In this blog, I share highlights from my Executive Technology Board – a meeting with 12 leaders from some of the world's most innovative enterprises. We covered four main topics to explore how they drive digital transformation.
1. Technology leaders as catalysts of transformation
Today, board members see technology as a game-changing business enabler instead of a piece of infrastructure. As this view of technology evolves, so do the responsibilities of technology leaders – which is why they're moving from the server room to the boardroom.
As technology leaders shift from running operations to co-creating new business models – and transition from a flight engineer role to a pilot role – they require greater collaboration with their business counterparts. They can guide the business to think less about technology-as-a-service and more about technology-as-a-strategy.
At the same time, we've seen a proliferation of digital roles converging as organizations mature. But as demand for technology rises the scope of these roles is becoming unmanageable – and a blend of business and IT knowledge is increasingly important. Indeed, some of the best tech leaders also lead the digital upskilling across the rest of the business – even in the boardroom.
2. Looking at data as a 'first-class citizen'
Every company wants to become a data-driven business. But what does this look like, and what does it take to get there?
Think of the front and back office as two halves of a whole – each getting data right on their own, but the connection is crucial. Though the back office focuses on data infrastructure, governance, and insights-sharing, this is defensive work that needs to run seamlessly at scale. However, the front office is on the offensive to deliver new business models, higher customer value, and sticky consumer experiences.
On the other hand, data and technology must become two separate asset classes. And data requires far more governance and ownership – with accountability flowing back to the business. It's been interesting to discover how much of a journey, not a destination, data really is. Even for truly data-driven companies, day-to-day data management and government continue to evolve.
Choice and cost are also important considerations, especially as the volume and diversity of data grow exponentially – businesses must rethink where to keep and how to manage data, at the center or at the edge. But many enterprises still spend time on wasted reporting. To focus on quality over quantity, forward-thinking technology leaders are creating a core set of reports and pushing leadership to use common data in management meetings.
3. Innovating and disrupting with technology
Emerging technologies including NFTs, the metaverse, and AR/VR are pushing the boundaries of innovation. But true innovation comes from industrialization, not experimentation. That calls for a foundation of people and processes that can support change. It's why the best technology leaders are actually business leaders with technology in their DNA.
When it comes to disrupting, technology leaders are thinking through what to control centrally and what level of innovation to allow at the edge – closest to where the demand lies. Of course, the challenge of integrating new and existing technologies continues, especially regarding interoperability and industry standards.
What's becoming clear is the distinction between a culture of innovation versus a culture of invention. Innovation brings the best external ecosystem capabilities together, riding on the shoulders of others and then focusing on the differentiated added value. This is instead of reinventing all the component pieces – something that can feel good in the short term but over the long run is non-scalable and can dilute the return on your investment.
4. Creating a framework for governance
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns are rising to the top of the agenda for every enterprise. Technology leaders are starting to lead the environmental conversation at their companies by taking a data-driven approach to environmental impact. The social agenda is also top of mind for technology leaders, with many supporting programs aimed at upskilling and training underrepresented and under-supported demographics.
In terms of governance, cybersecurity is always a concern. Many leaders are adopting an "isolate first, investigate later" approach – a change from the "find the problem and fix it" method once considered essential, but which now raises concerns around long-term business viability. The everyday focus is on industrialized blocking and tackling, but emergency patching, zero trust networks, and architectural segmentation – including preparation, reporting, and remediation – are key considerations.
Leaders lead together
As I write this, I know that we are in a time like no other. And there isn't an operating manual in place for the digital journey ahead. That's why the collective wisdom that comes from shared learning across industries is transformational. Contrary to traditional opinion, leaders must always lead together.