There’s no time like today to truly acknowledge the fact that times are indeed changing. And at the end of the day, we will see clearly the difference between those who are leveraging from the benefits of innovation and those who will be left behind. And I am sure none of us reading this article would want to be in that latter category.
Major companies are starting to search for the best solutions for their digital transformation efforts purely because they understand all the positive implications if their efforts succeed, and the negative ones if they choose to postpone. The Canadian entrepreneur Salim Ismail writes in his book “ Exponential Organizations” a phrase that should raise some concerns for every leader who is considering digitalisation for their firm – “Any company designed for success in the 20th Century is doomed for failure in the 21st.”
Now, this may sound a bit extreme for some of you, but we believe that eye-opening facts and quotes like this one, could offer the general push that some may need to start looking into digital transformation practices for their businesses. The cold, hard truth is that any company who is not even considering a more digitized approach in their future strategies risks to be left behind, and witness their competitors thrive towards the top of the market.
Most decision-makers and leaders of the IT departments have started at least thinking about solutions regarding taking the leap forward in this digital-demanding world we live in. Some of them are way ahead and successfully implemented schemes and processes that took their business to new heights. We’ve had the opportunity to work with some of them and with most of them we still do.
The main thing we learned from helping them through their digital transformation journeys is that the IT leaders are put under immense pressure, from both internal efforts and especially from external factors like the ever-changing market trends. We’ve explored this subject before, and tried to offer some support from a mindset-related perspective.
In our research, we found out some of the major pains that IT managers and directors face every day. One of the most significant afflictions they encounter is the time constraint. And the second is represented by too much organisational change.
Having limited time for thinking, planning, and appointing new strategies, the digitalization plans often remain in the backlog. Leadership is indeed most crucial in times of change, mainly because you need the right mindset to initiate change, especially in terms of adopting a digital transformation strategy within your organization.
Last month, our colleague Botond Gagyi had the opportunity to attend the IT Leaders Congress in Germany and meet there a few directors from different industries and talked about their current struggles with introducing digital solutions into their processes.
IT Leaders in Change
The congress debuted with an intriguing topic. Kai Diekmann, former editor-in-chief of the German newspaper Bild, raised the following question – “Is Germany sleeping through the digitalisation?”. It is probably one of the most sensitive topics today in Germany. Whilst the technological advancements are constantly shaping the way we work, communicate and consume, in short, the way we live, can we really know where to draw the line? It is a known fact that many German businesses fail to grow because they struggle to keep up with the times and with its technological demands.
But all hope is not lost. As leaders in charge of a big department or division, like the IT one, we tend to juggle our responsibilities so that none of them is left to chance. From struggling to maintain the top talent engaged and productive to staying on top of trends in the tech industry. Though hard, we do that every single day, having the best interest of the company and its people at heart. But when on top of all this, we are told that we need to integrate new processes, change our strategy constantly, implement new technologies and teach our people to embrace change in a positive way, that is where the fun part begins.
So, how do we go from the regular IT Leader to an Innovation Rockstar?
The secret lies within the mindset. Felix Thönnessen, one of the speakers, talked about the perks of relying on our own ideas as a means to persevere in this digital world. We all have ideas, some of them brilliant, some of them dull. Studies suggest that each of us has had at least one innovative idea during our lifetime. But why aren’t we all entrepreneurs, chiefs and managers? The one thing that differentiates us is the ability and the courage of acting on these ideas. So, in terms of coming up with innovative strategies for your company’s digital transformation efforts, Felix agrees that you must rely first on your own thoughts and present them in a manner that stimulates growth and increases productivity. Change is good, and it should be encouraged, especially in the technological environment.
We have an idea, we have the people, but where do we start?
And most importantly, how? Toptal explores this particular topic in-depth, but we’re gonna take a closer look at the impact that leadership has upon a digital transformation process.
It all starts with having the right mindset. Managers and leaders who are familiar with digital technologies are more likely to embrace changes in a more productive manner, and their efforts to pay off. Digitally mature leaders often inspire their colleagues to thrive and see the positive side of every change that may happen in the organization. According to Forbes, a digitally mature leader has a few traits that set him or her apart from the crowd. These traits are, having a clear purpose of why we are embracing new technologies in our companies, always keeping an open mind, constantly leveraging opportunities, and not being afraid to try riskier practices and experiments for the sake of progress.
And this is where Germany needs a little push. Some of the senior IT leaders are a bit hesitant when it comes to embarking on a digital transformation journey with their companies. They like the safety of the known practices, it gives them a sense of purpose and encouragement. But for how long? In a fast-growing economy, where the market dictates the rhythm, how can you stay afloat? The answer is right there, inside each and every one of you. The transformation starts within, and with the right mindset, open to change.
So what makes us say that Germany needs to up its game in terms of digital transformation? We’ve seen it for quite some time now, with our clients and some of our prospects, they all have amazing ideas and a killer work ethic but when it comes to switching the pattern, they get stuck.
Why, you ask? Because of security.
The Security Paradigm
The main reason why many German businesses fail, or cannot stay on top of the market trends, is because of their constant preoccupation with security. The IT leaders in Germany are so focused on building cyber-secure technologies that without noticing, their priorities shift away from the main goal.
Sascha Lobo, a German blogger, whose work mainly concerns the Internet and the social effects of new technologies, talked about the importance that Germans give to the cyber-security issue, in general. He presented a case where regular people, picked out from the street were asked if they had any security concerns when downloading and using an app from the internet. Almost all of them said that they’re not worried about these apps’ control over their personal data and that they cared more if that application is serving them as it promised. By telling this story, Sascha wanted to raise awareness of the fact that regular Germans aren’t so invested in being safe online because that is not their main preference.
With this extremely interesting perspective, he was addressing a room filled with IT & Tech specialists from all over Germany, most of whom have different views on cyber-security and data protection online. But it does raise a question on the difference in mentalities. There is a significant age difference between these two groups, the conference’s audience and the people from the study, most of whom were early technology adopters and digital natives, whilst the first category grew up without the Internet.
The underlying truth lies always somewhere in the middle.
While it is of great importance to keep yourself safe online, one mustn’t exaggerate with these precautions. When a piece of technology gets delayed because we’re searching for a needle in “a cyber haystack”, both we and our consumers lose. They don’t get their desired product or service and we don’t move forward with our plans. They will eventually choose our competitor’s product and we’re left behind.
The IT-Leaders Kongress is the type of event that can shift even the most unyielding perspective. It teaches you about the importance of finding the best solutions for your IT teams, how to keep them motivated, engaged and productive. This not only will take off some of the pressure of the CIO’s shoulders but will result in a results-oriented department, who isn’t afraid of taking chances and bringing value to the company.
Also, let’s not forget about the importance of always keeping an eye out in the market. As an IT leader, it is of crucial significance that you remain well connected to everything that happens in the industry. Not only will you manage to set a clear direction for your teams, but only by doing so you’ll give yourself an undetached chance of climbing to the top. So just ask yourself this, what does it cost to keep an open mind (and eye)?
On an Ascending Path Towards Progress
Our experience has taught us that a successful digital transformation requires leaders who inspire extraordinary levels of engagement and productivity in their employees and know just where to tap into the power of teamwork and collaboration between them. Their tech-inclined mindset plays a huge role in this, but most importantly, their desire for growth and prosperity.
Having this in mind, we’ve put together a guide to help you decide on the best course of action in your digital transformation journey. You can download it for free here.