Food for Thought V8: The Challenge of Digital Transformation

An MIT Sloan Management & Capgemini research study prompted this edition of Food for Thought.   The key theme – business leaders are lacking urgency when it comes to pursuing opportunities being afforded by technology.  This quote from the article sums it up best:

“There are two wrong ways to approach (digital transformation),” MIT’s George Westerman told us. “One is to say, ‘just go off and do something.  And we don’t need to worry about coordination.’  Another is to hire a bunch of people and say ‘make this happen.  I don’t need to be involved.’”

Now cast your minds back to the 1990s.  “Whoa, here comes a thing called the internet with this crazy email functionality!”  “What a cool name, placing an “e” in front!”.  What we have seen since are stories of boom and bust.

I found the article excellent in articulating the current problem and it provides many sound ways of addressing it, however, the article does not address the question of “why” the problem is there in the first place.  I can give you one very good reason, most senior management do not have sufficient understanding of technology – full stop.

Now here is the clincher for me.  Last week I had the pleasure of offering some mentoring advice to some undergraduate business students, the future accountants, bankers, marketers and yes, CEOs.  I asked them if their degree included a course on technology.  The answer:  “No”!

I ask you why, if technology has had the impact it has had in the past twenty years and the likes of MIT Sloan Management Review are able to so clearly depict the opportunities of the future, why are we not teaching our youngest and brightest about managing technology?  Yes they may be excellent users of technology (so was I twenty years ago), however, being an advanced user of Twitter or Google has nothing to do with the core skills required to lead organisations through the next twenty years of technological change.  Skills that from my perspective are still sadly lacking across Australian business.