If your company isn’t moving aggressively to digitally transform now, you’re already behind. Digital transformation is the recognition that what made your company successful got you to a certain point, and it will no longer carry you forward. That is especially applicable in 2020. Leadership can pose the biggest hurdle toward digital transformation, not technology. Here are five strategies to ensure your company not only survives this time of uncertainty and abrupt change, but also thrives.

Mike Mahon, CEO, Zia Consulting

1. Do more listening than talking

Listening is the best quality that leaders can have. Listening was one of the hardest leadership traits for me to develop. Usually, listening earns you recognition later in your career. Early in your career, recognition comes from being right. Leaders have the most to gain from being curious, flexible, and agile both in how they learn and how they lead teams to work. Leaders are inevitably pushed in different directions, resulting in successes and failures along the way. The best leaders prevent themselves from being shaped too much by these experiences. 


2. Disrupt your business

Ask your employees if they’re happy. Ask your customers if they’re pleased with the technology that you give them. Their answers will make it clear that you’ll need to disrupt your business. Fear and uncertainty influence us as we come out of this round of Coronavirus and the oil crash. Leaders who make data-driven decisions and communicate frequently with their teams will come out of this ahead.

Right now, the biggest disruptors are the companies that are rethinking business problems. Starting with trusted data, they’re throwing fresh ideas at old business problems. Machine learning and AI are making impacts, as are retaining your talent. Leaders who can trust their data can also trust they’re making good business decisions. Look a little left and a little right, and you’ll see people disrupting every market.


3. Embrace transparency

Hope isn’t a strategy. So many companies throw stuff against the wall, hoping it’s the right strategy. It doesn’t work out, which is why for the last decade, we’ve offered what we call a rescue practice. We help people evaluate whether they made the right technological choice. If they did, we determine why it failed, and how to overcome it. From there, we help teams create incremental project delivery wins every 60 – 90 days. This repeated success creates a culture of winning and fundamentally changes how organizations deliver software.

The human element of digital transformation can be the most challenging when the decision makers are the same people who built these successful ECM systems. The realization that the system you built 15 to 20 years ago may no longer be the digital system you need now is very hard. The status quo is attractive when the culture of leadership is resistant to disruption and change. The only problem? Start-ups are chipping away at margin, EBITA, and the customer bases of legacy businesses. 


4. Take an agile approach

The fear of failure and agility are the two biggest hurdles to executing a vision. Being agile results in leaders learning quickly and quickly making decisions. Normally, the enterprise software delivery cycle is around 18 months to 2-3 years depending on the size of the organization. By focusing on 90-day windows, leaders can succeed or fail in small ways. Delivering features and functionality in three-month projects drives real value.


5. Practice gratitude

In times of great change and uncertainty, it is easy to fall into the head trash trap. If you find yourself uncertain about which direction to take, unclear if you have the right people and just can’t get your head clear, find someone to serve. This simple expression of gratitude clears your mind and often gets you out of your head. Interestingly enough, this approach works in organizations as well, and will start you on the path to solving digital transformation and disruption the same way.


Digital Transformation During Hard Times

Leadership will be what makes or breaks companies in 2020. Leadership can be problematic and defend the status quo. On the other hand, it can also create a culture of winning. By listening, disrupting the status quo, and embracing transparency and agility, your company can not only survive but thrive during and after the pandemic. Implementing and improving digital processes under the right leadership can be more powerful and effective than the technology itself.

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