Embarking upon a digital journey is a need for every organization. Sooner or later, the leadership has to wake up to the changing market realities and create a blue print of their digital foray. Each organization is at some stage of its journey and to make the most out of it, the leadership must focus on the following five essential aspects.
1. Set clear priorities
Information technology can be used for meeting many organizational priorities, e.g. enhancing process efficiency, increasing productivity, boosting revenue, creating user experience, complying with regulations, keeping control etc. Many a time, the priorities for IT are tacit and not stated very explicitly. Like many other aspects of an organization, the priority for IT needs to be clearly defined and communicated, both for the short and the long run.
The short run IT priority may be focused on the tacit needs to respond to competition or the immediate environmental conditions (e.g. during recession the priority for IT is to help reduce costs by automating the existing processes or providing information about wasteful expenses). In the long run the same may be driven by the strategic shifts the organization may need in light of how the market is expected to evolve (e.g. enhancing one’s power in the value chain or moving up the value chain).
It is important to identify both short and long run priorities for IT & digital to deal with as that would drive the energies towards higher effectiveness of the same.
2. Build internal readiness
Setting and communicating clear priorities is one side, creating internal readiness to act upon them is the other side of the same coin. Without the readiness, the expectations may be stated but may remain unfulfilled. The readiness is required in terms of leadership orientation at the top, inclusion of digital in business strategy, various structural mechanisms to enable, a supporting information culture and a responsive digital infrastructure.
One of the most prominent outcome of becoming digital is role fluidity. Newer aspects of executive roles emerge, which has an impact on the existing roles (like the CMO, CFO CHRO, CTO etc.). These newer aspects may create a situation of conflict or struggle among the c-suite members. The struggle if left uncontrolled may impact the organizational functionality. It may require attention from the top to manage role fluidity.
Organizations must assess their readiness on these elements with respect to their set priorities for IT & digital.
3. Encourage a digital discourse in the C-suite
Adopting digital as a way of doing business requires the right discourse in the c-suite. The discourse must focus on understanding what does it mean to become digital, what are the ways in which it can be adopted, why should it be adopted and how the organization must adopt it. Traditionally, the aspects related to IT are relegated to be discussed and dealt with at the IT function level. But that was alright when IT was a support function. As IT rises to become a prime mover and a source of competitive advantage, the discussion should move at the appropriate level i.e. the C-suite.
4. Design a digital infrastructure road-map
The essential aspect of a journey is its continuous evolution over time. The evolution can happen in two ways, guided or unguided. When it is unguided, it takes its own course, leaving a vast scope for future misalignment between the organizational need and the available IT or digital competencies. Creating a future road-map helps reduce that possible misalignment.
Creating a digital infrastructure in terms of core, catalyst and SMAC technologies may not be possible overnight. It needs time, efforts and money to do so. Moreover, it is ideally built piece by piece as the need arises. But that should be guided by a defined road map. The road map may be revisited on a periodic basis to factor into the new issues as they arise but the need for a road map is paramount.
5. Develop new leadership competencies
Becoming digital in its way of working may require a very new set of competencies among the leaders. These competencies may be needed to appreciate what is digital, understand how it may help, sense the competitive stance, collaborate with the CIO and his team, participate in the IT driven processes and deal with information. Business leaders need to build influence as a power base as compared to the traditional bases of formal authority, hierarchy position and coercion.
These new competencies should be identified and leaders should be developed on them.
Becoming a digital enterprise is a journey and it requires an active participation by those at the top, including the CEO.