Digital Transformation Specialist: Overview and Opportunities

The need for digital transformation specialists has been building for the last 20 years as the internet and other digital technologies rapidly transformed the way businesses operate and reach customers. 

Today, digital transformation specialists are still needed to help businesses evolve according to emerging digital trends.

Although people in this role need a rare combination of both “soft” and “hard” skills to succeed, the work can be gratifying as it creates a noticeable impact and comes with a competitive average salary.

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The Role of a Digital Transformation Specialist

A digital transformation specialist is responsible for managing a business’s digital transformation(s).

Working as either an independent contractor, member of a consulting firm or a full-time employee, the person in this role combines business intelligence, technical know-how, and familiarity with the business and its vision to perform essential duties.

The essential job functions include:

  • Developing and managing a digital transformation strategy
  • Performing high-level data analysis and providing expert advice to business leaders based on the results
  • Collaborating with leaders across departments on a business-wide scale
  • Reimagining a business’s products or services for an increasingly digital era, depending on leaders’ vision

Although the terms “digital transformation,” “digitization,” and “digitalization” can often be used interchangeably, they refer to three different scopes of digital evolution for a business.

Digital transformation is not just about adopting technology. It works at a much higher organizational level of a business. 

According to Forbes, the information and processes businesses employ in their operations are digitalized—they have to do with technology. But digital transformation is about how companies manage their relationships with their customers because it’s based on change and innovation. 

For example, a well-known example of digital transformation is Netflix’s move to digital streaming rather than renting out media on physical disks.

Once streaming services were developed, it no longer made sense to mail out physical copies and ask customers to send them back. 

The larger the scale of the business and its vision for transformation, the more likely it will be necessary for a digital transformation specialist to step in and manage the process.

Qualifications for a Digital Transformation Specialist

A digital transformation specialist needs a background in both technical “hard” skills and people-oriented “soft” skills. It is not typically an entry-level job because it requires some education and professional experience.

Education

A bachelor’s degree, typically in IT, computer science, or related fields, is usually required.

Work Experience

Most employers will look for at least two, but often five or more years of relevant experience. Specifically, related fields include UI/UX design, organizational IT, website management, and content writing.

Technical Skills

Companies will give preference to candidates with these technical skills:

  • Knowledge of commonly used programming languages such as Java, C/C++, and SQL
  • Familiarity with software development frameworks such as Agile and DevOps
  • Familiarity with emerging trends in IT and computer science, such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence
  • Blockchain and cybersecurity skills
  • Data analysis and visualization skills

Soft Skills

Likewise, companies will give preference to candidates with these soft skills:

  • Critical thinking: candidates should exhibit creative problem-solving 
  • Effective communication and collaboration: must be able to work well with people and lead a team across departments, from senior management to front-line staff.
  • A high level of adaptability: candidates must be able to address unexpected challenges concerning the management of people and technology. This includes experience in change management.
  • Leadership: A digital transformation specialist will often need to take a lead role, motivating and inspiring others to adopt new ways of working.
  • Project management: Being able to plan and deliver complex projects on time and within budget is essential.
  • Problem solving: As digital transformations can be complex and unpredictable, being able to troubleshoot and solve problems quickly is vital.
  • Strategic thinking: The ability to think ahead and anticipate future challenges is another key skill

Training and Certifications

Usually, no certification is required, but it’s always a good idea to highlight any you’ve earned.

And while not all digital transformation jobs require any formal training, it’s always a good idea to get some education and experience in the field you want to pursue.

There are many online and offline courses available that can help you learn about digital transformation. You may also want to consider getting certified by a professional organization such as the Institute for Digital Transformation.

Here are a few great places to start:

Additionally, candidates with UI/UX design or organizational IT experience have a distinct advantage over those who do not because a digital transformation specialist needs to have a vision of the desired customer experience and the ability to manage its technical realization. 

Related: Do you need a certificate in digital transformation?

Job Outlook for a Digital Transformation Specialist

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects about a 9% growth in total employment between 2020 and 2030 for digital transformation specialists, fitting under the umbrella of “business operations specialists.” 

Given that the average overall job growth rate for the same decade is about 7.8%, the outlook for digital transformation specialists is slightly better than average. 

The most common job sectors for digital transformation specialists (in 2020, according to data from the BLS):

  • Professional, scientific, and technical services
    • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services
    • Computer systems design and related services
  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services
  • Educational services
  • Healthcare and social assistance
  • Government

Each of these highlighted sectors will see very high job growth rates by 2030. For example, roles under the “professional, scientific, and technical services” umbrella should see 20.6% job growth.

Because terminology is often up for debate, a digital transformation specialist may work a very similar job under a name that doesn’t match verbatim. According to popular job boards such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter, some of these related careers are as follows:

  • Digital transformation consultant
  • HR digital transformation specialist
  • Specialist leader in operations transformation
  • Advisory digital transformation specialist
  • Business transformation specialist
  • Digital services specialist
  • Digital technology specialist
  • Change management specialist
  • Operations business transformation specialist
  • Digital transformation manager
  • Digital strategy and transformation consultant

There are likely many more variations because there is not even industry-wide agreement regarding the meaning of “digital transformation” as opposed to digitalization or digitization.

However, most titles are considered a specialist role and often include the “transformation” keyword. 

Other keywords of note are “operations,” “business operations,” “strategy,” “digital,” “technology,” and “management” or “manager.”

Another compelling method of finding open positions for a digital transformation specialist is to go directly to a business’ website. Job postings aren’t always found on a job board.

Therefore, some companies who hire digital transformation specialists are listed below:

  • Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Microsoft
  • Accenture
  • Amazon Web Services, Inc.
  • Deloitte
  • Boeing
  • Lenovo
  • Abbott Laboratories
  • Bureau Veritas
  • Unum

This is by no means a comprehensive list. In theory, any business large enough to make a significant digital leap could benefit from the expertise of a digital transformation specialist.

A small business may not require a dedicated employee for this purpose. This is because a digital transformation for a small business involves fewer business leaders and fine details to be managed.

However, a growing small business may benefit from a contracted digital transformation specialist.

Challenges in Recruiting Qualified Candidates

It may take an extensive search to find the right person for this role because a digital transformation specialist needs to be a highly flexible thinker, able to appreciate the big picture of the business’ vision while maintaining close attention to detail.

There is simply much to learn for a qualified candidate to succeed in the role, even if they have adequate education and professional experience.

If they cannot build relationships across the company and relay their analytical findings effectively, the digital transformation specialist will be unable to affect change. 

The right person will likely be a jack-of-all-trades type, armed with technical skills, experience in an IT or related field, and a thorough understanding of how business operations work. 

Compensation

According to Glassdoor, the median pay for a digital transformation specialist is about $104k annually.

Also notable is that this tends to be a full-time position, so additional benefits are likely.

Are You Looking for a Career as a Digital Transformation Specialist?

Digital transformation specialists need a wide range of skills and experience to be successful. In addition to hard technical skills, soft skills such as excellent communication, change management and leadership are essential.

If you possess these skills and attributes, pursuing a career in this field is an excellent way to help organizations to embrace change and realize the benefits of new technologies.

It’s an evolving field, with new opportunities posted daily, and a dynamic range of projects across different industries.