We are living in a digital world: technology impacts every part of our lives. Equally, companies across every sector must adopt digitisation or risk being left behind.
Embracing digital transformation can be highly beneficial for companies.
It can help businesses to:
- Remain competitive and even outcompete others in the market
- Gain important insight into existing and emerging markets
- Quickly identify and address issues
Furthermore, to enjoy the full effect of these benefits, this process must be implemented effectively, appropriately, and successfully. This is where strong digital leadership comes in.
Digital Leadership: How Important are Leaders in Digital Transformation?
It can be easy to underestimate the importance of leaders’ roles in digital transformation, especially if they are not particularly digital-savvy. After all, technical, digital-based roles are at the front line of the transformation.
However, leaders of all kinds have a critical role to play in digital transformation. This is an organisation-wide process which involves individuals across all levels and departments, with leaders being particularly crucial.
Managers and executives set the tone for digital transformation, modifying structures or creating new ones as necessary, and fostering the culture necessary for successful transformation.
Leaders may not necessarily be highly skilled in digital tools but this doesn’t really matter in this context. Their role in digital transformation is not technical, but rather to set the tone and guide the organisation’s direction. This often means pushing things – and people – along.
How leaders should act in the context of digital transformation depends not only on the type of transformation the organisation experiences, but also the speed and amount of change, and how ready the company is for this shift.
In particular, high-growth transformations necessitate heavy involvement from leadership, as do digital transformations closely linked to customer-facing processes or client interactions.
Integrating Digital Transformation in Your Strategic Leadership
One of the first things leaders who want to integrate digital transformation into their strategic leadership should do is nurture innovation. Digital technologies are constantly developing, and so keeping up with the latest developments and encouraging new processes and attitudes is key to laying the foundations for digital transformation.
This is also true for digital-savvy and tech-based companies – in fact, innovation can be even more critical in this case. These kinds of organisations are often at a risk of becoming complacent when it comes to digital transformation, and so rely on their leaders to drive change.
Be Flexible and Prepared for Multiple Outcomes
Uncertainty is a defining characteristic of digital transformation. With digital technologies constantly developing at ever-increasing speed, the landscape is continually evolving. This makes it almost impossible to predict the best strategy for the future.
This makes flexibility an essential aspect of strategic leadership in the context of digital transformation.
Digital transformation can vary greatly in terms of scope and impact, so leaders need to be flexible to adapt to various situations and potential outcomes. Leaders should develop multiple strategic directions, with contingencies in place to deal with various possible developments.
Understand the Scale of Your Transformation
Another important aspect of integrating digital transformation into your strategic leadership is understanding the scale of the process that your organisation needs at this present time. Digital transformation can range from full-scale disruption and transformation to the digitisation of business processes on a much more modest scale.
A key part of strategic leadership is determining what type of digitisation or transformation your company needs right now.
Furthermore, you could choose to implement different levels of digital initiatives across distinct processes of company departments. For example, it could make sense to implement full digital transformation of your marketing strategies, but stay with more low-key digitisation for your client services for now.
Seek Out Upcoming Technologies and Opportunities
Effective digitisation and digital transformation often comes down to being ahead of the game.
The most successful digital disruptors don’t adopt the tools and processes others are already using. Rather, they seek out upcoming innovation, looking at technology that is in development. This can include looking at technologies that are five or even ten years away from being adopted by the mainstream.
This kind of long-term vision needs to be set down as part of the company’s strategy. It can often involve taking a chance on untested tools or methods, so leaders should conduct rigorous risk assessments before fully embracing new technologies.
Step Up Your Digital Leadership Skills
Digital leadership is a critical area for companies and is only set to be even more important in the future. Many organisations are looking for professionals with the skills and knowledge necessary to make digital transformation as smooth and effective as possible. Equally, established executives can find it highly beneficial to develop their skills in this area.