Five ways CEOs can future-proof their organisation

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Today’s CEO has a difficult role. Customer expectations are rapidly evolving, margins are being eroded by global organisations operating at scale, and small nimble start-ups are picking away at the most profitable areas of the value chain with an array of new digital products and services. 

The landscape is so different to the pre-digital era that realising your digital potential can be akin to starting a whole new business. Established organisations tend to overestimate the reusability of their existing assets in helping to move forward a new business model while there is occasionally a danger of assuming the current ingredients of business success (awareness, penetration, pricing, margin) have the same relevance in the digital landscape.

To manage a business effectively under these circumstances is not easy; however, today’s CEO needs to provide both strategic and executional leadership across rapidly changing and sometimes disrupted markets. How can this be managed effectively? 

1. Look at how digital change can accelerate positive outcomes

CEOs will need to gain a clear understanding of how new and emerging digital propositions are likely to affect their business model and future opportunities. Questions to consider include:

  • Where are the big opportunities for digital that could shift my business?
  • Are we investing enough in the right areas to ensure our digital future? How are we tracking progress?
  • Do we have clear accountabilities for delivering digital change across the business?
  • Where could digital add value across my extended value chain (and, conversely, where could digital competitors attempt to disrupt my value chain)?
  • Do we have a culture that fosters innovation and experimentation?
  • Are we in control of our data? Where is it being stored? Do we know how we collect our data? How secure is it? What’s our disaster recovery plan? 
  • Are we compliant with relevant legislation, and are we open and honest with our customers about how we will use their data?
  • How well are we connecting our information to provide our stakeholders, especially customers, with better experiences?

2. Structure the organisation for autonomy and accountability

The market is moving fast. Business leaders can help organise their teams so they can move quickly to deliver new products and services while incorporating customer insights and focusing on new areas as they evolve.

As an example, the frequently referenced Squad Model (think Spotify) gives small self-organising teams autonomy to decide what they will deliver and how they will work together. Their work is of course governed by the overall squad mission and goals, but the team is given the responsibility for achieving those goals, e.g. to “reduce customer churn” or “reduce call centre volumes”.

Squad structures also appeal to digital natives as they tend to enjoy working in a flexible, autonomous culture. 

3. Get directly involved

Personal involvement from a committed and engaged CEO is a simple way he or she can help motivate teams to perform. A brief walk-the-floor or contribution to ideation workshops, attendance at product demos, and an interest in what competitors are doing in the digital space can really help build a positive and engaged team culture.

By actively being involved, especially in the early stages of product or service design, a CEO starts to build relationships with colleagues they may not ordinarily have much contact with — it fosters a positive collaborative culture. 

Being directly connected with the teams designing and delivering digital programmes sends a clear message that building digital capability is a key strategic objective. The CEO also gains insights into how and why decisions are being made and can witness first-hand how effectively the team is working.

4. Provide an up-to-date digital toolbox

By providing access to effective and efficient digital platforms and tools, personnel will be more productive and motivated, (and less likely to take their experience elsewhere!)

For example, quality SaaS solutions can reduce the burden on the internal IT function and  help teams become more effective across the following areas:

  • Team collaboration and document sharing
  • Design and prototyping
  • Data and analytics
  • Office productivity
  • Financial and client/customer management
  • CRM & ERP
  • Project management
  • Document management

5. Examine the state of your data 

Data-driven decision making is key to business success today. 

Today’s customer expectations are shaped by experiences created by well-funded digital native organisations that leverage data to understand how to enhance the digital experience, and deliver deeply relevant products and services.

Consumers want interactions that are tailored to their specific needs. Having access to all relevant organisational data is critical to delivering an optimal experience; and the collection of such data and structuring it to derive insights are the next steps.

Whether the organisation is just beginning to personalise experiences or it’s time to raise the bar, customer and/or consumer data should ideally be treated as a strategic asset. Questions to answer include:

  • Do we have a data strategy that is aligned with our strategic vision?
  • Where is our data being stored; how secure is it; what’s our DR plan; are we compliant?
  • Do we have the right processes in place to continually procure, store, augment and enrich our data?
  • Have our customers given us permission to use their historic data in the way we intend to use it?
  • How can we build consumer trust so they feel comfortable sharing their data?
  • How are we using our data to derive insights so we can deliver personalised, more relevant customer experiences?

So, what’s next? 

For organisations to really build digital into their DNA, CEOs need to be ready to consider investments across a range of areas including customer experience design, data and analytics, product development, technology platforms, people and culture.

Great conversation starters for the next executive meeting may include the following questions:

  • Do we have a clear digital vision?
  • Is our digital vision aligned with our customer and business vision?
  • What are our traditional competitors doing in the digital domain? Are there any emerging new entrants/disrupters?
  • Are we basing the ROI of digital investment on cash returns or Enterprise Valuation?
  • How can we leverage digital to differentiate our overall experience to retain margin and profitability on core services? 
  • How can we leverage data to personalise customer experiences?
  • What could our business be worth if we developed strong digital relationships with every customer we have today?
Opening the dialogue is a great first step but there’s a long journey ahead. For many businesses, having a trusted digital advisory partner can help accelerate their digital transformation.

Solnet helps by providing end-to-end expertise and experience from strategy and customer experience design through to technology delivery and support. For more information and to talk through how we help our clients, please get in touch with Phil Coop, Digital Transformation Director.