More top executives are coming on board to shape and drive digital strategy as businesses realise its importance.

A recent survey by McKinsey Global revealed that 31 per cent of respondents say their chief executive officers (CEOs) personally sponsor digital initiatives, up from 23 per cent in 2012.

"Fundamental digital transformation of an enterprise happens only when senior managers set the vision, lead the way personally and take full accountability," said Driek Desmet, managing partner, Business Technology Office Asia, McKinsey & Company.

He added that just a few years ago, technology was never a boardroom topic and the responsibility for technology was seen exclusively as the domain of the chief information officer.

"We are increasingly seeing CEOs becoming more involved in digital initiatives compared to before," said Hisamichi Kinomoto, vice-president of marketing, Adobe Japan and the Asia-Pacific.

Tan Sian Lip, vice-president, domains and technology, CrimsonLogic, said that digital is certainly on the "radar" of their CEO and top management.

"The CEO's role in the process of digitalisation is to initiate and set the strategic direction and vision. After which, the senior leadership team will work with him to form the implementation strategy and plan," he explained.

The survey also found that executives most often attribute the success of digital programmes to managerial factors such as senior management's interest rather than technical considerations. Likewise, the absence of senior-management interest was blamed as the biggest contributing factor to an initiative's failure.

"A company leadership's vocal endorsement and buy-in as well as a ground-up approach are two equally important components in building and sustaining a digital enterprise," said Shyam Mamidi, Singapore country leader, global business services, IBM.

Launched in 2011, IBM has its "Digital IBMer" initiative which is dedicated to helping employees improve their own digital proficiency by designating experts among the leadership to navigate the digital world.

"For companies going digital which require adoption and transformation, executive sponsorship is one of the most important critical success factors. As in any transformation, the conviction and wherewithal to change begins at the top. For companies transforming, this is paramount and cannot be understated," said John Goeres, consulting partner and technology media & telecommunications industry leader, Deloitte Southeast Asia.

Yet, even with the support and direction of the CEO, not all companies successfully transition into a digital enterprise.

According to Deloitte, the lack of conviction, unclear or misguided expectations, vague return on investment, insufficient or misappropriate investment and lack of skills may be factors why companies don't transition successfully.

"Research suggests that digital has not been leveraged to its full potential to enable greater collaboration and flexibility among employees in the workplace," said Patricio De Matteis, managing director, Accenture Interactive, Asia Pacific.

For Singapore and South-east Asian countries to transform themselves into successful digital enterprises, Ms De Matteis outlined some recommendations.

The first would be to create a cohesive digital strategy to attract employee engagement and drive innovation.

The second would be driving value from data, using analytics techniques in an attempt to gain a granular understanding of customers and employees.

Finally, fostering a pervasive digital culture that can recognise the varying digital appetites of the workforce may be key for firms to realise their digital goal, she said.

In Singapore, more companies are starting to embrace the notion of going digital.

Mr Mamidi of IBM described the situation as "positive and encouraging".

"We are seeing companies in Singapore who have the right strategy and execution plans to embark on the digital transformation," he said.

Life insurance group Great Eastern is an example of a company that has embraced digital. It recently implemented a transformational strategy that redefines its standards in customer engagement and service. It has since rolled out mobile apps, online marketing campaigns, websites and social media, delivering personalised online experience to its customers.

Through its partnership with Adobe on the marketing cloud, Great Eastern has been able to also deliver cross-channel ad management, optimisation and forecasts across search, display and social media campaigns.

Chio Lim Stone Forest, an accounting and business regulatory group, also recently embarked on its digital journey with Good Technology to securely access a wide range of collaboration and productivity applications. It will enable the group to mobilise 85 per cent of its workforce by the end of 2013 as well as to deploy and manage workflows.

"With the deployment of (digital) solutions in the expansion of our regional mobile strategy, we expect to see an employee productivity gain of at least 40 per cent," said Eileen Tan, director, Chio Lim Stone Forest.