Digital transformation and what this means for GC's

GCs have a role to play in digital transformation

Steve Bynghall on 03/09/18

Digital transformation is a term which has been used increasingly over the last few years to describe rapid, technology-enabled change which have a very significant to profound impact either on results and profitability, organisational structure, business model, core processes or brand.

Of course, like most buzzwords, ‘digital transformation’ is not a new concept. In the 1990s it may have been called “Business process re-engineering”.  Or it may have gone under the name of a specific initiative or programme or strategy within an organisation.

Most commonly, digital transformation has tended to apply to initiatives which will primarily impact customers, but it will inevitably impact employees too. It is likely to also impact the supply chain too.

With any profound change and the introduction of new technology (often based in the cloud), GCs have a lot to bring to the table to mitigate risks and ultimately help companies succeed in their aims. Nearly a quarter of the 500 respondents to Altimeter’s 2017 State of Digital Transformation survey list “Legal, risk management and / or compliance concerns” as one of their top challenges when approaching digital transformation. Involving GCs early in the process and having a say in digital strategy will ensure a smoother ride.

Here’s some of the areas where GCs can make a real difference:

Regulatory and compliance issues

Falling foul of regulatory and compliance issues is an inevitable risk in highly regulated industries. Interestingly the Altimeter survey finds that nearly 1 in 5 companies have “New standards in regulatory and compliance” as a driver for change. New rules or reporting requirements may even be the catalyst for wider transformation if it necessitates the need for replacing a legacy system.

Contracts and other agreements

New technology will inevitably mean new suppliers and replacing old ones. Your supply chain may undergo some quite fundamental change. You may be moving things to the cloud. You may need to forge amended agreements with your customers. Clearly a review of contracts, SLAs and other agreements will be critical.  

New technology risks

New technology, for example which utilises mobile apps or is SaaS-based, will involve new risks. GCs can help in the due diligence and planning by helping to review risks with colleagues from IT security, procurement and business implementation teams.

New products and services

GCs have an important role to play in creating and launching new products and services. They will be involved in drawing up sales contracts to reviewing advertising to protecting IP and more.

Frameworks for future innovation

Many digital transformation programmes – particularly when focused on internal processes – may end up with new agile approaches to innovation, which result in the rapid introduction of new products, services and processes.  GCs can help by giving input into new frameworks and processes for innovation which allow for the early review of risks, so bottlenecks are avoided in things coming to fruition or market.


GCs and their teams have a significant role to play in digital transformation. With early involvement they can remove barriers, reduce the chance of tripwires later down the line, help companies wade through the complexity of change and, ultimately, contribute to future success.

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