Transforming an organisation through technology could be one of the hardest challenges that any business professional can face. The opportunities are so wide ranging, the speed of change so rapid, the potential effects (negative or positive) so all encompassing, that it is hard to imagine any one individual could control all of the process. And yet the buck must stop somewhere!
As leaders, you set the strategy and goals of an organisation. Setting strategy sounds like a complex undertaking but really it comes down to answering three fairly simple questions:
- Where do we want to be? Set a vision, or – if you prefer – a direction of travel.
- Where are we now? Identify the gap between the current reality and the desired vision.
- How are we going to get there? Leaders of larger organisations won’t necessarily be involved in the hands-on development of a strategic road-map, but they will set constraints like risk appetite, ethical requirements, senior roles and responsibilities, and measures that indicate when and whether the desired destination has been reached.
So, what strategic governance principles help you achieve your business’ strategic vision? There are six key principles for you to keep in mind:
- Command of the subject: You must have adequate knowledge to lead the investment in and uses made of digital technology. This requires adequate situational awareness to ensure that strategic decisions are informed by the current and likely future situation.
- Accountable officers: In all but the smallest organisations, you are likely to need someone to manage strategic digital technology issues and report back to the board. This may well be a Chief Digital Officer.
- Ethics and principles: The use of new forms of digital technology may well throw up new ethical questions, especially with privacy and personal data. The approach to using digital technology must reflect the organisations wider approach and it is the responsibility of leadership to ensure this happens.
- Appropriate technology use: Technology and technology salespeople can be seductive. You must take great care that the investments made support the organisation’s goals and do not simply fulfil personal ambitions.
- Operational effectiveness: You must have a pragmatic understanding of what can and cannot be done through technology. The risks must be understood, and the organisation needs to be flexible enough to ensure the successful use of new techniques. For instance, the organisation must be prepared to abandon old technology as well as to reject failed technology. And there must always be a focus on the experience of technology end users and customers.
- Risk and resilience planning: Leaders must not be blind to the risks of using new technologies. They must ensure the organisation will be resilient in the face of any failures.
These principles are complex and there will be a need to review whether they are being adhered to. At first, they may be hard to follow, but honest feedback should enable a cycle of continuous improvement.
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