With technology developments happening at the speed of light – everything and everyone connected, anywhere and anytime – CEOs need to be extremely flexible. They need to react immediately to changing market conditions. Putting this into practice is easier said than done, and requires tech-savviness. The true, modern-day CEO needs to be a Connected CEO. In my opinion, Connected CEOs are a new breed of business leaders who leverage agility, talent and the right partners to keep winning and drive digital transformation throughout their company.
The Art of ‘Win-ology’
We live in a unique time, where the pace of change is accelerating. Evolutions that previously took 50 years, are now happening in five years. What took five years, has been reduced to five months.
What has not changed is the fighting spirit and the drive to win that characterize great CEOs. Or, as I would put it, they want to be win-ologists. According to Gartner’s recent CEO Survey, growth and profit are the number-one priorities of business leaders. Those may seem like obvious priorities, but more interesting is that CEOs also indicate that developing near-term and future digital routes to market are the key ways to drive growth and profit. New digital routes to market allow business leaders to sell more to existing customers or sell to new customers while, at the same time, building the business of the near future, addressing cost and increasing customer loyalty. While the idea of shifting towards digital business used to be something looming on the horizon, in 2017, it has become the main destination. CEOs know they have no choice really: they either have to become an Uber in their market, or risk being ‘Ubered’ by someone else.
If CEOs want to become and/or remain win-ologists, they will need to connect the dots between the business and IT. Doing that means bringing several elements together, and can be considered an art. After all, great art succeeds in combining elements like vision, technique, emotion and medium. Likewise, the Connected CEO will need the find the right mix between talent, partnerships and business ability to reach his or her goal.
The Gartner CEO survey shows that 58% of CEOs want to improve in-house technology and digital capabilities. This means that CEOs are ever more open to in-house development of strategic capabilities and especially strategic digital capabilities. From my frequent contacts with customers too, I know that the modern CEO understands how important digital processes, technology and systems are to maintaining a competitive advantage. Great CEOs are willing to invest in technological skills and capabilities.
To upgrade your IT department, you will need to understand what drives your pool of ‘intellectual capital’, as I like to call it, and give your employees all the necessary tools. In this way, they will have everything at their fingertips to reach their full potential within your company. It also means recruiting the profiles with the right mindset and skills across not only your CIO but your entire executive board and your entire workforce.
This evolution is accelerated now that companies start to realize that there are some downsides to moving too many workloads to the public cloud. They opted for public cloud to decrease cost and increase transparency, but the opposite happened: costs are going through the roof as they add more data services and they lose transparency. It is a commonly held view that companies can deliver services less expensively themselves by using cloud-like concepts in their in-house infrastructure. We live in a multi-cloud world.
Gartner’s survey also highlights that deep digital transformation can only be driven if you set the right success criteria from the start. It reveals that 47% of CEOs are under pressure from their board of directors to make progress in the digital field. The best person within your management board to turn to for advice on how to do that is… your CIO. They can help you answer questions on how to grow digitally and how to set the best KPIs. They will also be able to clearly explain new frameworks of reference. Still, if you feel that your CIO is unable to fully focus on digital entrepreneurism due to having too much legacy process and technology to maintain, it might be wise to bring in an additional role. The Chief Digital Officer (CDO) can drive digitization forward while business continuity is maintained. A strong and connected CEO/CIO/CDO trio can put your digital house in order!
The Right Partner
Building your digital-minded resources is a first step in the right direction. It is important to have the right skill set in-house. However, you cannot expect your teams to be experts in everything. And that’s why you will still need to work with external partners to help you on the road to digital transformation.
Picking the right partner is not an easy task, and CEOs rightly expect their technology partner to bring a complete solution to the table, not just a brick in the wall, but an entire wall. A good partner will offer breadth of technological expertise, and people expertise. In the complex world that we live in, a partner needs to understand technology, understand the customer’s industry, understand the company itself and how far it has advanced in its digital transformation.
Like the best team surrounds the winner, I want Dell EMC to be the right partner for your business too. Our customer relations are built on trust and long-term engagement. Together, we build the roadmap for your transformation journey.
The Need for Speed: Agility Is Key
It is a delicate balancing act to reconcile long-term plans for digital transformation while maintaining your competitive edge in the short run, especially as more and more agile and disruptive players enter the market daily. As I said earlier, changes are happening faster and faster and, to be a winner, you need to move faster than the market. If you’re not ahead, you’re behind. Agile methods have long been used by IT teams, but have recently found more success in different levels of the organization. Startups often utilize the method for their whole business model, combined with a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. It allows them to architect for change very rapidly and efficiently, and to adapt to customer expectations more quickly, so it is definitely something that should find a foothold in larger organizations.
A recent Forbes article stated that modern businesses need to be a combination of: 1) formal structures, 2) big data know-how and 3) action-oriented behavior. I agree with that. You could liken it to a three-legged stool that needs all three elements to keep it in balance. But stepping out of bureaucracy and moving towards adhocracy will be a challenge for many. The right software and the right tools can help you to keep your competitive advantage and do business much faster. After all, every company has essentially become a software company.
The Connected CEO
To be a win-ologist, you first need to become a Connected CEO: someone who has a helicopter view at all times and breaks down silos. It’s a tough balancing act between the long term and short term, between business goals and digital transformation goals, and between connecting the right people and talent with the systems within your organization. To be successful on this exciting journey you will need to get the right profiles and partners on board. If you mix these elements in the right proportions, you will create a true work of art.
We live in a complex world. It may seem a paradox but, in a complex environment, simple solutions become all the more powerful. Very much like the simplest of drawings can provoke the deepest of emotions.
Let’s develop these simple solutions together! Let’s create a work of art together!