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The impact of technology on executive leadership

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20/08/2019

Since the arrival of the digital era, the technology department has become an essential and key component of everyday business operations with an influence that extends into all levels of decision making. Gone are the days when technology was an optional add-on to streamline and refine business processes. In fact, technology now takes centre stage and is radically changing the principles and practice of executive leadership.

Ever-increasing digitalisation has resulted in five technological trends that businesses must take note of if they want to be successful in this time of extraordinary innovation.

Transitional Phase

The technology leader can no longer be regarded as a lone ranger in the backroom whose position has little to no bearing on the company’s direction – quite the opposite. Information technology leaders are highly influential executives whose insights directly impact every business operation while accomplishing the company’s mission. This development presents exciting opportunities for the so-called digital natives – the generation that grew up with information technology and instinctively knows how to use it.

In contrast, digital immigrants – those who became familiar with digitalisation at a later age as technology became increasingly important – are moving to the background. However, digital immigrants have a lot to offer to their younger counterparts, the natives, as they have learned valuable skills that must be passed on to the next generation. This transitional phase serves as an interim period where technology brings people together.

Technology Leadership Transformation

An interesting question recently emerged which turns the spotlight on the pivotal role of technology leaders: Is innovation driven by technology or is it advanced by the contribution of up-and-coming technology leaders?

According to Marinka de Groot, Associate Director and Technology Practice Leader at Page Executive in Europe, the digitalisation era is transforming the definition of technological leadership. She observes, ‘The changes go far beyond the small differences that have always existed between leaders in different sectors. The rise of new skills, a new language and new processes has brought greater diversity in leadership, which in turn fuels innovation. There is certainly more creativity involved.’

As digital natives are given a turn at the wheel, development times contract as people understand the technology intuitively. Marinka comments, ‘Where long-term planning used to be the norm, it’s more common now for technology leaders to be agile and focused on the shorter term.’    

Second-Nature Technology 

Technology has pervaded every level of business, from administration to executive management. Where technology was an unfamiliar beast to many people in the past, it is now an automatic part of business, driving change and innovation. Today’s leaders utilise technology with an ease that was unthinkable only ten years ago.

This growing understanding of the seemingly limitless benefits of technology is transforming the business landscape in a radical manner. Marinka explains, ‘We are seeing more and more CTOs appearing in boardrooms and the role has become a necessary component of executive-level positions in business.’

In addition, there’s an increasing demand for CIOs (Chief Information Officer) and CDOs (Chief Digital Officers), highlighting the growing importance of these roles as the people in these positions are given greater influence in the boardroom.  

Success Strategies

Business success in the digital era depends largely on a company’s ability to embrace and exploit the digital era. Businesses that fail to adapt to the rapidly changing environment will struggle to survive in a global economy that is dominated by smart technology.  

Experience is no longer king as the instant success stories by the founders of Facebook and Groupon highlight. These ambitious entrepreneurs in their 20s were launched onto the world stage with only a brilliant business idea and an internet connection. These business ventures turned young digital natives into billionaires, inspiring an entire generation of tech-savvy entrepreneurs who have grown up with technology as an integral part of life.

Marketing and Technology

Marketing has traditionally been seen as an area of expertise reserved for the professionals. However, as digitalisation continues to permeate every sphere of life, marketing must join forces with technology.

The potential is unlimited potential as the time to develop and test a digital product requires less time than physical merchandise. Reality is, technology-minded entrepreneurs can found a company and introduce a trialled product to the market in a matter of months. Consequently, marketing and technology must collaborate to guarantee success.