Business Executives – the mandated architects of transformation – need Digital Literacy
We work in an era of rapid business transformation – led by an explosion in the creation of data, exponential improvements in technology capabilities and a renewed focus on the customer. Opportunities to do things better abound. But are Business Executives with the mandate of transformation adequately literate in the field of Digital? Or is the tail wagging the dog too often…?
Business Executives, not technologists, have the mandate to transform business, but to do this they need to understand the tools of the trade:
Executives with a clear strategic direction – a true north, a clear picture of what success will look like, have an ever-expanding toolbox of data and technologies at their disposal to shape the future of their departments, businesses and industries. As the real architects of change – the individuals with the true mandate from shareholders, boards or executive committees – these are the folks that need to shape the future state of their businesses. As with any good architect, understanding the latest tools, techniques and methods to build the future structure, business leaders need to understand the new digital tools, the basic flow and form of data and the key principles underpinning digital transformation opportunities.
However, the technology world appears complex, confusing and noisy:
The trouble is, tech is an industry built on acronyms, fueled by hype and often masked by overly technical descriptors. A decade ago in the era of ERP, basic reporting – where tech simply automated well established traditional processes, it was just easier to suppress the understanding of it to the basement IT department under the complex management of the CIO or IT Director. However, the opportunity set in the current age of Data-driven businesses, Advanced Analytics, Robotics and others, technology now touches directly on the fundamentals of what a business does (or could do) and how it does it. The leaders of departments and businesses, those with the mandate of shaping the future of the business need to equip themselves with a deeper understanding of these new technologies. They need to cut through the jargon, listen through the noise of the hype, and seek to gain a high-level technical understanding based on simplifying what an industry has expended a great deal of effort to keep shrouded in complexity. Executives need to be empowered to be able to identify digital opportunities directly. A high-level knowledge of programming, data – how it’s created, moved and stored – a basic understanding of databases, a conceptual grasp of how machine intelligence works, and the basic constructs of robotics – as some examples – will enable this.
As a result, they will be freed to from the dependence on others with less experience and knowledge of their domain – rather engaging them appropriately for only detailed expertise and technical input to build the vision that they see.
In the construction world, Architects are not engineers nor are they builders. They don’t need to understand technical detail tools and methods of the build and certainly need to engage consulting engineers to get advice on final design specifications and approach for safety and efficiency. However, they absolutely need to be scholars of the principles, tools, methods and materials of building – and know where to look for more detailed information and advice.
As the Architects of the change, the creators of the future business canvas, executives today need to be scholars of the principles, tools, methods and materials of their industry. In this digital age – these are increasingly made up of data and digital components.
Fortunately, the basic principles of this complex world are not that difficult to grasp:
To be successful executives need a degree of digital literacy. The good news is that the broad concepts of digital technology – while made up of very complex tools, built on mind-bogglingly detailed code on similarly complex electronics – are actually quite simple and logical at the 30000ft view. Programming as a concept is easy to understand. Being fluent in the multitude of diverse languages takes years, but understanding the benefits of one versus another, their key characteristics and use cases is fairly straightforward. Databases and the management of data is a field that requires deep knowledge to master, but to understand capabilities and what is possible and what’s not with certain broad data sets is again not rocket science. What Robotic Process Automation is and how it principally works is easy, granted – building it is not. Even Blockchain, hyped and often mislabeled with the noise of Crypto Currency markets, is essentially a very simple financial concept of an irrefutable real-time distributed ledger – enabled by smart distributed computing.
Business Executives not frightened by technology but digitally literate – seeking to understand – will be the real Architects of Digital Transformation.
Executives that seek to understand technology and refuse to accept the tech industry’s tendency to make things more complex than they are conceptually – shrouding digital toolsets in magical mystery – executives that see through the mystery and complexity to achieve digital literacy in this digital age, will be the successful architects of their business’s future.