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Are you a digital leader or a digital dinosaur?

That digitalisation has fundamentally changed businesses is not news. Forward-thinking and proactive companies in all sectors have embraced digitalisation and gained the upper hand over those stuck in old routines and ways of working. What is it that makes some companies take the lead in the digital evolution? Are there key factors that explain why others are falling behind? Is there any hope for digital dinosaurs or will they meet a cruel fate?

To understand what separates the digital leader from the dinosaur, we spoke to Nicklas Henriksson, Vice President and Head of Marketing at AddPro. Together we discuss the difference between leaders and dinosaurs, while making some predictions for the future.

- Put simply, the difference between a digital leader and a digital dinosaur is that the former has a digital strategy for the business that is well grounded in digital developments and that permeates the entire business. Where the digital leader sees IT and technology as an opportunity for innovation and business development, the digital dinosaur sees IT primarily as a cost," says Nicklas.

What characteristics do we find in a digital leader?

The hallmark of a digital leader is the courage to experiment while daring to persevere. A thorough digital strategy must allow for experimentation and innovation but also be flexible so that the organisation can learn from failure. Historically, many companies worked with business plans and later IT plans in five years. Today, most IT plans are for one or two years at most. While the span of the IT plan is getting shorter, it still needs to be long-term. It takes time to build digital capital that delivers returns.

- Initially, the components of the digital strategy are monsters that need to be fertilized with data. Once the monster has been tamed and filled with data, it begins to give back in the form of more efficient processes, higher quality data and better decision-making information. The key is to work consistently over time to maximise the return. Transformation doesn't happen in weeks, it requires everyone to work towards a common goal in a structured way.

As an example, Nicklas mentions a variant of the now classic Uber example. Uber has a strategy and business plan that is entirely based on digitalisation, with a corporate culture characterised by a thirst for innovation. When Uber wants to test a new service, the tools and the digital platform are already in place.

- Let's say Uber wants to test helicopter taxis. A new helicopter option is added to the app and a number of helicopters are hired for the test site. Without much financial risk, a pilot can be quickly launched and evaluated before being rolled out more broadly or terminated as a learning experience.

Another factor that separates leaders from the dinosaur is how the company views failure. The leader sees failure as an opportunity to learn, the other looks for scapegoats and sets increasingly strict guidelines that limit the scope for innovation.

Is the IT department disappearing?

IT as a concept and as a business function is in transformation. Nicklas makes the comparison with the "power" department that existed in companies at the turn of the last century. Power was something new, was often produced locally and was not a given in all parts of the company. The power department was responsible, among other things, for ensuring that there was power in the sockets that were installed and for installing new ones as the need grew.


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- Today, it would be rather absurd to have a CVO, a Chief Voltage Officer, with his own department responsible for the power in the company. IT looks set to meet the same fate.

For a digital leader, the IT department's transformation can take one of two directions:

In the future, no one will work in the IT department. Instead, IT will be an integral part of all aspects of the business. There may be a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) or similar in the management team, and the digital strategy will be an obvious item at all board meetings.

In the future, everyone will work in the "IT department". IT has become business-driven and the business is driven by digital innovation for business development involving all employees.

In contrast, the digital dinosaur keeps its IT department intact and lets it get on with business as usual with firewalls, domain administration and installing software on computers - instead of working as an integrated support to the business. An outdated view of the IT department risks becoming a brake that only sees threats and problems. The digital dinosaur is simply letting an outdated view of IT get in the way of innovation and development.

How does a dinosaur break his mindset?

Too many companies are stuck in business as usual, feeling digital with emails on the phone and Skype meetings. Everyday life rolls on without anything dramatic happening. At first, the losses are hidden in missed business opportunities that are not immediately visible, but which in the long run erode profitability and risk threatening the entire business.

- Above all, it is about daring to question and opening up to innovation. The IT transformation is really a business transformation that fundamentally changes the company's operations. Companies that innovate and are not afraid to fail, but learn from failure, have a bright future," Nicklas concludes.

Is your company a leader or a dinosaur? Take our quiz and find out. Once you've got the answer, we'll help you take the next step no matter where your company is on the digitalisation journey. We can help you sharpen your digital strategy or just get started. Read our useful Blog or book a workshop and we can promise you that your business will be working smarter, more efficiently and more securely in no time.