The Digital Challenge for Leadership

Written by: Sergio Severo

Companies are going through a period of digital transformation, which has been, recently, boosted to accommodate needs of physical distancing amid Covid-19. While there’s a lot going on internally to make enterprises ready, the successful cases are those with a huge engagement of its leaders.

Although we all know the digitalization is a one-way path, if C-level executives don’t embrace it, the whole transformation project can fail. More than ever the future of companies depends on how well top executives conduct the process to become digitally transformed enterprises. This is what I call the digital challenge for leadership.

As a Tech Republic’s article noted, a new report from IDC predicts that within the next three years 46% of the worldwide Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be driven by products and services from digitally transformed enterprises. This means that there has to be an adjustment to a businesses' administration, and that shift will invariably end up at the CEO.

“This agenda is driven by new customer requirements, a need to build new capabilities, a new critical infrastructure, and a new industry ecosystem in which to compete. The implications set the tone for the C-suite,” writer N.F. Mendoza noted.

As a region leader, I have been recommending clients to look carefully on how the digital is impacting their business. I have also stressed that the digital transformation will affect each industry differently, though customers’ new requirements could be similar in several ways as they are all seeking unique, easier and better experiences.

I agree with my colleague Bill Schmarzo, Chief Innovation Officer at Hitachi Vantara, who recently wrote in a LinkedIn article that CEOs should be prepared to embrace the business and economic transformational changes being driven by big data, artificial intelligence, deep learning, reinforcement learning and internet of things. It’s time to change that, and it must be quickly.

Schmarzo stated that the number one priority for the modern should be embracing how to think like a data scientist. It means, according to him, that the leader should set its mindset toward a non-linear, highly-exploratory, fail-fast/learn-faster, highly-collaborative data science process to find those variables and metrics that might be better predictors of performance, and uncover the customer, product, and operational patterns, trends, and relationships buried in the data that enable an to engineer an organization's digital transformation.

Becoming digital transformed is crucial for business survival. As an executive, I know that the journey could be hard, as we see an avalanche of new technologies coming up and it could be a tough task to pick up those that make more sense to the business. But I must say that going digital goes further than adopting artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things, blockchain, among others. It requires an in-depth transformation on companies’ process, on how things are done – and that’s why an engaged leadership makes all the difference.

Companies cannot avoid digital. CEO and all board must be the compass for all employees, showing them why reviewing processes and changing them are important to prepare the company for upcoming years and to take tradition enterprises to compete with digital native players.

Related: A Revolutionary Connectivity Is Coming