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The Rise of Digital Transformation Roles in the Municipal Infrastructure Industry

June 15, 2022
Min Read
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$12 billion – this is the estimated amount utilities will invest in digital technology by 2030. It’s no wonder why digital transformation roles in the municipal infrastructure industry have risen in popularity. But navigating a digital journey means having a few strong elements in place, including a digital transformation leader to spearhead initiatives.

Why the need for digital transformation

Utilities faced a harsh reality in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • A shift to remote work exposed the inflexibility of legacy systems
  • Long-term, experienced employees suddenly retired in droves
  • Payments from commercial customers declined as businesses were forced to close permanently

Naturally, digital transformation became a necessity, no longer a nice-to-have. But the pandemic isn’t the only digital transformation driver. As stated in a McKinsey article, “For utility companies, transforming operations and systems with digital technologies can create substantial value: a reduction in operating expenses of up to 25 percent which can translate into lower revenue requirements or higher profits.”  

Chicken or the egg: In a digital sense

What should come first? The digital strategy that includes hiring someone to lead it or the leader who will bring a recommended digital strategy? According to Trinnex Senior Digital Strategist, Cliff Brandon, either option works depending on the needs and present digital journey stage of your organization.  

Cliff states that, “The best person to lead digital transformation is someone internal, who’s not tied to the traditional culture and status quo processes but knows how to tap into the inner workings of the organization to achieve objectives. However, depending on the transformation needs, an organization may bring someone in from the outside who knows the industry, can quickly understand the objectives, articulate a strategy, and construct a plan.”

In either case, Cliff stresses the importance of commitment from executive leadership to help remove barriers to achieving digital transformation goals.  

>> You might like: Understanding the Differences Between a Digital Journey and Digital Strategy

The different types of digital transformation roles

At that the time of writing this blog post, a search in LinkedIn for U.S.-based employees with “digital transformation” related titles reveals a staggering 135,000 results, with:

  • Around 525 specific to utilities
  • Around 502 specific to state & local government agencies

And “digital transformation” roles might be called differently or might not mention “digital transformation” in the title at all, depending on the organization. Some of the job titles include:

  • Digital Transformation Director
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Digital Innovation and Transformation Director
  • Chief Digital Officer
  • Business Transformation Lead

Let’s take a look at a few of these roles in more detail:

Chief Digital Officer

LinkedIn describes a Chief Digital Officer as someone who helps “... drive growth and strategic renewal by transforming an organization’s traditional analog business into digital ones. They put a special focus on creating new value through the smart use of digital tools, platforms, technologies, services, and processes.” They typically have five years of experience in a similar role. The same LinkedIn article also includes a sample job description.

Director of IT and Digital Transformation

The International Water Association (IWA) posted a job description back in 2018. A Director of IT and Digital Transformation oversees all digital services, helping to develop a new digital strategy for the company. In this case, the IWA was also looking for someone to manage existing systems, seemingly combining the traditional Information Technology role with digital transformation.  

Business Transformation Manager

VelvetJobs describes a Business Transformation Manager as someone who “provides thought leadership in best practices and end to end process design with a robust understanding of technology solutions and change management to lead large scale programs.” They might have several certifications such as a CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional) or in project management.  

The first projects for a digital transformation leader

A few trends (McKinsey) stand out as potential priorities for digital transformation leaders, regardless of whether they are an internal transfer or external candidate.

McKinsey Analysis on Accelerating Digital Transformation

Adopting digital ways of working

Increasing agility helps utilities to thrive by being proactive about opportunities and mitigating risks. This might mean creating in-house resources to build, support, and maintain digital projects.

Attracting and retaining digital talent

Building in-house specialists requires hiring experienced employees, a challenge many utilities are struggling with today.  

Modernizing the IT architecture and environment    

The shift to simplify processes requires a strong understanding of the current and desired end state of the IT environment.  

Setting up for digital transformation success with a digital-first resiliency strategy

Digital transformation does not happen overnight. Setting up for success means a digital transformation leader has:

  1. Senior leadership support, showing commitment to the strategy
  1. The ability to call out and remove roadblocks or distractions
  1. Access to the tools and resources they need
  1. Buy-in from the most knowledgeable employees with valuable institutional knowledge
  1. Foresight provided by data analysis  

Jumpstart digital transformation by implementing a digital-first resiliency strategy. Learn more in our guide for infrastructure leaders.

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Written by
Delaney Chrisco
Digital Marketing Specialist
Delaney is a digital marketing specialist, with a passion for digital transformation topics. She’s also an avid Lacrosse player.

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