Written by Kate Doodson and Julie Hawker from Cosmic.
August Monthly Briefing: What Leaders Have Learnt About Technology In The Last Two Years
Over the past 30 months we have seen the rapid development and deployment of a range of digital technologies in business, with the primary aim of building additional resilience into our businesses in order to survive the various impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For many businesses this was a very clear focus on switching to new form of digital engagement to ensure sales and bookings were kept as high as possible, and in other cases the priority was ensuring that requirements for staff to work at home did not badly impact productivity, collaboration and development work. Pretty much every business took time to consider the role that digital was playing in the Spring of 2020, and many have continued that work since.
Digitising your business is now considered an ongoing task rather than a specific project to be progressed in a single timeframe. The rationale even beyond pandemic pressures are clear; lowering operational costs, delivering better customer service, more efficient use of resources, using data insights to develop new sales opportunities and also empowering staff as part of a new digital culture.
Looking back through that timeline what then have we learned as leaders about the ways in which successful businesses have planned, deployed and supported these changes?
From Cosmic’s direct experience of supporting businesses pre-pandemic and all through the past 3 years, there are some constant challenges and opportunities which focus heavily on leaders, their staff and their role in the business.
1. Leaders- we have seen that successful leaders are taking responsibility for technology and not delegating key strategic decisions to their IT Manager/Director. They are understanding the direct link between business growth and the technology that underpins their organisation. Great leaders are investing in new talent – developers for PowerApps and Automation to exploit the investment in the technology suite they have.
2. Managers – Leaders are identifying the crucial role that managers play in supporting changes to culture. Great leaders are supporting managers to be sensitive to the changes created by technology and to spot those that are sabotaging the culture or struggling with the ambiguity of change and technical skills that challenge us all.
3. IT departments – Leaders are realising that their current IT team need new skills. Investing in their CPD to develop skills in Data, Cyber, MS365 administration and Power Suite training is crucial to the success of our new world businesses. Great leaders structure their IT teams to enable quick win development that creates swift change in the staff culture and acceptance of new technologies.
Steps to Create the Changes Needed:
- Engage your leaders and managers – open up the discussion and have clarity about the requirements on them from a digital/IT perspective. Talk about the problems they face in their operational day.
- Work out the best ways to support your leaders and managers in their personal development in digital – there are many courses available, of course, but some will prefer mentoring and coaching, whilst others embrace learning with their peer group.
- Review the statements and narrative in the business about the use of digital technologies – audit your digital culture and find the ways which will make it positive, engaging and motivating for all staff.
- Develop a process that helps people understand the role of digital innovation in the business, and that its everyone’s job too. Make this simple, fun and use every opportunity to secure cases of successful deployment.
- Review the roles and job descriptions in your IT teams. It is time to shift them to ensure these staff are supporting learning for others, and engaging in collaboration on digital improvements and innovations.
- Think about developing different roles in the IT Team to create change – innovation, power apps developer etc.
Increasingly we can also see how much businesses and their staff are motivated to achieve targets in environmental impact reduction. This too is becoming a major way to inspire, engage and progress with digital skills and knowledge. There are a large number of ways in which digital can successfully be implemented to drive down environmental impact, including some basic best practice in using core technologies as well as the obvious switch to virtual meetings instead of in-person to reduce carbon emissions.