The Role Of Leaders In Digital Transformation

What Leaders In Every Enterprise Should Do

Steven Lerner

On the topic of leadership, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” which is especially true today with enterprises going through a digital transformation.

In order for an enterprise to undergo a successful digital transformation, a forward-thinking leader must be open to innovation on all levels. Although most enterprises understand what a digital transformation leader should do, there still isn’t a universal understanding about what traits that leader should possess.

A 2016 study from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press surveyed business executives and analysts about digital transformation leaders. Digitally maturing organizations sought leaders who had the capabilities to inspire cultural and organizational changes. The survey identified preferred leadership traits, such as having a transformative vision and having a change-oriented mindset. Respondents also said that leaders were more likely to invest in innovation and use data to make critical decisions.

To gain an understanding about the role of leaders during a digital transformation, Enterprise Mobility Exchange spoke with Abhijit Bhaduri, a keynote speaker, author, and columnist who serves as a digital transformation coach to organizations and leaders. Described by Forbes as, “one of the most interesting Globalists,” Bhaduri has spoken about technology and business at conferences around the world. His 2016 book, “The Digital Tsunami,” explains how organization and management techniques are utilized during a digital transformation.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange: How have leaders kept up with the digital transformation?

Abhijit Bhaduri: Leaders keep up with the digital transformation through seminars and articles in the business press. Conferences and visits to see digital-born organizations (like Amazon, Google, Slack, Netflix) also give leaders a chance to know how transformations are reshaping business models.

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EME: What are some blindspots that leaders might overlook during a digital transformation, and how should they be handled?

AB: The C-Suite must start by having a common view on why they wish to undertake the transformation. Transformations that are led by the CIO alone are doomed to fail. Employees need to be actively involved in setting this vision. Building the culture enables the organization to reimagine the business model.

(One of the best ways to stay up with the latest trends is to attend Enterprise Mobility Exchange’s free Digital Transformation Online Summit on October 2-3).

EME: How are leaders using technology to improve workplace culture?

AB: The leaders often underleverage technology. For example, social media must be used equally for listening as it can be for disseminating views. Most leaders underutilize technology for listening. Being able to tune in to weak signals is an opportunity. The leader does have the opportunity to leverage social media and stay connected with their teams — especially those team members who are remote. Social media must be used as a listening post rather than as a megaphone.

EME: What competitive advantages are found with digital transformation?

AB: Digital transformations enable the organization to reimagine the business model. It helps them to reimagine the customer experience, as well as the employee experience. The ability to scale up across geographical borders and sectors is the biggest reason to undertake digital transformation. It is an opportunity to reimagine the business. A company like Netflix has become the best example of redefining a business model because of technology. Netflix currently has a market cap that has exceeded Disney.

EME: Who needs to be involved from a strategic standpoint with digital transformation?

AB: The digital transformation must be created with the customer. It is an iterative process where the customer uses the prototype, and gives feedback that becomes the basis for an improved version that the customer uses. This process is iterative. (Enterprise Mobility Exchange clarifies that this can mean the internal customer as well).

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EME: As a leader, who else will he or she need buy-in from at the C-Suite level, and how do you approach it? What about outside of C-Suite?

AB: The digital transformation needs the buy- in from the CEO and the entire C-Suite. I like to run a conversation with the C-Suite to help everyone get a common view of the future before the journey begins. Digital transformation must involve everyone in the organization. Leaders are often guilty of looking at digital transformation as a technological upgrade. It is an opportunity to reimagine the whole business, which is best done with all employees together. It is an opportunity to co-create this new world with the employees. Successful transformation needs the whole organization to be involved in making it work. It needs continuous engagement.

In conclusion, digital transformation leaders must be a jack of all trades. The leader must embrace continuous learning to stay ahead of innovations, keep an eye out for potential weaknesses, and get a buy-in from everyone in the organization in order to successfully implement an enterprise-wide digital transformation.