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The D Suite: Digital, Data and Disruption in 2020 and beyond

By Chris Underwood, Adastrum Consulting highlights the vital skills needed to lead in the digital age. 

The digital skills deficit could cost the UK as much as £63 billion a year[1],making it vital to equip leaders with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate business success in this digital age, as highlighted by executive search and leadership advisory organisation, Adastrum Consulting, who today launches a new report. The latest installment from its successful white paper series, The D Suite: Digital, Data and Disruption in 2020 and beyond, examines the potential for digital innovation to disrupt business models and how leaders can prepare for rapid change.

Critically, the report highlights the importance for all business leaders, regardless of their corporate function, to understand how to exploit technology and data in their organisations and reap the benefits.

Key findings include:

De facto skills for leading in an age of disruption

Nearly 60% of leaders indicated their organisations lacked the sensory and innovative processes to respond to rapid disruption[2], meaning they risk missing out or becoming obsolete. To succeed, leaders will need to grasp:

  • Emerging digital business models – all executives need to understand how the digital economy works, enabling them to exploit the latest developments for business benefits and ensure they themselves are disrupters and are not disrupted
  • Agile working – a culture and a mindset but not a religion. Experience of both agile, process-light cultures and more traditionally structured organisations will help leaders to find a healthy tension between moving at pace and still ensuring processes are there to manage risk and delivery
  • Automation – to identify which processes will benefit from automation and which processes are wrong to start with! Leaders also need to gauge the impact it will have on other job roles and skills in the organisation
  • The value of data – having data is not the answer you seek. It is not a discrete entity but a continual experimental and learning function that needs to be business goal and outcome focussed

Changing Corporate Culture

Data provides organisations with detailed insight into their business and staff, which can be wielded to optimise working practices. Coupled with even greater value placed on customer experience, business structure and culture will adapt, affecting how we organise our teams for efficient and effective delivery. Central areas of change include:

  • Insourcing to create in-house high impact, expert teams
  • Diversity broadened to incorporate diversity of experience and thinking
  • Greater prominence for social and business purpose.

 Developing digital leaders

McKinsey predicts that by 2030, more than 10 million workers in the UK might be under-skilled in digital, decision-making and communication[3], crucial leadership skills. Together with digital knowledge, the latest report identifies behaviours that will support executives to drive organisational change. Adastrum Consulting also recommends an approach to leadership development rooted in the context of delivering success.

 Chris Underwood, Managing Director at Adastrum Consulting, comments:

“We are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution and, as technology continues to advance at a phenomenal rate, it will continue to impact the way we work and conduct business. For leaders, Charles Darwin’s conclusions on evolution aptly resonate: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the most adaptable to change.”

“Leadership does not exist in an empty room, so when planning development, it is vital to consider the operating environment and outcomes that success is measured by. The result is effective leaders with a clear purpose, capable of managing change.”

“With some of the greatest commercial growth in this decade expected to come from automation, never before has it become as urgent for senior decision-makers to develop an understanding of the business benefits and risks new technology can pose. It’s a pivotal time and whether an organisation thrives or loses out to disruptive competitors will wholly depend on how primed its leaders are.”