Tech Talk: Bill Magee
Coronavirus has exposed surprisingly high numbers of UK business leaders who have ‘fessed up to being digitally deficient.
Worse still, they’ve failed to thoroughly formulate their organisation’s digitization strategy to better cope amidst a global crisis yet to spike.
Everyone is trying to work out how to handle such mass disruption caused by what’s rapidly becoming labelled as a pandemic.
Meanwhile, two pieces of linked research landing in my lap(top) together make for grim reading.
The first is from “SupplyChainDigital.” highlighting a report from the Hackett Group who in turn lay emphasis on those companies actively evaluating online their commercial approach. Those who are getting it right.
Such close scrutiny involves inventory and production levels of critical components – often sourced thousands of miles away – and if done, they stand a far better chance of developing alternative plans in the face of COVID-19. Sounds eminently sensible.
However the second report, from the Open University, reveals that four out of ten business executives surveyed admit to lacking essential digital skills, not only personally, but also throughout the organisation they lead. This is irrespective of sector with a surprisingly large number languishing in a C-Suite state of commercial torpor. An analogue anachronism in a digital world.
Yet some if them still find time to equip themselves with much sought after tech gadgets. Like the latest iPhone and temperature-controlled smart coffee mug. Obviously this falls far short of heading up and driving forwards their organisation’s digital transformation.,
Too many boardrooms, I guess, task minions further down the greasy pole to look after all things tech as part of their quotidian tasks.
Does this actually matter to business leaders like the chief executive officer, managing director, board member, et al?
Well, yes, and it’s not too late to pick up the digital threads. Especially now, as Coronavirus has made such commercial matters that bit more urgent, to put it mildly.
The OU research reveals the perceived intricacies of the Information Highway are beyond such boardrooms that are no more than status-laden inner sanctums, taking no, or very little, active part in their organisation’s online/mobile processes and strategy. An ivory tower, with no windows.
It’s as if significant numbers of execs view themselves as set apart from the day-to-day digital dealings of the business they purport to lead.
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh.
The report points out that such businesses struggle to adapt to a digital workplace mainly because leadership teams lack the necessary skills.
Three-quarters surveyed did admit they would benefit from training to keep up with technological change.
Those who have undergone relevant training report their organisation is enjoying improved productivity levels, along with greater employee engagement, enhanced agility throughout the business and increased profits.
So why the executive resistance to learning new skills – a case of you cannot teach an old executive new tricks? Well it’s a bit more complex than that.
Up until a few years ago the role of chief technology/ information/ communications officer having board status was a rarity.
Lately, however, the more enlightened company hierarchies have finally opened the hallowed boardroom doors to their CTO etc. On occasion even given them directorial status.
They’re appreciating that the power of digital process change has to run through an entire business, from shopfloor to boardroom.
No exceptions. No excuses.
Only then can tangible and actionable results be achieved in terms of productivity, return-on-investment and the bottom line. If not the very survival of an organisation.
Harvard Business Review highlights what needs to be done. CEOs need a holistic view of digital opportunities and threats facing key parts of a business.
HBR maintains “digital leader” is more than being solely tech-savvy.
Highlighted is an ability to detect what type of change is required and respond quickly to identify the best competitive solution as budgets allow.
Also, an organisation launching, in good faith, its own apps, deployed robotics – you name it – and establishing partnerships with digital players plus using data to analyse outcomes can prove problematic.
The trouble is such, undoubtedly sincere, efforts are often ad-hoc and uncoordinated within the business. Even haphazard..
HBR claims it’s the CEO’s job to ensure proper framing and orchestration of such activities at an overall company level, otherwise the best laid digital plans will fail to grab the attention and investment needed.
Digital positively affects every organisation differently. By-and-large though it involves customer engagement, products and services, operational performance and preparing for disruptive new business models.
I would strongly argue that the business leader who tackles, head-on, these four critical areas stands a far better chance of transforming tech-based ideas and initiatives into digital game-changers before we realise this planet will be significantly different from now in terms of a new era of connectivity.
Mark Gibson, managing director of Capito, reckons 2020 represents the dawn of the decade of “Ubiquitous Computing.” Also, hopefully, markedly more enlightened business leaders. Only then should an executive truly justify a company shelling out for that latest smartphone and apps-controlled mug…