that privacy could be a big worry on the system. 30 percent of all individuals surveyed also hinted towards the skills gap as a problem in the system. This skills gap is the latest hindrance in the way of overall AI implementation. While C-level executives having a plan laid out to achieve their goals in the future, the lack of proper skills in the employees mean that there are certain obstacles on the way. 

Tips on Closing the Gap 

C level executives would want to know how they can close the gap between what they perceive of the AI system and what it is delivering to them. This skill gap can be closedthrough the following methods: 


C-level executives need to understand and know about the importance of educating themselves on the opportunities pertaining to AI present around them. C-level executives need to educate themselves with the new capabilities and technologies related to AI around them, so that they can better understand the dynamics of what is happening around them. 

In their quest for education and information, C-level executives can get lessons from the younger generation, or take courses that some of the younger employees have taken. The lessons learnt from these courses will help them get a better grasp of everything happening around them. 

Ask Detailed Questions 

Any barriers to communication between management and the employees should be eradicated, and C-level executives should ask questions pertaining to the progress of the AI mechanism. All questions related to the security, cost and privacy of the system should be asked here. 

You can read the full report here for more details on the research conducted by Tata Communication. 


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