April 8, 2019
It’s hard to escape the digital disruption that is reshaping not only the world we live in, but the fundamental way that businesses operate. Greater levels of data exchange and automation are creating new layers of innovation, shifting functional workflows to agile systems. And to prosper in this upheaval, leaders must look at how they can support their company’s ability to adapt and identify new opportunities to embrace these changes.
We’re seeing more and more companies implement new ways of working to keep up with digital innovation. However, our own research (registration)suggests that leaders may still not be as prepared as they need to be to succeed.
There are fresh levels of complexity for CEOs to contend with, making it increasingly difficult for them to guide their workforce through the current era of transformation. As well as this, leaders are experiencing ongoing pressure and confusion with how best to maintain long-term vision and focus necessary to help their business evolve.
Leading in a digital era
While there may be no shortage of data surging through today’s organisations, without strategic leadership, insight can quickly become overwhelming, obsolete and will often fail to add any real competitive advantage.
Without strategic leadership, insight can quickly become overwhelming, obsolete and often fail to add competitive advantage
Take data transparency for example, business leaders once comfortable with consuming reports in Excel sheets, presentations or on dashboards are looking for real-time access with proactive alerts to drive the action rather than wait for the meeting to interrogate the data. Understanding these rapidly evolving capabilities is a clear challenge that faces the C-suite. But if overcome, leaders are able to monitor data trends and act on them instantly – ultimately visualising the ‘moments of truth’ that allow them to remain agile and competitive in their market.
Data silos that once made it difficult to retrieve and present data are being overtaken by flexible systems that aggregate data from multiple sources. Empowering decision makers to see the bigger picture, and offering the clarity and connectivity needed to compete in today’s fast-paced economy.
These new advances in data technology bring a new layer of challenges to leadership. So how are the C-Suite adapting and what can effective leaders do to navigate as well as embrace a data-driven working environment?
A balancing act between curiosity and expertise
Implementing new technologies is simply a piece of the puzzle when it comes to preparing any organisation for digital change. Leaders must develop a digital culture through clear vision and a purposeful mindset, finding a balance between curiosity and the skills needed to interpret data.
With frequent disruption in this new digital age, skills become outdated as quickly as new ones emerge. Leaders must remain curious and have a clear grasp of the technical expertise necessary to transform their business. Those who keep up to date with the latest trends, challenges and opportunities within the data environment, and who place value on fresh perspectives, will make the greatest headway when it comes to navigating change.
Nurture current and future talent
Arguably one of the greatest challenges to hinder transformation is the lack of digital skills to drive adoption of new technologies. According to Gartner, “by 2020, 75% of organisations will experience visible business disruptions due to skills gaps”. Therefore, for any business to thrive, leaders must nurture and develop both current and future talent.
One of the greatest challenges to hinder transformation is the lack of digital skills to drive adoption of new technologies
The most effective leaders will strive to train their current workforce, and champion collaboration to facilitate knowledge exchange across teams. Creating a culture that puts data and its people at the heart of the organisation means everyone has the opportunity to contribute ideas that will ultimately propel the company forward.
As important as developing the current workforce, digital leaders should also recruit new talent. They must look further than specialist roles in areas like Data Science, and instead look to hire innovative thinkers who can see beyond obvious headline statistics. Those with creative minds will reach deeper conclusions by adding contextual factors like, the audience to which insight will be presented, the resources available, and ultimately seek out the hidden opportunity.
By recruiting wider talent, companies have greater power to unlock their digital knowledge, to deal with the growing competitive pressures of today’s data economy.
Invest in disruptive technologies
For businesses to remain relevant, leaders must also look to invest in disruptive technologies. Most importantly, they must think about which emerging technologies are most suited to their operations, ensuring they deliver lasting value for the company and their people.
Leveraging capabilities like machine learning, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, is a must for leaders as they will improve efficiencies needed to make a step change towards transformation.
Access to real-time data can help decision makers predict key challenges and address them before they happen. From sales forecast variances to anomalies in financial plans, leaders are able to identify and optimise business processes to drive productivity and reduce costs.
It’s only when leaders combine clear vision, talent and technology will they truly unlock their full digital potential.