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Digital leaders: Four things you should be known for in tough times

Our customers are some of the world’s largest heavy-asset companies who in recent years have started the work to digitalize their operations and workforces. This week, as their industries reel from the coronavirus pandemic, plummeting demand, and a crashing market, we’ve heard their worries about the well-being of their companies, their digital transformation programs, and whether they would be able to maintain the progress they’ve made in recent years.

In these uncertain times where health, macroeconomic, and business landscapes seem to be shifting from day to day, it’s these very leaders in digital, innovation, and IT who may be uniquely positioned to play crucial roles in their business’ well-being. Here are four reasons why:

You have the tools to react fast and recover fast.

Digital leaders these days have at their disposal an array of new resources, including agile teams, reliable data sources, internal channels, and countless communication tools that make real-time monitoring, rapid response, executive and employee engagement, and flexible work environments possible. These should be seen as outriggers used to stabilize their organization through rough patches. Digital leaders are just as crucial to crisis navigation and mitigation as CEOs and PR heads, and need to fully own their foresight in lobbying for, developing, and running these crisis-critical platforms.

You and your organization are our best navigators.

Motivation and morale are everything in a struggling organization. Given the power and breadth of digital leaders’ platforms, planning, and vision, they should have an armament of projects in the pipeline to point a demoralized workforce toward. Projects that demonstrate value creation and cost savings, that instill a sense of security, and empower a sense of innovation. At worst, a steady drumbeat of real digital, IT, and innovation milestones can still counteract uncertainty. But at best, it helps senior leadership define an inspiring, sunnier horizon line for the organization to set its sights on, long past the current crisis.

You help everyone become innovators.

And you can leverage this future-facing vision for the health of your department and your company. You’ve built, or are in the midst of building, an organization that explores ways to use digital tools, platforms, and data to build a better, more robust, agile, and efficient company. What better way to do this than by empowering your functions to deliver beyond just digitalization initiatives, but also to influence, educate, and retool your entire workforce to think and act more like innovators? 

You’re naturally able to think big and act precisely.

Digital leaders run organizations that work both in real-time contexts to handle the acute crises of the moment and also to plan for the bigger picture. They understand larger shifts in the industry, not least among them, how digital transformation, security, and sustainability are business-critical, and set a strategic direction that can guide the organization through long-term developments, threats, and opportunities. The crisis triggered by the coronavirus activates both the reactive and the strategic, proactive dimensions of digital, innovation, and IT leaders.

The real value lies in how quickly and creatively they can leverage their talent and tools internally and externally in the short term, but also how well they can long-tail the lessons learned and guide their organization in the long term.

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