The silhouette of Digital Transformation Leadership: theorising the practitioner voice

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McCarthy, Patrick
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University College Cork
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Transforming organisations is a multifaceted process, steeped with complexity requiring a lot of moving parts to align together so that the transformative process can be synchronised, gather momentum be understood and appeal to all groups of stakeholders. If that set of circumstances can be achieved, you have a good chance that it can be a be success. Digital Transformation has been around for a decade or so, and while it is difficult to put a universal description on it, we can say that because its transformative in nature it has the potential to affect organisations at a functional level and cross functionally whereby the impact is on people, processes, technology, and data. The implementation of Digital Transformation has created many challenges for all types of organisations in all sectors large and small local and global. While there is reasonable coverage relating to Digital Transformation, especially around technologies, architecture, and data, it is around Digital Transformation Leadership (DTL) and especially the key aspects associated with leading a digital transformation initiative that has posed difficulties for many organisations’ leadership teams. We see when reviewing the current literature around digital transformation (DT) there is a lack of research into identifying characteristics and critical success factors (CSFs) associated with leading a Digital Transformation (DT) initiative and also around Digital Transformation Leadership (DTL) itself, where there is a complete absence of literature for academia and for practice concerning what a digital transformation Leader requires when leading out on a digital transformation programme. This research study is focused on identifying the defining characteristics and the critical success factors (CSFs) for leading a Digital Transformation (DT) implementation. Furthermore, this research focuses on the role of Digital Transformation Leadership (DTL) and the defining characteristics required for leadership for academia and practice when implementing a digital transformation programme. The research follows the building theory from using a grounded approach, involving the use of a key informant methodology. The data gathering method deployed is that of the ‘key informant technique’ to conduct open semi-structured interviews. The data is then analysed using open, axial, and selective coding (OAS) techniques in order to inductively identify the defining characteristics and critical success factors for implementing digital transformation (DT). Secondly the research also focuses on identifying the defining characteristics for Digital Transformation Leadership (DTL) for both theory and practice. This study contributes to Digital Transformation research by providing a conceptual model of six defining characteristics for ‘doing’ Digital Transformation and nine CSFs for Digital Transformation (DT). It also provides a conceptual model for Digital Transformation Leadership (DTL) for theory and practice which illustrates the mapping of the eight defining characteristics of Digital Transformation Leadership (DTL) from literature to the ten defining characteristics of Digital transformation Leadership (DTL) from practice.
Digital transformation , Leadership , Grounded theory , Open, axial and selective coding , Key informant methodology , Interviews
McCarthy, P. 2023. The silhouette of Digital Transformation Leadership: theorising the practitioner voice. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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