Digital vs. Dinosaurs: the growing role of technology in the boardroom

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Companies are increasingly looking for digital knowledge when it comes to senior leadership. The old-school leader is an increasingly rare breed as sentiment in the boardroom reflects the digital age – you need to keep pace with digital trends to properly steer an organization.

Celebrity CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have changed perceptions about corporate bosses. But behind their casual dress sense and catchy quotes is the ability to lead from the front and respond to changes in technology – something that has underpinned their success.

Embracing the possibilities provided by the digital world and putting the consumer at the centre of a company’s focus, we’re seeing the evolution of a new style of business leader.

Keeping pace with technological changes

The rise of social media and data analytics has allowed many companies to shift their priorities. Cloud computing, for example, can bring significant cost savings as it enables companies to scale back on hardware spending.

Social media plays a growing role in the way businesses hire and who they recruit based on social media, as what a person shares and the conversations they take part in online says a lot about them.

However, if more innovative new strategies are going to be executed swiftly, senior executives have to keep pace with technological developments so they can contribute.

Marc Gasperino, managing partner and global head of CTPartners’ digital practice, noted these types of board members are currently in “high demand and there is a low supply”.

As digital technology seeps into every aspect of business, demand for directors with these capabilities is only going to increase. This means recruiting leaders that have the “depth of experience, operational understanding, strategic business insights, and gravitas to provide strong leadership and influence on digital matters addressed by the board”, CTPartners stated.

The link between leadership and technology has never been stronger, and modern executives are unlikely to reach the highest level if they cannot react to this development.

One company that has successfully bridged the digital divide is American Airlines. Monte Ford, former CIO at the organization, said the decision to put technology at the heart of its service was part of an effort to boost the customer experience.

“There are virtually no products and services at American that you can implement effectively — other than how many olives to have on the salad — that don’t require technology as part of the implementation,” he stated.

What’s clear is that if boardrooms are going to drive their companies forward, senior executives need to be technologically savvy.

Using data creatively

Companies that use data creatively will be able to separate themselves from the competition.

Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, expects data analytics to revolutionize the decision-making process, as boardrooms turn their back on gut reactions and instead move towards an evidence-based process.

This means those firms with the most advanced processes can make better, more objective calls. Again, this has to stem from the boardroom, as senior leaders will ultimately dictate a company’s reliance on technology. Identifying and leveraging resources is now a key part of their responsibilities.

A study by CA Technologies underlines just how useful IT can be for business leaders. More than half (54 percent) think cloud computing has enabled them to spend more time on business strategy and innovation.

Nearly three-quarters of cloud adopters also feel the strategic decision to use this technology has opened a viable path to pursue other management roles. This shows how being comfortable with technology can open doors for the highly ambitious business executive.

The hyper-connected nature of business in the 21st century requires an ever-evolving skill set and senior leaders who shy away from technology will be left behind. Big data, cloud computing, and social media are here to stay, so boardrooms have to adapt to these challenges to foster success.

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