Here are 4 leadership digital dexterity skills to help you carry the digital mantle in your company

Digital transformation is enabling businesses to optimise and digitise businesses. But, this change can only succeed with effective leadership.
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Businesses across India that have so far run with human contact at the forefront — or store-front — are rapidly pivoting to digital. As more businesses embark on their own digital transformation journeys, leaders are rethinking their strategy from sales, marketing, to employee resourcing.

However, while they are busy ramping up their digital muscle, at the end of the day, it is in fact the people that connect business ecosystem with technology.

Even with the most visionary strategy and blueprint in place, or the most advanced technology installed, it takes human prowess to ensure employees at all levels — as well as customers — adopt and adapt their behaviour.

Those companies that focus solely on technology are often hit with organisational or customer-impact derailers at one point or another. They can be:

  • Loss of customers due to the inability to understand their changing needs
  • Unrealistic expectations from new, expensive technology without realigning go-to-market and sales business models
  • Resistant or slow employee adoption of advanced software

These are all scenarios in which the machines do all the work, and the human touch was not factored into the digital transformation process. At the end of the day, we must rely on the human element to connect institutional depth and breadth, pushing hierarchies to think outside the box — all the while being enabled by technology.

In a recent survey (October 2020) conducted by Heidrick and Struggles, we found that six months into the pandemic where organization have leveraged technology to optimise and digitise. But, only 39 percent of CEOs indicated overall progress of digital transformation exceeds expectations. Building on this momentum, they are forecasting a shift to 73 percent exceed expectations within the next 12 months.

Technology alone cannot deliver this shift, the organisation ecosystem, leadership will need to leverage institutional acumen with end-to-end innovation in order for digital transformation to succeed.

This was done right with Paytm’s railway booking features, which demonstrated how intuitive human understanding brought tech and usability together to create a solution designed for Indian user needs.

Despite the availability of the Indian Railways app, Paytm designed an app with user experience and expectations in mind. It offered easy navigation, search options based on travel duration, departure and arrival hours, and available seats without extra clicks or delay. They also sweetened the deal with waivers on transaction charges, service, and payment gateway charges, not to mention cashbacks.

Organisations also make assumptions that the key to successful digitalisation is with the young — think digital native coders and product managers. Not to undermine the value they bring, but they are a piece of the puzzle that contributes to effective digital transition.

Institutional acumen, cultural and industrial foresight comes from experience on the field and exposure to various scenarios and people — and when integrated with tech capabilities, can make a powerful combination to leverage the vast scope of digital penetration.

On the other hand, the ensuing pandemic has also forced those with institutional exposure to recognise the need for digital adaptation to communicate, market, and prove their insights in real-time. It is not until barriers are broken down between tech and human insight, do we start to see knowledge, ideas, applications, and processes freely flow within an enterprise.

The most common fallacy companies make is assuming that technology alone can solve all organisational challenges. It's not simply ‘what’ you use to transform, but your transformation's ‘how’ and ‘why’ as well. The human elements demand hard work through culture, retention, growth of individuals, leadership, and communication.

Disruption, therefore, requires leaders who can compete as Digital ‘Triathletes’ and develop proficiency across strategy, innovation, and implementation, underpinned with the agility to pivot on a dime.

As with any triathlete, having a strong area of expertise is advantageous while it is as critical as developing other areas to balance and drive sustainable performance.

Here are four leadership digital dexterity skills required to carry the digital mantle deep into the organisation:

Digital Strategist

Staying ahead of technology and market trends is important to identify new and adjacent business opportunities.

However, even those with international exposure or premium engineering or business school degrees may fall short on the organisational and cultural context of the industry. (65 percent CEOs indicated they have a clearly defined digital transformation roadmap, however, only 54 percent bridge the gap between strategy and execution by embedding imagination and innovation in designing digital customer journeys.)

It takes a keen eye towards emerging technology disruption and commitment to the organisation’s ultimate purpose, to successfully mobilise around strategic opportunities.

Digital Innovator

While the Digital Strategist is adept at planning and steering the digital path for the organisation, it takes an Innovator to cultivate the cultural conditions to encourage experimentation and breathe new life into legacy mindsets. They connect the dots by linking up different departments and repurposing available infrastructure to address immediate gaps. by doing so, they can also evolve products to solve new problems.

Digital Driver

The Digital Driver disrupts the status quo to enact change and transform the business. Their prowess is aligning innovation initiatives and creating the pathways to implement them at a rapid pace. The human factor of trust needs to be high in such a scenario, as does talent development and readiness to execute with precision.

Agility

Underpinning the Digital Strategist-Innovator-Driver is the leader’s ability to foresees and adapts to market changes and leans into continuous learning (Only 38 percent stated they have the flexibility to reassign resources to deliver on digital initiatives).

In conclusion, these digital roles point in the direction of rapid and effective agility to combine digital knowledge with human understanding. When the two meet they cumulatively reflect a positive culture of learning and leaning into each other’s strengths.

Whether it is identifying the synergies, fueling innovation, or applying tech to new scenarios, it is time to bring in the minds behind technology now, instead of when it becomes a case of too little too late.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)