Digital Leaders Blog

Five key propositions emerge from the growing volume of publications on digital disruption and digital transformation.

1. In an era of pervasive digital change, no industry, no organisation, no individual is immune from the threat of being disrupted. Our FSB Digital Disruption Report from December 2015 listed a broad range of sectors under threat. The question is no longer whether your industry will be affected.  The only pertinent questions to ask now are how severe will the impact be (‘bang’) and over what time scale will this take place (‘fuse’) - see our previous post Will Your Industry Be Disrupted, also the Deloitte report entitled Short Fuse: Big Bang.

2. Most organisations remain woefully ill-prepared for the coming digital tsunami. The pace of digital change is taking place at a much faster rate than our ability to adapt. Various reports have warned of a growing ‘strategic gap’ between the digital progress being made by most organisations and where they should be to remain competitive. The challenge is not just a technology one. A wide range of internal barriers need to be overcome before successful digital transformation can take place - especially organisational, people and cultural barriers.

3. There is a growing need for a new breed of senior executive - Digital Business Leaders. Senior executives who can combine high level business knowledge, experience and understanding with the ability to develop digital transformation strategies fully aligned with and supportive of agreed business goals and objectives. Executives with the personal skills and confidence to drive organisational change. Almost every report on digital disruption published over the last three years has pointed to the lack of digital leadership and skills being major barriers to change.

4. The days of the business leader who knows nothing about technology (often proudly claiming that they know nothing about it) are numbered. In an era of rapid digital change and digital disruption, how can anyone claim to be ‘leading’ without understanding how technology is impacting on their industry, their organisation? Is it time to call time on non-digital leaders unwilling to adapt.

5. The growing need for Digital Business Leaders raises important implications for our education, skills development and executive education systems. While there is a growing recognition of the need for digital transformation, current industry leaders (with a few exceptions) lack the digital knowledge, understanding and confidence to drive change. Younger managers (digital natives) may have the technology skills and confidence required but lack the high level strategic understanding of how to fully align digital technology to support core business goals. Technologists, CIOs and others may be very good at what they do but may lack the leadership skills to drive change.

The core challenge facing all of our organisations is this - how do we prepare future leaders for the twin demands of management and digital technology?

Does our management development and education system require a complete reboot?

As always, feedback and comments are very welcome.

Dr Jim Hamill

Full details of our next Digital Leaders Masterclass in association with the University of Edinburgh Business School can be found here. You can register an interest in attending here.


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