7 Ways to Grow the Digital Leaders Your Firm Needs
Today, every industry has its own set of well-funded and potentially disruptive startups, built to ride the technology curve. This unstoppable tide of innovation is altering both the very nature of work and the skills required in the IT workplace.
by David Moschella
Where once enterprise IT relied on business relationship managers (BRMs) to speak a language that the rest of the organization could understand, the greater need today is for digital business leaders (DBLs) who embrace outside-in innovation, new ways of working, and the double-deep skills needed to blend specific job functions with the relevant technology know-how.
Enterprises and individuals who enthusiastically engage with these new roles can enjoy exciting opportunities ahead, but those who ignore or resist them will be increasingly (and often painfully) marginalized.
Here are seven ways to get started on the path to digital leadership growth:
1. Get the BRM fundamentals right.
Successful BRMs have strong communication, consulting and negotiating skills, as well as the personal power needed to sustain credibility, empathy and trust, even while coping with difficult situations. These skills are even more important in strategic digital leadership discussions.
2. Work like a startup.
Modern software tools and techniques can often lead to order-of-magnitude productivity improvements. But the use of such approaches in traditional IT organizations remains surprisingly low. Developing a startup culture means emphasizing the latest software development concepts, especially application integration, advanced user interfaces, mobile apps and rapid prototyping.
3. Gain hands-on experience.
Many consumer and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies need to be experienced to be fully appreciated. However, most companies do not have an effective process for getting new technologies into the hands of the right employees. Enterprises should explore ways to bring the latest cameras, sensors, wearables and virtual/augmented reality technologies onsite and demonstrate their use in specific company challenges.
4. Be socially ready.
For whatever reason, many IT professionals (as well as many senior executives) are neither comfortable with nor experienced in modern social media. Successful engagement with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms can propel communication among clients, partners, and colleagues and establish an enterprise as a thought leader in its field.
5. Improve your situational awareness.
Technology tends to evolve in a pattern — from genesis to customization, to productization and to eventual commodity/utility status. Enterprises need to understand where their organization is today on the value chain and where it needs to be.
6. Disrupt; don’t be disrupted.
While some industries have been much more disrupted by IT than others, every sector has its own disruption story. DBLs need to understand how technology is changing the way industries operate and innovate, especially the shift from inside-out to outside-in dynamics.
7. Tell your digital story.
Most companies have a clear business strategy, and most also have a formal IT strategy. But relatively few firms (and even fewer IT departments) have a compelling digital business narrative that makes sense both inside and outside of the organization. It’s an area where much improvement is needed.
Of course, no one person can be expected to be skilled in all of these areas, but developing a diverse range of digital leadership capabilities across the firm is now a realistic goal. For individuals who embrace this path, the opportunities have never been greater.
David Moschella is research fellow for CSC’s Leading Edge Forum.