July may be the month for fireworks, but this year it was one of lightning strikes and lessons learned for the ARA New York community. On July 14, members and guests came together to hear a highly accomplished group of c-level executives explore the shifting digital landscape at an event we titled “When Lightning Strikes: Conversations with Industry Powerhouses.”
Why “lightning strikes?” Because, through a series of lightning-round interviews with c-suite duos (two CDOs, two CTOs, etc.), we were able to get a very clear picture of how the digital revolution is also transforming roles and responsibilities in the c-suite. What’s changing and how are business leaders navigating today’s digitally driven changes? Here are the five top takeaways from a night that revealed how important collaboration is in this time of unprecedented digital transformation.
Top Five Takeaways
While the night was full of insights, here are five powerful takeaways these IT leaders shared with an audience eager to understand how c-level executives are addressing digital change.
Lesson 1: Business Problems (not Technology) Are the Focus
Several c-leaders underscored the importance of focusing on business needs and problems in the face of digital transformation. It’s easy to be distracted or dazzled by technology but the challenge is to determine what the tool/solution (digital or not) can do to improve the business before moving forward with a purchase or implementation. The lesson? Never build or buy tech for tech’s sake. Do it for greater business performance and advantage.
Lesson 2: Creativity Is a Must
Creativity may not be the first thing you think of when you consider a traditional COO or CTO role, but digital is rapidly throwing tradition out the window. According to the evening’s speakers, digital transformation demands a new level of creative thinking from today’s business and tech leaders. IT leaders cannot focus only on “How do I keep the lights on and our technology secure?” They are now being asked to find and devise creative ways for digital to deliver new revenue and opportunities to the business. Creativity is now an essential skill and one that technology professionals at all levels must hone.
Lesson 3: Embrace Hybrid Roles, Forget Old Titles
The IT leadership roles we once knew well, from CIO to CTO, are changing to include other important business skills that are essential to digital success, such as marketing and customer engagement. For example, some businesses will have a senior-most IT leader whose work looks like that of both a CMO and a CIO. Others might keep the CTO role and add a CDO (Chief Digital Officer) to focus on digital transformation. Whatever the title and/or c-suite team, the fact is that responsibilities are evolving and cross over throughout the c-suite. Leaders will defined by the work and not the title in these transformative years.
Lesson 4: Customer Is King
With all the expanding data and changing tools that come in today’s digital age, it’s easy to lose focus and feel overwhelmed. ARA audience members were reminded by the evening’s speakers that by focusing on the question of “How can we serve the customer better?” businesses will be able to sort out the data and technology that matters from the data and technology that doesn’t. Keeping attention on the customer relationship and experience is one of the most important ways to avoid distraction from the overall business strategy.
Lesson 5: Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate
There is no success in the c-suite or the digital economy without collaboration. Every speaker shared the importance of relying on the domain knowledge and experience of others (from executive peers to departments to boards) to make digital change and solutions work. If collaboration is not your strong suit, start practicing. Digital changes are far-reaching and complex, requiring many skills and many people working together. The better the technology organization is at working with others from across the business, the better the business will do in the digital economy.
More Lessons to Come
ARA will continue to explore digital transformation at several upcoming events. Join us and hear from our leaders and partners on how you and your business can address the technology and business opportunities of today.