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Future ready leadership now is key to harnessing digital opportunities

Aurecon’s Our Digital Futures research answers the most pressing questions relating to digital and highlights actions that can be taken to both make sense of the now and to be future-ready.

In this article, Aurecon’s Chief Digital Officer, Andrew Maher talks about some of the key insights from the first wave of Aurecon's market research – The Digital Landscape – and how future ready leadership is critical in preparing organisations for digital change. 

Is ‘digital’ a magical pathway to a land of infinite possibility?

It can help us solve problems and overcome challenges, be more efficient, work smarter and generate new opportunities. How well you transition, transform and traverse through the complex and rapidly changing digital terrain will determine your reality.

Three years ago Aurecon released its first digital futures research, looking at how new technologies would shape and alter organisations. Interestingly, most people were well aligned on where the opportunities sat and what the barriers were. They identified with four clear areas – possibilities, inertia, knowing your customer, and the importance of people – but there weren’t many who had actually started programs to do something about moving forward. There was a sense of anxiety about digitisation, mostly associated with not knowing where to start.

Fast forward to 2019 and Aurecon’s new Our Digital Futures market research reveals there is now a willingness amongst organisations to walk – actually, run – headfirst into the complex digital landscape. In just three years the question has changed from ‘Should we do it?’ to ‘What do we do next?’.

But running headlong into an unknown future can be dangerous, overwhelming and riddled with wrong turns. Digitisation is more than just tinkering with a few analytics tools or sensors. It goes far beyond simple system upgrades or the odd bit of optimisation. Those who continue down this path are at great risk of being left behind the digital curve.

The three Cs: challenge, configure, clarity

To accelerate quickly requires a move from ‘digital’ being an add on, or a tick box exercise, to being a critical part of your business strategy.

Digitisation is about challenging the current ways of working, and organisations that are asking the right questions and configuring themselves properly to look outwardly (as well as internally) are the businesses making significant headway.

Those reaping benefits also have a clear, shared understanding of what ‘digital’ means and clarity around ownership of it within their organisation. There is cultural change, bridging of skills gaps and importantly, they are looking into the future to create opportunities for new revenue.

Organisations that are ahead on the digital curve have moved past the hype around big data. They realise the importance of finding the right data and understand the process to get it. They are clear on their goals and are using data to develop actionable insights to inform priorities for their organisation, and to enable decisions to improve operational performance and create new market opportunities.

Understand what’s possible, understand your organisation

To be strategic and to see what’s possible, understanding your organisation is critical. Those with a well thought through and centrally managed digital strategy are quickly moving from optimisation of an existing organisation to planning where the organisation will go next.

A strategy which changes the focus from accelerating what you are currently doing, to stepping into new territory and taking different, pertinent approaches, can enable outcomes that haven’t been possible before. It can enable questions to be asked that haven’t been able to be asked before; and to solve problems that were always there but too complex and difficult to tackle.

Owning ‘digital’ and harnessing bright ideas

As organisations become more strategic with their vision and strive to achieve the things we can see on the horizon, a different workforce with different skills is needed – you can’t just hire a few data scientists, put them in a corner and expect that to magically realise the possibilities.

Critical to success is having well defined ownership of ‘digital’. Without a chief digital executive with a seat at the top table, innovation won’t be amplified, initiatives will remain siloed, and the demands of a ‘now’ mindset will stifle the growth and disruption required to thrive.

A community of digital leadership

With speed to market being critical in this current landscape of digitisation, organisations need to quickly move from what is done today, to what will be done in 3–5 years, to what will happen into the future (McKinsey’s 3 horizons of growth). The speed at which you move through these horizons – your H-Velocity – is hugely impacted by how well, or poorly, an organisation can structure itself to manage the journey. Those doing it well maintain a portfolio approach to managing each horizon, create specific roles and establishing a community of digital leadership. This creates responsibility for leadership at all levels and enables organisations to think about solving things today, while at the same time thinking well ahead.

A complete roadmap no matter where you are in your digital journey

Inaction is no longer an option, even if knowing where to start can be daunting. Whether you are more advanced in your digital journey, or just at the beginning,

Our Digital Futures market research will provide a roadmap, laying out steps and actions to make sense of the now and make those possibilities a reality to help you thrive in the rapidly approaching future.

The first wave of Our Digital Futures was released in July 2019. The research will be released over three waves as The Digital Landscape, The Future of Digital and Your Digital Strategy.

To learn more and read the full report for the first wave, visit ‘Our Digital Futures’ at Aurecon.

About the Author

Andrew Maher is Aurecon's Chief Digital Officer and a member of the Aurecon Executive Committee. He leads the development and delivery of the firm's global digital strategy and roadmap.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse as Why future ready leadership, now, will accelerate your digital journey by Andrew Maher.

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