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  • Madeline Weiss, Director


Advanced Practices Council members – senior technology executives across industries – gathered virtually in February to continue learning from exemplary researchers and practitioners (including themselves) on topics they voted as high priority for their future success.

A theme woven through most of the speaker-led sessions was digital transformation – platform inversion, building a digital-ready culture in traditional organizations, and achieving digital transformation success post covid-19. The other theme was leading in a remote working environment.

Digital Transformation and Platform Inversion

In this digital (post-industrial) age, companies must compete differently and view value exchange more broadly to include new players and ecosystems. Ecosystems compete through multi-sided platforms that blur traditional industry boundaries. And successful companies seek digital strategies for moving beyond traditional products and services. Dr. Nicholas Berente of the University of Notre Dame described how Philips Healthcare competes, along with its ecosystem partners, through their HealthSuite digital platform supported by Philips devices. Two successful approaches to digital transformation are servitizing products and productizing services. Hilti servitizes its power tools products by delivering and lending the right tools to construction sites based on the construction company’s specs. Law firm Littler provides digitized products, such as dashboards for tracking discrimination claims, to clients seeking to prevent litigation.

Building a Digital Ready Culture in Traditional Organizations

Although technology changes quickly, organizations and their underlying cultures, change very slowly. Digitally-born firms naturally have cultures poised to respond rapidly to market opportunities. But traditional organizations must create and sustain a culture that enables innovation and execution in a digital world.

According to Dr. George Westerman of MIT, the values needed for digital-ready culture in traditional organizations are impact, speed, autonomy, and openness. Along with these values, organizations must adopt digital-ready sets of practices. The first set involves building rapid experimentation practices with strong data orientation. The second preserves integrity and stability. The third reorients organizations to customer responsiveness and results orientation. The fourth breaks the cycle of rules orientation. Traditional firms such as DBS Bank, Haier, Carmax, ING, and Adobe have changed their cultures to reflect these values and practices.

George recommended that CIOs build on their successes with agile practices and the right tools when helping their colleagues select business areas for creating digital-ready cultures.

Digital Transformation Success Post-COVID-19

Based on research conducted at IMD, Dr. Michael Wade described the characteristics of companies that have succeeded during the COVID-19 crisis and are well positioned to continue to do so in this digital age. The characteristics of hyper-resiliency are nimbleness, robustness, and responsiveness. He shared guidelines for creating and sustaining these characteristics while emphasizing that greater digital orientation and practices can amplify these characteristics.

Organizations that are nimble prioritize speed over perfection, agility over planning, and resource mobility over resource lock-in. Digital tools support such agility and digital assets are more mobile than physical assets.

Organizations that are robust prioritize a balance of efficiency and slack over simple efficiency, empowerment over hierarchy, and diversification over specialization. Digital platforms can provide on-demand capacity, data can be shared quickly and efficiently, and digital business models can provide alternative revenue.

Organizations that are responsive prioritize forgiveness over blame, learning over knowing, and resource modularity over resource specificity. Digital experiments can promote trial and error, and digital assets are inherently more modular and reconfigurable than physical assets.

Given the importance of digital approaches and tools to organizational success, CIOs are well positioned to build and sustain the characteristics of nimbleness, robustness, and responsiveness.

Leading in a Remote Working Culture

By most accounts, remote work is viewed positively by many remote workers and managers, who believe that remote work will be the norm. Most Advanced Practices Council members agreed that they will be leading some form of hybrid (remote and office) working culture post covid-19.

Although there are many benefits being realized from remote work (e.g., increased productivity, reduced commute time and expenses, greater flexibility), there are challenges. Dr. Madeline Weiss, APC’s Director who conducted the research, reported actions that organizations have taken to mitigate such challenges as difficulty communicating, spending more time searching for knowledge needed for work, experiencing a diminished sense of community among colleagues and across the organization, concern that remote staff will lose out to colleagues in the office, worry that remote work will not be valued and compensated fairly, and feeling that the work pace is not sustainable.

She suggested that hybrid working arrangements create opportunities for organizations to expand their sources of internal talent with critical digital innovation skills and retain current key talent. Such arrangements also allow for rethinking space and time. Might teams define specific collaboration days in the office? Might office space be redesigned to enable collaboration? Might time in office be redesigned to focus on formal and informal collaboration?

Leaders play a key role in establishing, communicating, and maintaining values that support a successful remote working culture. These values are experimentation and learning, addressing the whole person, flexibility and autonomy, collaboration, results, and transparency.

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