Digital Technologies, Initiatives, and Leadership

By Sharada Prahladrao

Industry Trends

Industry is gripped in the tentacles of digitization. Any article I read, edit or write seems to be about disruptive technologies, innovative solutions, IT-OT integration, and cybersecurity. According to an article that I read in Forbes magazine, those born before 1990 are digital immigrants, and those born after are digital natives. For the digital immigrants use of technology (smartphone, tablet, social media etc.) doesn’t come naturally – it’s like adapting to a foreign culture; for the digital natives, it is an environment they are born into.  So leaders must recognize this digital divide and bridge the gap, to drive digital transformation in the organization. MIT Sloan Management Review’s digital leadership initiative explores the growing use of digital technologies in the business landscape, examining the opportunities and risks. The way plants and facilities are structured has undergone a sea change; it has to be first time right. And for this technologies like 3D simulation and OTS (operator training simulator) have to be deployed.  It sure is a digital world!

Leaders in the Digital Workplace

As more companies go digital we are seeing significant changes in organizational culture, strategy, and talent management. So the approach of today’s business leaders has to undergo a radical transformation. The hierarchical layers no longer follow strict diktats; organizational structures are flatter and more collaborative.  The boss (even the word is becoming defunct) who said “that it’s my way or the highway,” is almost extinct. The approach of digital leaders is different, they ask “Do you have any suggestions to improve our processes?” Because they know that in a digital workplace communication, connectivity, and convergence are vital components; and to compete on a global playing field everyone in the organization needs to scale up. Previously, IT teams deployed software and systems in the organization and employees were gradually trained to use it. Now, IT teams deploy new systems only after understanding the business strategies, pain points, and objectives of the operations personnel – this ensures improvement along the entire value chain.


How Digital Leadership Works

ARC does a lot of research on digital transformation across industry verticals and how it is altering the market dynamics. A few years ago, the IIoT seemed like a nebulous concept, literally floating way above, in the cloud. Leaders were wary about adopting new technologies, until it was tested and proven by their peers. Now, they want to be ahead of the pack and are ready to scout the market and select appropriate solutions. Digital leadership is about guiding the implementation of new technologies, providing appropriate training, and creating collaborative networks. A digital leader should be able to connect technology with strategy, processes, data, and perhaps the most important link in the chain – people and their ideas. All this set me thinking about what qualities digital leaders need to possess to create competitive advantage:     

  • Vision to nurture an innovation-oriented digital team
  • Ability to simplify and integrate processes (bridge the IT-OT divide)
  • Ensure data transparency and accessibility
  • Provide direction, but empower teams to deliver
  • Encourage creativity
  • Willingness to explore new ways and reinvent business models
  • See failure as a learning opportunity
  • Effectively manage talent and upgrade skills

ARC has launched a Digital Transformation Council to enable industry, energy, and public sector professionals driving or impacted by digital transformation to keep abreast of the many emerging technologies and business trends, to learn from others on similar journeys, and to leverage these trends and technologies to achieve transformational growth. Next year the Digital Leaders Week is being hosted in the UK to showcase, share and inspire digital transformation across public, private, and non-profit sectors. While it is important to have a leader with a clearcut digital strategy, we must remember that everyone in the digital thread is connected and moving along the same path.  There is no fixed destination, but the objectives are the same: agility, flexibility, quality, and productivity – all leading to operational excellence.

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