Digital Leadership

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Digital leadership is the strategic use of a company’s digital assets to achieve business goals.

Digital leaders create small, highly empowered teams. They trust these teams to perform, and they hold them accountable for customer impact. They build real-time information systems to support decision making, and they expect these teams to start small, iterate, experiment, and adapt. They look at their business as platforms, not just as products and services. And they design the platform around systems that can be extended, that can adapt, and that can deliver real-time information to managers at all levels.

Here’s an example to put this into context. One large media organization faces large incumbent players and operates in a market that is growing quickly. Rather than using traditional top-down management practices, the company organized itself into small business units, each of which operates in a local geography.

Geographic business units are responsible for hiring the right people, selling their products, and provisioning new customers. They know the local market, promote their offerings in the community, and often serve as community leaders. They are given tremendous local responsibility, and many of their local leaders come from outside the industry.

To support this decentralized, empowered organization, the company built a real-time, mobile-enabled information platform. Everything this company does, from hiring to customer acquisitions to service to employee engagement, is done through mobile apps. District managers and leaders in headquarters can monitor hiring, customer growth, employee satisfaction, and customer satisfaction in real time. So while these small teams are highly empowered, they are also highly accountable.

To promote innovation and local service, the company hires people with entrepreneurial backgrounds and gives them freedom to design promotions, sales programs, and marketing events however they like. The teams share information widely through the company’s video communication network, and everyone in the company uses standard mobile apps to communicate.

Leaders are intimately involved in the architecture, culture, and metrics of the company, hiring people who can innovate and grow a business and holding them accountable with a minimum of midlevel management. The senior leadership team meets often to look at metrics and trends.

One of the keys to this kind of digital leadership is the ability to morph the company as the business changes. We call this operating structure the “network of teams.” Rather than operating through a traditional hierarchy, the company looks at each geographic unit as a small “reseller.”


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