We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine! Learn More
cross icon
Why Engage a Consulting COO to Drive Digital Transformation Success?

Why Engage a Consulting COO to Drive Digital Transformation Success?

Why Engage a Consulting COO to Drive Digital Transformation Success?

The sense of urgency surrounding Digital Transformation is palpable in all competitive industries. The many benefits of successfully navigating these turbulent waters induce new efforts of the well-meaning, but real success rates fall far short of many starry-eyed initiatives. Engaging a well-qualified Consulting COO can unlock a variety of accelerators operational transformation and digital transformation – that work.

Failure to properly resource and action the operationalization of the transformation dooms it to eventual failure, regardless of the merit of all the other aspects. Superb technology, dazzling digital marketing, and even breakthrough product innovations cannot salvage an operational transformation that has failed to establish a solid operational basis for commemorating all the best-intended transformational measures into self-sustaining and flexible operational assets. In the final analysis, the real benefits of Digital Transformation need to result from the multitude of harmonious operational advances (often tiny, incremental in nature) that represent ‘The How’ upon which the firm really operates continuously.

The Key to Operational Transformation: It’s What You Do, Not What You Say

The truest measure of any Firm is how it actually operates, not how it imagines that it operates. Yes, that sounds a bit absurd, but after decades of working with a wide variety of organizational styles, regional cultures, industry & leadership method fads, we’ve come to recognize that one of the most important benefits of effective Digital Transformation is the ‘revelation of truth’ that results on such matters. It is impossible to effectively transform an organization without first coming to grips with exactly how that organization is currently operating in sufficient operational detail to ferret out the deltas between institutionalized perceptions and observable realities.

The Consulting COO specializes in divining this critical difference with deep clarity, and dispassionately so, precisely because of ‘not having a dog in the fight’. Much has been written about the motivational differences between Consultants, Fractional Execs, Interim Execs, and long-term incumbents, so no need to replay those. Instead, let’s surface a key reality here, the Consulting COO has a purpose in engaging and is not fettered with the nearly unavoidable myopia of time-in-position nor the gravitational pull of positional prestige and preservation of the status quo. 

Rather, the effective Consulting COO intrinsically understands that the best possible parting gift for the Client’s firm after a successful Digital Transformation is the establishment of clarity-of-purpose for everything the firm actually does and the organizational commemoration of this reality through self-sustaining behaviors, policies & processes, technologies and the shared ability to readily translate Strategy into Actions as the fluid realities of every competitive industry exert their influences.

Digital Transformation of Operations To Become: 

Under the experienced guidance of the Consulting COO, the operational transformation of the Firm will include a beneficial focus on these key characteristics of digitally-empowered enterprises.


The operations mindset begins with maintaining a close connection to current reality and a clear comprehension of the Firm’s Organizational Capabilities. Equipped with this situational awareness, the Consulting COO provides a sort of True North calibration to map theoretical strategies into one-foot-in-front-of-the-other tactical actions. Planning horizons add many layers of abstraction between the C-Suite and ‘the Street’ (or Trading Floor, Operating Theater, or Shop Floor). This is why operational transformation pragmatism is so important as a philosophical consideration. The Consulting COO delivers a natural safeguard against the failure mode of pursuing beautiful sandcastles in the sky strategically.

Data Aware

At the very heart of Digital Transformation lies the principal advantage of Data Awareness. This luxurious power, becoming capable of ‘Listening to the real Data Is a definition outcome of effective Digital Transformation, the decision-making empowerment of trustworthy data, rather than the prior millennia of decision-by-gut, or persuasively argued opinions. Facts trump opinion every time. Remarkably, this is often a sticking point with incumbent executives and decision-makers of many levels during the Digital Transformation journey. Oftentimes, the facts of the analyzed data simply no longer support the painstakingly constructed version of reality that the Firm may have baked into its internal decision-making processes or preferred actions. The Consulting COO can serve as a beneficial reality-referee, helping to instrument and assess the newly available data of the post-digital transformation era. Pragmatism + Data Awareness form a powerful, useful asset for the rest of the C-Suite and the Firm’s Leadership Team.


Customers, Regulators, Suppliers, and Partners form the Market. Effective Strategy dictates recognition that they are all continuously evolving at their own pace without regard to whatever self-inflicted speed limits to change which may have accumulated over time within the Firm. Digitally Transformed Operations must therefore facilitate agility in responding to these shifting tides. The Consulting COO will ensure that this fundamental characteristic is built into the adaptive core of overall operational transformation and ongoing operations from the ground up. Remember, in the Digital Age, “Success goes to the Agile” because the most important thing to discern is what is about to happen, not to document what happened last time.


The People are the Organization. Everything else is just ideas, methods, documents, data, infrastructure, etc., etc., just Stuff. Stuff without engaged, empowered, and active People to use it for purpose is, well, just Stuff sitting there. An often neglected aspect of Digital Transformation is the universal need to make the entirety of the operation ‘portable’ from person to person at a human scale. Put most simply: to be self-sustaining over time, Digitally-empowered Operations must also be readily teachable from one practitioner to the next, from one wave of people in positions to the next, from the pre-acquisition team to the post-acquisition enterprise, etc.  The effective Consulting COO keeps an eye on this consideration to ensure that the Secret Sauce of the Firm’s shiny new digital operation can be readily passed along to successive teammates and not quickly lost or defeated by a lack of teachability.


The Firm’s Operations, its People, Processes, Technology, and Ecosystem, behave very much like a living organism. And as with all life, sometimes the ‘knees get scraped’. An effective, digitally-empowered organization will become self-sustaining via organic Continuous Improvement and the intrinsic ability to detect and seek to correct or navigate around the unanticipated but inevitable obstacles and ‘injuries’ that befall every Firm. This is not an idealistic attempt at forming the ‘Impervious Organization’, but rather, an acknowledgment that even the best-implemented plans hit snags and the Self-Healing capability of the Firm is a factor to fold into the tactical methods applied. The Consulting COO will seek to pressure test various aspects of the Operational Transformation and Digital Transformation and do some ‘leak detection’ with an eye not to perfection but to operational durability while the self-healing responses of the Firm deliver their benefits.

The Consulting COO is a Key Operational Transformation Change Agent 

Serving as the driver behind achieving a true understanding of The Current State of the Firm’s operations, the Consulting COO will provide a critical bridge between these realizations and the aspirational objectives attendant with The Desired Future State. The Digital Transformation Journey is most definitely a Team Sport, and the Consulting COO can serve in various positions in that field, working in close coordination with incumbent leadership, the Firm’s various internal & external Stakeholders, and the SMEs, Suppliers/Partners, and Customer touch points across the Firm’s unique operating ecosystem. It’s not about disruption, it’s about re-visioning and acting on the data-driven learning that results from it.

Digitalized Operations: Connecting The Dots  

A useful exercise that most Consulting COOs will help a Firm’s work through is the act of defining a Mind Map of the Business Architecture (links to our methodology and articles about Biz Arch, Mind Maps, etc.) upon which its Operations are based. This provides a comprehensible means to visualize and collaboratively troubleshoot the sorts of complex, highly interdependent decision-paths and workflows comprising the operational layer. This is never as simple as just the Buy-Sell Cycles, Supply-Chains, or CRM & Contact Centers, etc. This is the amalgam of all these interactions, and the perceptive Consulting COO brings the ability to visualize these connections between the ‘dots’ to the table for operational transformation actions. Connecting these dots for for the other leadership disciplines around that table is a huge value proposition and one of the many reasons why the Consulting COO needs to be accounted for in the most comprehensive Digital Transformations.

But We Already Have a COO, so How Would This Help Us?

A fair question. But by now, you’re also starting to recognize that, at least in the context of Digital Transformation, the Consulting COO that we’re addressing here  brings a distinct set of skills and focus to the party, which can completely complement an incumbent COO or facilitate the recruitment and onboarding of a permanent COO to carry-on driving Operational Excellence with the full benefit of a recent Digital Transformation to expand upon.

Avoiding The All-or-Nothing Trap

One of the failure patterns we’ve seen crop-up in the vision and pre-planning stages of many Digital Transformations is what we call the All-or-Nothing Trap: this is where the operational transformation exponentially spirals from a set of identifiable goals and timeframes, into an impossible mission to fix everything everyone can possibly imagine during joint sessions that become “The Sum of All Grievances” across the Firm. 

One of the best ways to avoid this organic failure pattern is to engage the Consulting COO very early on and leverage their ability to facilitate such exploratory and planning discussions in more productive directions, The Operations-mentality values pragmatism and tangibility, as previously discussed, and these characteristics enable the Consulting COO to referee the Goal-setting activities of Operational Transformation Planning and estimating and steer toward identifiable, achievable objectives and help filter out the noise-level concerns and spurious pain-points that inevitably manifest during collaborative transformation discussions.

Consulting COO as Catalyst

A final point to share here is the realization that in many cases, an effective Digital Transformation also requires some form of ‘Catalyst’ to ignite the process and drive the initial forward momentum that is actually quite difficult to establish because the very essence of operational transformation (digital or otherwise) is CHANGE and most of us are wired to RESIST that as the first-position. Organizations mimic this human self-defensive posture, some to a remarkably deep-seated level. 

Who better than the Consulting COO to lead-by-example as the ‘Chief Operational Change Agent’ that can join operational pragmatism with organizational aspiration for the step-function improvements made possible via Digital Transformation? This approach can actually unstick the stalled operational transformation and/or help bridge the gap between prior failed attempts and the successful one your firm is about to embark upon!

Moving Concepts into Lucrative Realities

Waiting for a better time has never been more dangerous. There is no ideal moment in the lifespan of a Firm during which truly transformative change will magically be ‘easy’. Operational Transformation is Growth. As with living things, Growth demands Change, and that will never be easy. Good News: growth also brings dramatically new levels of opportunity, revealing new possibilities and resources at every turn. The rewards far outweigh the pain. The difference is generally the lost opportunity cost of waiting to drive that change.

As we’ve discussed briefly here, a pragmatic and focused approach to Operational Transformation and Digital Transformation will help move the Firm from Pre to Post Transformation the most effectively. Continuous adaptation to the flux of market and operational realities in a competitive fashion demands digital empowerment, so ‘Now is Better than Later’. 

The roles and value-add of the Consulting COO are often an essential part of the Operational Transformation and Digital Transformation journey. Contact Us to explore the most effective ways to engage and plan an effective Digital Transformation tailored to the unique needs and forward opportunities of your firm.