Leading Through Crisis with Digitalization

March 18, 2020
Businesses all over the world are going all-in on digitalization — that will undeniably be the mindset for years to come. However, whether they are doing it the right way is another question. Most business leaders nowadays are either misinformed or oblivious to what is going on, and in many cases, hesitant to make the big call on their digital investment decisions. According to a survey conducted by Accenture of 8,300 business and IT executives, which identified the best habits of enterprises that are achieving results from their digital transformation efforts, only 10% of the participants say their companies are delivering on their digital efforts and seeing tangible results. Based on the common denominators among these leaders, the authors of the survey drew the following conclusions:
  • “Leaders understand the need for blurred lines in the technology stack — data, infrastructure and applications.”
  • “They see how unraveling tightly integrated systems makes them more flexible.”
  • “They understand that by minimizing the differences among processes, their company will be better able to leverage all of its data.”
  • “They believe that these elements add up to strategic agility.”
  • One thing to keep in mind is most of these views came from top executives — including a substantial number of CEOs. Thus, it is safe to assume that successful enterprises are led by individuals who have a strong belief and understanding of the power of technology to deliver growth and opportunity. More importantly, these beliefs are delivering results. The Accenture survey indicates that these more open-minded 10% of leaders were able to grow revenues (9% annually) at more than twice the rate of the “laggards” (4% annually). That lack of growth — which the authors attribute to a lack of cohesive digital strategy — could mean that the laggards will leave 46% of their potential revenue on the table by 2023.
    So, what traits do digital leaders have in common? How do we find ways to develop them? The Accenture team highlights a number of factors that may help businesses achieve greater growth:
    1. Leaders find what works and replicate it — Digital leaders are able to transform three times as many processes as laggards. They are always seeking out ways to reuse technology across their organizations.
    2. Leaders see new adopting new technology as a strategic, not just operational move — 83% of leaders in the Accenture study agree that it is important to decouple data from legacy infrastructure, compared with 37% for the laggards, who tend to patch and maintain, while companies in the middle may see moving from data centre to the cloud as a “lift-and-shift” move to cut costs. Leaders, on the other hand, see the cloud not simply as a data centre,  but as a catalyst for innovation across silos and businesses.
    3. Leaders do not take a wait-and-see attitude — When asking companies about their adoption of 28 different technologies, the Accenture study found that while most companies hold back, the leaders leap forward. Most laggards prefer to experiment with new tech on the leading edge, but do not plan or follow through with the innovations of new technologies into their core processes. Consider Software as a Service (SaaS) through the cloud as an example. About 20% of leaders adopted SaaS five years ago, compared to 8% of laggards. Today, 90% of leaders are confident of their SaaS expertise, compared to 29% of laggards.
    4. Leaders are firm believers in upskilling employees — Leaders use technologies to make work more engaging while simultaneously realizing efficiency gains, the Accenture team noted. These activities can help to strengthen their relationships with employees. Around 86% percent of leaders use experiential learning in combination with intelligent technologies such as AI, analytics and machine learning to predict and match worker training with required job skills and even rewrite job descriptions, compared to 35% of laggards.
    5. Leaders don’t believe in boundaries when it comes to both technology and human potential — Leaders, by embracing technology strategies built on systems that are boundaryless, adaptable and radically human, position their organizations to become increasingly agile and innovative. By taking this approach, they can manage technology investments and track their value, even for relatively new areas. About 94% of leaders track the value of AI-based automation, versus 47% of laggards.
    As we have seen with industry reports and surveys, there is more to business technology than what meets the eye. Although technology can do wondrous things for enterprises, by itself it is merely a bunch of machines and code. It also requires human ingenuity and new ideas, as well as a corporate culture that encourages open-minded thinking. A successful digital enterprise is not just a technological enterprise, it is also a confederation of inspired people who genuinely believe in the power of technology.

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