Dealing with the digital enterprise land grab

Dealing with the digital enterprise land grab

Being a digital leader means more than just a change in job title, writes Kevin Noonan of Ovum.

Darwinian logic will determine the fate of many contemporary enterprises

The sheer scale of this change has created opportunities for companies to be more innovative, and to rethink the traditional boundaries between the business and the consumer. Organisations that fail to evolve will eventually fail to exist. Charles Darwin would have been pleased at the prospect of having his 19th century theories of evolution applied to 21st century digital enterprises.

Against this background, the reported land grab for corporate C-level positions would appear to miss the point. An old movie, Crocodile Dundee, once described such turf battles as “like two fleas arguing over who owns the dog”.

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Digital leadership is all about the external customer, and the need to build an agile organisation that can respond to changing customer requirements. Digital leadership will therefore need to be achieved through collaborative alignment across management structures, not by carving out discrete stovepipes of individual turf.

Job titles are important, but structure alone will not be sufficient

Organisational charts and job titles are important because they send a strong message about corporate direction and priorities. However, it would be unreasonable to expect that simply changing roles at the top of the organisation will by itself create a more innovative and digitally focused enterprise.

It is important to address the pragmatics of structure and how these structures can be used in driving change in a contemporary enterprise. The traditional organisational chart is just one component of the true structure of the organisation. Scratch the surface of any organisation and staff will quickly report how things really get done. The true structure is a combination of management + leadership + governance + culture. If any of these four factors are in contention, culture almost always wins out.

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Many years ago, when IT managers first appeared in the corporate workplace, they were tasked with being advocates of technology and change. Today, IT managers must take care not to become typecast as the enforcers of the status-quo in a workplace that is fast becoming populated by technology advocates. The title of digital leadership belongs with the manager who is best positioned to actually deliver digital leadership, not just the manager who wants the title.

Kevin Noonan ( is research director, public sector, at Ovum.

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