Transformational Leadership in the Digital Economy
The digital economy is changing everything a business touches: customer experience, employee engagement, operations and everything else in between. The use of technology to drive significantly better outcomes, not just productivity improvements, is driving massive change in every industry. To stay ahead of this disruption and take charge of our own transformation, SAP established the SAP Digital business unit in 2015. In this vein, I’m excited to be part of a panel on February 22 at VentureBeat’s Marketing.FWD Summit 2016 discussing “What Does Transformational Leadership Mean in a Digital Age.” During this, I’ll be sharing the story from the frontlines of establishing a new direct-to-consumer business, SAP Digital.
The mission of SAP Digital is to allow anyone to buy and use SAP and third-party offerings with minimal human interaction. We’re now offering solutions to anyone, including those who may have never done business with SAP before. We’re empowering people to buy and use our offerings via a self-service model without having to rely on anyone else – in sales or IT.
Transforming a global, 44-year old company like SAP isn’t easy. It calls for deep organizational and internal changes. Companies looking to succeed in the digital economy must transform themselves by reinventing their business models, strategies, processes and practices. Within SAP Digital, we have followed a “4P approach” – Platform, Products, Processes and People – to make this real for our team. Since the topic of the panel discussion is leadership, I expect us to cover People aspects the most.
To begin with, digital requires new thinking within the company, a new mindset. But how do you foster a digital mindset? Within a large organization like SAP, we believe that culture is as important as the strategy. We’re focused on finding digital talent with the mentality of a startup, but with the ability to operate at worldwide scale.
To root these mindsets across the organization, it is required for mangers to take risks and experiment more than ever. People need to be encouraged to try new things, challenge the status quo and experiment. Even if things go wrong, it shouldn’t be viewed as failure but a great learning experience that can lead to improved performance the next time.
In today’s rapidly changing business environment, time is of the essence. You can’t overlook the need for speed. Everyone is used to getting what they want, when they want it in the digital economy. Waiting for everyone to get engaged can become an excuse not to do anything. Every second counts. Understand that you won’t persuade everyone to get on-board. Accept that but keep moving forward.
Also keep in mind that you can’t force change. It’s best to describe a series of small steps the organization can take to implement change. People are more willing to take small steps versus being given a mandate. And be collaborative. Involve people on your team and across the organization in conversations, online chats, and other ways that make it easy to express themselves. I have a personal philosophy across my team: “Make that call. Take that call”.
Leading is difficult in this time of profound change. It’s affecting how we experience life, how we consume and manage resources, and how we work. Take a hands-on approach, be curious, be open to new ideas. And understand that many times disruption happens from those outside your industry. As an organization planning its own transformation, we plan to be better prepared to deal with disruption when it happens.
VentureBeat’s Marketing.FWD Summit 2016 will be held in New York on February 22. I’ll be part of the panel discussion on “What Does Transformational Leadership Mean in a Digital Age” being held from 3:40 – 4:10 p.m. ET, which also includes Kieran Hannon, Chief Marketing Officer, Belkin International; Barbara Messing, Chief Marketing Officer, TripAdvisor; and Michael Burgess, former President of Digital for Hudson’s Bay Company.