How Leaders Take Digital to the Core

October 07, 2015

Contributor: Heather Pemberton Levy

Digital leaders must understand three disruptive forces to lead their enterprises to win.

As organizations evolve their digital business strategies, how do leaders discern what progress looks like and the size of the gap between companies? The difference for those who truly “get it” and harness digital disruption can mean the difference between winning big and failing hard.

Gartner's Mark Raskino and Graham Waller present findings from their new book, "Digital to the Core" to attendees at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo.

In their presentation at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Mark Raskino, distinguished analyst and Gartner Fellow, and Graham Waller, research vice president at Gartner, said that CIOs, CDOs, CEOs, and other executives must understand the three digital forces at work and learn how to remaster leadership for their industries, enterprises and themselves.

Citing an example from their new book, Digital to the Core, the authors shared a story about Babolat, the French sports equipment company founded in 1875. Eric Babolat, CEO, embraced an innovative spirit that first made strings from animal gut, the same material used for violin strings, to revitalize today’s racket with a sensor that digitally captures a player’s swings and serves and communicates this rich data to a smartphone or tablet application.

In doing so, Babolat became, in essence, a technology company. After petitioning for the 31st rule of tennis to allow the use of a connected racket during match play, the company literally changed the game of tennis. To understand how leaders like Mr. Babolat take digital to the core of their products, it helps to see the big picture of three highly disruptive macro forces.

Three Disruptive Digital Forces

  1. Resolution revolution – The effect of our ability to see and sense in finite detail the physical and digital worlds and precisely control things, events, and outcomes.
  1. Compound uncertainty – The intertwined timing opportunity and uncertainty of the three tipping points of technology performance, regulatory change and cultural acceptance.
  1. Boundary blurring – Digital and physical worlds merge and create alterations in industries and organizational structures as we know them.

Leaders who fail to acknowledge and attend to all three forces may miss opportunities, or watch their industries or enterprises subsumed by competitors or start-ups. Mr. Babolat became an early mover in the tennis industry by making a strategic bet and potentially risking the company reputation on a major shift to digital business. On a grander scale, GE has done this by betting on the industrial Internet.

The leaders of these, and other companies making strong digital moves, operate at three levels to remaster leadership for the digital age.

Digital to the Core framework

Three Leadership Levels for Digital Business

Remap your industry – How must your worldview change, and what fundamental industry paradigms must you rethink?

Remodel your enterprise – What does your enterprise need to become, and how will you redefine your company?

Remake yourself – Who do you need to be, and how must you remake yourself as a digital era relevant leader?

Mark Fields, Ford CEO, has remapped the automotive industry by initiating global experiments to rethink transportation and positioning Ford as a “mobility company.” William Ruh, Vice President, Global Technology Director at GE, has led development of the Predix platform to give its large industrial clients the ability to put digital into the core of its products. In essence, leaders who assess the key forces at work, and exploit them to their advantage, can remaster their organizations and themselves to succeed.

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