Corporately, we’re a little stuck.
There is much afoot in the business world. People are racing to adopt technologies that vendors are convincing them are must-haves, and while some needs are urgent due to legacy systems, many IT departments are crippled with diminishing budgets. Picking which technology and navigating the buzzwords is confusing at best, frustrating at worst. There is a lot of popular buzz out there: AI, Machine Learning, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Data Mining, Actionable Analytics, Automation, Blockchain, Quantum Computing, IoT, IIoT, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, you get the point. (Believe me, there are many, many more!)
A company only has so much money for staving off disruption or competing within their industry. New technology is expensive and it’s hard to justify for dreamy aspirations of world domination. (If only you could afford it all!) I’ll address a few key reasons why companies are stuck and a few ways for how leaders can move it forward.
First, please note that business is digital, regardless of what is built, sold, or served. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, if you want it to remain relevant, your business must become digital, whether you like it or not. This means that understanding those buzzwords and which technologies will align with your strategy has never been more important.
If you want to remain relevant, your business must become digital, whether you like it or not.
Companies Remain Trapped in the Past
Problem 1 – How We See IT and Technology: Technology solutions used to be like “support staff” to the business. Technology didn’t do the work; it supported the work that was being done. Not so much now. Automation is doing work in all kinds of departments. Our businesses are digital businesses.
We now have faster networks, robotics, automation, and data learning, shifting the landscape of what is possible. Service management used to mean the management of the service desk as an IT function supporting a lifecycle of IT services, such as problem and incident management, asset management, and knowledge management. In the past few years, that has all changed.
Technology is no longer just something that sits in IT, especially with service management. Services such as HR, dispatch, facilities, finance, compliance, and other core areas of the business are now part of the service management family, especially where repetitive tasks can be automated.
Problem 2 – Our Corporate Structures: Most organizations work within a traditional hierarchical leadership and management system. The old ways felt comfortable, decisions were made at the top and everyone followed the direction they were given. This level of management style no longer serves corporations, and the hotspots are obvious.
- Many companies still maintain the same hierarchical structure used in the 1940s.
- Command and control management styles are stuck in the 1970s.
- Financial focus remains trapped within a 1980 shareholder value proposition with quarterly short-term earnings driving decisions.
Companies who want top talent, are needing agility for quick decision making and response, and those who are looking to innovate will rarely get there under these structures.
Problem 3 – Our Norms: In addition to our structures, our norms present a significant issue in dealing with the expectations within our workforce. Companies that are stuck in the status quo will fail to shift quickly enough to compete with fast rising competitors. Below are a few reasons.
- Not adjusting to the five different generations (and ways of working) within our workplaces
- Basing performance on attendance, not timing and quality delivery of work completed
- Using up days in meetings and forcing people to work longer hours just to get something done
- Failing to know how to manage remote work
- Using an antiquated project-by-project funding model
- Not leveraging existing collaboration tools and opportunities
- Protecting deeply entrenched silos that stifle cooperative work opportunities
- Using efficiency as a reason to cost cut, rather than measuring business effectiveness
- Scaring away top talent due to unsupported flexible work arrangements
So Where Does an Executive Start?
As technology improves and changes at the speed of light, making decisions quickly and responding to shifts takes agility, cross functional interdependencies, and an openness for experimentation. If you are basing decisions about technology on replacing legacy software, you will regret not being more intentional. Here are some things leaders can do now to support leading in a digital world.
- Take a look at your organizational hierarchy. Does it support your strategic direction?
- Investigate new funding models for continuous improvement and experimentation.
- Take the pulse across the organization for identification of challenges. Then set new goals.
- View and budget IT as an all company business function, not an independent support function.
- Choose to be intentional in planning your technology so it meets future strategy.
- Become digitally literate, understand what the buzz word does, and then map that to what your business is trying to achieve.
- Do periodic software audits, and review your technologies for optimization of meeting business goals.
- Don’t rely on your vendor for the expertise you need. Plan and build expertise inhouse to address uniqueness and complexity your vendor will know nothing about.
These are just a few ideas, because you will be experiencing epic shift in your future, whether you want to or not, exponential technology growth simply demands it. Digital is where business is taking us. You can join the ride, or be left behind. Your choice.
Patti Blackstaffe is the CEO of
Strategic Sense Inc.
, which focuses on helping clients build transformation agility through people strategy. A specialist in change and transformation, she focuses on complex technology implementations and change through M&A. Her years of hands-on experience in the automation industry, international business, and large organizational projects goes into her people strategy and programs for clients. She is an industry advisor for the Business Technology, Management and Analytics Program within the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, certified in change management, and a local volunteer. You can follow her on Twitter
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