How is Digital Changing Today’s Leaders?
Technology is changing the business landscape and how we behave as leaders. All information is being digitised – not just documents in office, but our social interaction, our whereabouts, our health information through wearables; with the Internet of Things even physical products are now wrapped in data – everything is connected. We have powerful tools now to reach customers, stakeholders and even staff, but how do we avoid drowning in information?
Technology is affecting the very nature of work
It’s not just about how technology affects what your workers do but what type of workers you actually need. You will probably have heard about AI. To some AI sounds like science fiction (techies like to use sci-fi terms such as AI, robo-advisers, autonomous vehicles, etc.) but the problem with that is it can make people think it is sci-fi and won’t have an impact on them, whereas if you just call it software – which is what it is – then it is easier to conceive that it will have an impact on your given industry.
So are robots going to take our jobs? Do a cursory search of the web and you’ll see a glut of doom and gloom stories about the impact of AI. The good news of course is that variety, volume and quality will increase and become cheaper – but the bad news is it could leave a lot of people behind. Millions of jobs have gone around the world in manufacturing and AI will soon start to affect professional services, which means it will impact us.
AI could benefit professional services industries
In a place with low unemployment, population pressures and reducing productivity, AI could be the answer to take on more business without growing the workforce significantly, and to also move people up the value chain from admin roles to more interesting and better paid opportunities.
In terms of the importance of leadership in digital transformation, there is a big change already in the way organisations are making key judgments, forecasts, predictions and decisions. The challenge is sometimes to get the alleged experts out of the way, and teaching them to be a lot humbler and a lot more data driven. The other big change is that we now have access – again via technology, networks, and very powerful devices – to a worldwide body of knowledge and talent and skill.
You can now articulate a problem you’re working on and float it up with a worldwide community of innovators and problem solvers that can work on it, make suggestions and give you very good results – you get them quickly and you get them from unexpected quarters.
Thinking that all the expertise that you need is in-house or that you know where to go to go get the expertise or the help for the big challenge that you’re working on—that’s a really dangerous assumption. It’s a great opportunity to broaden your horizons and look outside your normal environment for answers.
It’s time to experiment
Another benefit of this change, is that it’s a lot cheaper these days with all this technology and all those accessible resources to engage in open innovation – to set a challenge and see what response you get inside and outside your organisation. It might be useful to find a part of your company that’s led by someone who’s a bit more comfortable working with technology and data, and set them a challenge on the understanding that experimentation, failure and learning are a good thing.
Successful corporate digital transformations start with the leadership embracing technology – not necessarily the bits and bytes but the potential of using it to improve your business. This sends a clear message to the rest of the organisation that the company is serious about implementing change. Digital transformation is often pushed to the IT department, but this is a mistake; the process impacts the entire business.
We need to develop digital leaders
We need to educate staff on what digital transformation means and why it matters. We need to run change management workshops, and find case studies from elsewhere in the industry to illustrate the benefits. And we mustn’t try to digitise everything all at once. We must instead, start with small changes that are easier to swallow.
You may feel that digital is engulfing your business. You may find it daunting that there is no “done” in digital… but in the digital world, if you’re not a leader you risk becoming a victim of disruption – strong leadership throughout inevitable change is the answer.