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Digital Transformation Challengesin Large and Complex Organizations

A Consortium Action Research Project

In collaboration with

The project explores how the senior most stakeholders from functions that are relevant in the Digital Transformation process perceive the related leadership and organizational challenges, with special emphasis on cross-boundary collaboration. We were particularly interested how the various players perceive their own role, how they contribute to the transformation process, and how they perceive the other stakeholders within their organization in this context.



Project Context

Over the last few years, Digital Transformation has moved to the top of the agenda of virtually every large corporation. While we usually see a strong consensus about the strategic importance of the topic, evidence shows that the various internal stakeholders of the process, such as IT, Marketing, Strategy, Sales, Communication, HR, or Innovation tend to approach the issue with their distinctive interests and perspectives. As a result, we often witness a lack of unified perspectives as well as political organizational dynamics that exacerbates an already difficult process. As Digital Transformation requires a collaborative effort across functional boundaries, it is critical to understand the mindset of the various stakeholders and engage them in an in-depth dialogue about their perspectives.

Time Frame

November 2017 – June 2018

Format and Methodology

Qualitative in-depth interviews with 6-7 top executives from each participating company.



  • Executive summary synthesizing insights from all interviews
  • Feedback workshop with senior consortium delegates to present and discuss findings
  • CFFO Research Paper
  • Optional: individual company synthesis and feedback workshop


Project Benefits

In addition to providing scholarly insights, the project is designed to instigate a strategic/organizational dialogue about the key organizational and leadership issues that surface in the course of a company’s digital transformation journey. These dialogues will lead to an improvement of stakeholder relationships and help senior leaders to navigate the complex dynamics of the process more effectively.

Principal Investigator

Roland Deiser
Senior Drucker Fellow and Executive Director, Center for the Future of Organization


Executive Corporate Learning Forum (ECLF)
The Executive Corporate Learning Forum (ECLF) is a community of senior executives from major global corporations, who have a strategic responsibility to build organizational capabilities and drive large-scale learning, change and transformation processes. The Forum provides an intellectually and socially inspiring environment that encourages in-depth discourse on key challenges large organizations are facing today. ECLF includes currently executives from more than 60 major corporations across all industries, many of them being global leaders in their space. More at www.eclf.org.

Innovation Resource Center for Human Resources (IRC4HR)
The Innovation Resource Center for Human Resources (IRC4HR) was founded in 1926 as IRC, a non-profit private foundation established to promote positive employment relationships and advances in human resources management through consulting, research, and education. More than ninety years later, the organization continues to bring together employers, academics, and other stakeholder communities to fund action research and share insights on a wide range of topics. This includes a current focus on the implications of technology and digital disruption on the future of work, organizations, leadership, and the workforce. More at www.irc4hr.org.