As the digital world romps ahead at incredible speed, leaders need to be sure they harness the best and most relevant developments, writes Laurent-Pierre Baculard for Harvard Business Review.
Technological innovations shake up the industrial globe every day. Keeping track of these – and understanding which ones are essential for your organisation – is becoming a priority for most CEOs.
Your individual teams are probably well informed of ongoing digital transformation in their departments and use it well for their own projects. They may, for instance, employ robotics, create their own apps and analyse data.
However, as a leader, it pays to have a clear, central overview of threats, opportunities and budgets, and how they affect all areas of your business. This allows you to assess your priorities and invest in the right place at the right time.
These three strategies will help you avoid a chaotic approach by defining the digital transformation your organisation needs:
1) Designate the most important areas for change. Baculard says the critical ones are customer engagement, digital products and services, operational performance, and preparing for disruptive new business models.
He cites the example of General Electric’s CEO who challenged his team to spot and interpret potential weaknesses within the market, including alterations in the way customers were behaving. The result was the development of Predix, GE’s cloud-based industrial operation system which helps companies see how their machines and infrastructure are performing.
“GE has treated the platform as open source, reasoning that it will power the growth of the industrial internet, which will in turn accrue major benefits to GE,” says Baculard. “Its early success also highlights the CEO’s critical role in challenging the organisation to assess its digital competence and to determine how urgently it needs to respond to threats and opportunities.”
2) Direct the process very carefully and precisely. If your employees are ill-prepared, your digital transition is immediately at risk of failure. Change provokes resistance, so it’s important to be very clear about new roles and processes; know who will take charge of them and what new skills need to be learned.
Certain departments, such as IT, will often need a bigger shake-up to eliminate stale and outmoded procedures, says Baculard. And you also need to be prepared to change the way you manage your organisation.
3) Delegate and empower your teams. As CEO you need to provide a framework for change, then allow your teams to create their own new strategies within that framework. Appoint a digital champion in each department or unit to maintain a consistent model. It’s also a good idea to recruit a second in command or “chief digital officer” who can support your role and deputise in your absence with full authority.
Being nimble in terms of digital transformation is a vital skill for contemporary business leaders. Staying alert, organised and forward-thinking is the key.