- 20 years experience in executive search with a special focus on financial services, conducting C-level and board of director search assignments in both the U.S. and overseas.
- Founded Allyon Solutions to provide integrated operations in finance to emerging companies in underserved markets. Co-founded Sextant Search Partners, a boutique financial services executive search business based in New York City, and Axiom Consulting, a human capital and strategy consulting firm.
- CEO of TMP Worldwide's executive search division following TMP's acquisition of Highland Search, an executive search group he set up in 1995.
- 14 years at Russell Reynolds Associates, eventually heading its financial services practice and managing its Asia Pacific operation.
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It’s clear – the digital world is here. And that means a world that's moved far beyond the Internet to one of social media, mobile technology, the cloud and big data.
In this rapidly-evolving environment, how does your board and leadership team prepare for new technologies and the requirements that they demand of your business model? As a leader, what do you do to insure your company’s future success and growth?
Many companies realize that the game has changed but they do not know where to start to get back in the game. We’ve all seen established, household-name brands like Kodak and Encyclopedia Britannica disappear when faced with digital innovation that shifted the playing field. Some companies like Google and Facebook are leading the charge. Other companies are in the dark and will remain there. Then there’s a vast, third tier of companies that know something ought to be done but don’t know what to do or how to do it.
A first step is to put the right people on the team and that starts with having digital natives – generally people who came of age in the Internet era – on your board and executive team. Over the last 30 years, as technologies have changed, corporate boards have not kept pace. According to research by NACD, the average age of a board member is 62 and less than 6 percent of them are technologists.
Getting digital natives on your board is just the beginning. The next step is to bring some of this talent onto the executive team and then educate the work force at large. Everyone in your company must become a digital native or a digital adapter.
In assessing the level of digital awareness in your company and its leadership, these four categories will help you determine where you stand. These categories will help you size-up your team and set goals for developing your company’s digital DNA.
- Digital natives: Natives are the creators, the ones who get it, who challenge or change business models and succeed in doing so. Think of Special Forces driving down the road at 80 miles an hour, sowing mines for their competitors who follow to hit. These are companies like Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Wal-Mart and Nike.
- Digital adapters: These companies didn’t start the revolution, like Google or Facebook, but they have committed to change with aggressive CEO-led initiatives. These are companies like Allstate and GE that now lead their peer groups.
- Digital immigrants: These companies know they are behind and are aware of the challenges posed by their new competitors. They want to go "native," but tend to apply Band-Aids to the problem. These are companies, like BP after the Gulf oil spill, that missed the impact of today’s technologies on their brands.
- Digital illegals: Unaware, these companies are plodding along with a business-as-usual attitude. They are driving down the commando’s road without a minesweeper and they are the ones that will perish first. Think Blockbuster and Borders.
As you begin your journey across the digital divide, be aware of three common pitfalls:
- Those CEOs are sorely mistaken who think they have addressed their digital strategy by hiring a single executive tasked with building a digital presence. Many companies have begun hiring chief digital officers (CDOs), but if the company is not fully committed and the CDO is not fully supported, this hire will become nothing more than a figurehead.
- Avoiding using today’s digital technologies throughout your entire organization. With the advent of social, mobile and cloud-based platforms, existing technology infrastructures may prove to be a burden rather than an advantage to many large companies. Research from McKinsey & Co. reveals that companies that embrace digital technologies perform better than those that don’t and receive the benefits of faster growth, more flexibility and improved margins.
- Adding digital to your model rather than creating a digital model. Companies need to change their business models. Research shows that companies that embrace digital business models – for example, those that sell IP or build social and commercial networks – are worth 2-4 times more than than companies that manufacture goods or sell services in the traditional manner.
Portions of this overview were adapted from the article "The New World of Digital Everything" by Candi Dalipe, Barry Libert and Steve Potter.