10 reasons why digital transformations fail

By Clint Boulton

Digital transformations remain fashionable. CIOs are stitching together cloud, APIs and microservices into platforms to augment business processes. Agile architectures, they believe, help streamline operations and better serve customers.

Forty-seven percent of 510 business and tech leaders claim that their organization is advancing digital transformation plans across the enterprise, according to research conducted by consultancy TEKsystems in late 2019.

The harsh reality is that such transformations often feel like mirages: cool and inviting from afar, but less real as they progress along the path. Often the biggest misstep is the inability to account for the cultural change required to pull off enterprise-wide transformation.

Getting blindsided by the COVID-19 isn’t doing organizations any favors on their transformation journeys, but even those who keep most of their budgets intact, there are very specific impediments to driving wholesale enterprise change. Here are 10 stumbling blocks derailing digital transformations. Continue reading

The Psychology Behind Effective Crisis Leadership

by Gianpiero Petriglieri

When I ask groups of managers what makes a good leader, I seldom have to wait long before someone says, “Vision!” and everyone nods. I have asked that question countless times for the past 20 years, to cohorts of senior executives, middle managers, and young students from many different sectors, industries, backgrounds, and countries. The answer is always the same: A vision inspires and moves people. Expansion, domination, freedom, equality, salvation — whatever it is, if a leader’s vision gives us direction and hope, we will follow. If you don’t have one, you can’t call yourself a leader.

This enchantment with vision, I believe, is the manifestation of a bigger problem: a disembodied conception of leadership. Visions hold our imagination captive, but they rarely have a positive effect on our bodies. In fact, we often end up sacrificing our bodies in the pursuit of different kinds of visions, and celebrating that fact — whether it is by dying for our countries or working ourselves to exhaustion for our companies. Visions work the same way whether mystics or leaders have them: They promise a future and demand our life. In some cases, that sacrifice is worth it. In others, it is not. Just as it can ignite us, a vision can burn us out. Continue reading

8 tips for driving digital strategy during COVID-19

By Clint Boulton

From deliverable schedules to procurement windows, virtually every IT timeline has been compressed by the coronavirus crisis. Those three- to five-year horizons for digital transformations? They’ve shrunk to months thanks to the pandemic, say some CIOs and consultants.

As is often the case, the truth is more nuanced. Big Bang transformations have been streamlined — not sidelined — in favor of short-term priorities. Having stabilized email, boosted bandwidth and battle-tested VPNs to fulfill mandatory work-from-home policies, CIOs have set their sights on innovation. Companies such as Nationwide have digitized software development to accommodate employees working remotely and to serve customers without a hitch.

The new normal

Such is the new normal for most large companies, and IT “will be in the middle of that,” according to Rick Pastore, senior research director of The Hackett Group. Mobile devices and software, cloud and other digital tools grant CIOs greater flexibility than they’ve had previously in supporting how and where employees work, Pastore says.

Moreover, objections to smart automation, machine learning, advanced analytics and other emerging technologies that require robust investments will “melt away” — if they haven’t already, Pastore predicts. Many CIOs have created new analytics dashboards to chart productivity and have built bots to digitize manual tasks. Others have changed the way they meet with business peers during the pandemic, with a mind toward preserving that method in the future. Continue reading

Now Is an Unprecedented Opportunity to Hire Great Talent

by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz

While the Covid-19 pandemic hits and reshapes companies, industries, national economies, and our society in previously unthinkable ways, business leaders need to think beyond survival to the opportunities this crisis might create, not only for their own organizations but the greater good. Chief among these is a chance to hire talented people at a time when they might have trouble finding or keeping jobs elsewhere.

According to The Economist, four-fifths of CEOs worry about skill shortages — up from half in 2012 — while outside hiring at the top reached record highs, causing business for large global search firms to increase by 9% to 15% last year.

Now, many companies are laying off workers and downsizing. Some sectors are collapsing. It seems an unprecedented number of people, around the world, from new graduates to seasoned veterans, will be looking for employment. At the same time, a major force that had been fueling the intensity of the war for talent — globalization — might recede. As companies revisit their international expansion strategies and cross-border business practices, workers are recalculating their personal purpose and individual and family priorities, with serious implications for their geographic and work preferences and travel habits. Continue reading

Keep Your People Learning When You Go Virtual

by Annie Peshkam and Gianpiero Petriglieri

Over the past five years, we have been taking our work online deliberately and at a steady pace. At INSEAD, the business school where we work, we’ve been expanding virtual meetings, ramping up virtual classes and coaching, and introducing digital tools to enhance face-to-face work. Then, in the past few weeks, everything else moved online, too. As in many organizations, the transition happened almost overnight in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis that has disrupted everyone’s private as well as working lives.

In such conditions, organizations and leaders might be forgiven for going into survival mode and putting learning aside. Companies do that all the time: They pause major learning initiatives, such as training courses, and minor ones, such as process checks after team meetings. They slash learning budgets and cancel mentoring sessions in a downturn. In times of upheaval, anxiety runs high and the instinct to preserve the world as we know it takes over. Leaders put aside their intent to include and develop, and revert to command and control. “Forget learning!” the thinking goes. We can’t afford it when we need to secure operations and get the basics done.”

This is dangerous. Like all major crises, and perhaps more than most, the COVID-19 pandemic is bound to leave behind lasting changes in the way work and business take place. Learning will be the foundation of our survival, then, for both organizations and the individuals who make them up. As the world shifts to online work and businesses struggle to reinvent themselves, organizations need to learn what kinds of new products and services will appeal to their consumers and learn how to create them. Leaders must learn how to keep a distributed workforce focused, energized, and attuned to customers’ changing needs. Continue reading