Leadership in Digital Era

Swaminathan , VP-IT, Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions | Wednesday, 02 March 2016, 11:04 IST

In the world of Digital Democracy, the customer experience blueprint has experienced tectonic shifts both in the customer expectations, as well as in the service delivery model. The information deluge provided by revolutionary technologies (internet, mobility etc.) of the past decade has considerably changed the buying behavior of the ‘knowledgeable’ customer. With the influx of disruptive technologies like the Internet Of Things (IOT), the future only accentuates the promise of revolutionary overhaul.

A modern digital organization is the culmination of six forces: Digital leaders fostering a futuristic and collaborative digital eco-system, a well thought out digital strategy based on market insights, and a digital maturity model to leverage on the next-gen technologies.

This environment fosters the forces of digital yin and yang – the external forces (eco-system, market insights& next-gen technologies) drive digital investments while the internal forces (maturity model, strategy and leadership) guide the transformation management. Such bottom-up dynamism and top-down leadership nurture digital innovations, while at the same time driving enterprise-wide digital transformation. A digitally mature organization can leverage such an eco-system to drive significantly superior financial performance compared to its peers.
Digital leadership is not merely a set of organizational blocks in a water-fall model, but an all-encompassing view of an agile machine navigating a constantly evolving environment to achieve the best of a set of plausible goals. Such leadership sets itself up on the three pillars of executive mentorship, (re-invented) digital strategy and (embraced) digital technology

Executive Mentorship
In a transforming economy, there are four defining factors of the DNA of every organizational leadership:
1. The perpetuity mirage
Most organizations are confident of the everlasting stability of the environment – “Most startups are hype, and government regulations are the ultimate safeguard”. They fail to realize that it takes just one start-up to be a true disruptor, and regulations are evolutionary in nature.
2. Business Myopia
It is never wrong to have a close look at one’s operations – in fact, it is a pre-requisite in a mature eco-system. However, when this casts a shadow over foresight and intellectual insight, the short-sightedness can bring down major organizations.
3. Undermining the impact of technology
Technology is a 3-pronged weapon – it can impact an industry through game-changing automation, dematerialization and dynamic reconfiguration of existing value-chain.

Re-inventing Strategy
Digital strategy is not too different from transformational strategy, but for the need of an acute understanding of the interplay of business models and technology. Hence digital strategy must form the bridge between the C-suite and the technology revolution, and must lay special focus on:
1. Digital Disruption Compass
Spotting disruption is like spotting a black swan. The emergence of a digital entrepreneurship culture is creating a tidal wave of disruptions across industries. With most of these being big bang disruptions, it is imperative that an organization’s digital strategy be equipped for capturing the warning signals.
2. Business Model Innovation
Business models in the digital world are less about the organization itself, and more about the eco-system in general. With the digital wave, markets are moving towards a high degree of liberalization, and this poses a severe threat to organizations comfortable in their consolidation. The digital customer wants to buy into eco-systems rather than buy a product, and the Internet Of Things is a strong enabler of this shift.
3. Understanding the Digital Customer
Millennials, digital natives, whatever we call them, the fact remains that the digital customer is a whole new species, and is re-writing the basic concepts of consumer behavior. There are 2 competing forces at play here: the much higher innate need for personalization and an equally emphatic participation in the “we economy”.

Embracing digital technology
Most incumbents of the boards and C-suites think of technology as an aide for tweaking margins, and underestimate the potential for value-creation. Digital technologies permeate all levels of business, and offer a multitude of opportunities for the brave:

Airbnb does not own hotels, Uber does not own fleets – they utilized technology to create value out of the imbalance of demand and supply.

Amazon and Dell stay ahead of competition by constantly re-inventing themselves based on the latest technologies.

All this leads us to one key inference – in the digital age, the boards of organizations need tech-savvy members, who can challenge the status-quo of IT in the organization, and is forward thinking in its technology investments.
The true measure of digital leadership is the understanding of this new language, and the grammar which is radically different from that of the existing methodologies of business.

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