Leading the way in a Digital world

Whatever as a business leader you perceive will be the challenges over the coming year, ensuring the organisation is fully prepared to compete in the digital world has to be high on the agenda for many, if not top. According to the technology industry analyst Gartner, 80 per cent of business products or processes will have been reinvented, eliminated or digitalised by 2020.

The world of business is at the dawn of a digital explosion which will impact the vast majority of organisations. Some will see their industries completely disrupted by new business models and practices while others will be forced to migrate their products, services and processes to the online environment if they are to have a future.

Moreover, the action of others will also force them down the digital route. Research carried out by Capgemini Consulting and GT Nexus, highlighted that 70 per cent of organisations are already undergoing formal digital supply chain transformation.

Leaders must create their own digital strategy though and ensure it is aligned to the business and growth plans of the organisation. And from the outset, there must be commitment from and ownership of it by the wider board.

For those willing to embrace this new world, it presents huge opportunities. It offers the prospect of new markets and new customers while leaders have an opportunity to gain valuable new experience and skills that will help them evolve into a 2020 leader.

The initial step is to undertake an analysis of the digital landscape and to determine where the organisation is positioned. What are competitors doing? Where are the opportunities to gain competitive edge? Who are the potential customers and what are they looking for? Bear in mind that the always on, 24-7 online customer often has higher expectations and will display less loyalty.

It is imperative to stay ahead of the competition’s thinking and be aware of the ‘known unknowns and the unknown unknowns’. One thing leaders can be certain of is that managing change will form a key part of their remit during the transition period. As well as understanding the impact of digital transformation in commercial terms, they must also anticipate what effect it could have on culture as well as the mood and motivation of employees.

The impact of digital disruption has to be managed alongside the more general volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) operating conditions of recent years. An ability to calculate and manage/mitigate risk will therefore be another key requirement of leaders seeking to propel their organisations into the digital age. Navigating a course through these difficult conditions may also force leaders to look at their individual leadership style and decide whether it needs to be adjusted.

Conducting a capability audit on the organisation as well as at a personal level is crucial. Examine job roles and how well they fit the new strategy. Where are the skills gaps in the workforce? You will need to train and/or recruit to fill these but also be mindful of the future fit-for-purpose behaviours required for a digital world. Ideas-led, creative individuals and those with game-changing personality traits will be the key to achieving competitive edge. Also consider appointing digital ambassadors who will help to champion and implement the new vision.

When it comes to your own capability assessment, consider carefully what is required to lead in a digital world and confront any personal skills gaps. Form a view of the role of the board in this new era. Start to build your own personal digital brand as the organisation embarks on its journey and build your capability as a 2020 leader. Write blogs and/or put yourself forward for thought-leadership pieces in the business press.

To manage the digital explosion, the business world needs senior people who can not only lead their organisations but who can also take a lead in the bigger picture.

Rialto is holding a one-day workshop for board and executive level leaders; Leading in a Digital World: The key issues for leadership to lead the future in the new world.

For more information, get in touch.


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