Digital Transformations: Leaders or Managers!

By Sairam Bollapragada

It is known that the technology industry is never tired of being driven by innovations and learning to keep oneself up in demand has been a perennial chase – up-skilling matters.

Since 4 years from the problem Y2k, the learning curve for most of the senior experienced professionals have become flat with very few of them really trying to do a dip-stick into their capabilities and keeping their machines oiled as far as knowledge on technology is concerned. Many experiences like transformation of managers into leaders has been seen, but with severe limitations in numbers.

Managers got into comfort zones. The learning clock stopped as they felt they already knew enough.

All such behaviors have inserted an inertia which they are now feeling hard to weed out. The upcoming Digital Era is demanding that one be in a position to command and lead your teams through the transformations. Your complacency can be your criticality casualty as well as those who don’t align will get outdone. The aggressive and competent next gen in their 30’s is ready to dislodge the tried and testing hands.

Leadership, as perceived, in digital era, would need fresh lease of life through characteristic features arising out of the amalgamation of new attitude, competency, skills, and many unique experiences which is so essential in the knowledge led socio-economic platforms.

Communication, computing and connect would form the foundation of leaders we will need in the Digital Era. Industry certainly will not need Managers-Only capabilities any more.  Technology innovation will drive these constantly changing parameters in the Digital leadership.

A mind-shift change is a pre-requisite to comprehend how we engage and understand things in the digital space. Companies will need leaders who are more accommodative, believe less in controls, do not mind giving away the controls, willing to keep getting out of the usual run-of-the mill processes to prepare and deliver the digital solutions, get ready to roll up sleeves and engage into technical discussions themselves, help people learn and handle client requirements and situations meticulously.

The days of general project management and program management are actually going to be things of past and retire soon – very soon that is. Each solution will need leadership skills to deliver unique one each time.

The biggest challenge is awaiting them as they move from the academics and lab environs to launch into real big client engagements which will need a transformed and challenged workforce. The right leadership would then try to create shared primary and secondary lines of skills. The challenges of average resource cost and hence the cost of solution will be staring at these leaders. The balance between better skills and best solutions will be a trying one to handle. However, dedicated yet shared pool will be the answer to each TYPE of the solutions unless large in magnitude from maintenance standpoint.

Resourcing challenges and Virtual workforce:  Up-skilling the current workforce and preparing digitally skilled resources will be a humungous challenge for all the training departments as organizations struggle to retain the workforce to protect organization credibility. Most of the organizations dealing with digital work will move virtual. Retention and attrition will be a bigger challenge as organizations will soon, see no sooner they prepare the workforce, the competitors will woo the workforce with better compensations. The competition will always tend to be better and bitter. More free-lance workers will be on demand and globally. However, the real proof is to keep them delivering.  Many more platforms which will promote creation of virtual teams will come up and each will need to create mechanisms to blend and keep the best skilled manpower empanelled to mediate contracts with companies through virtual teams from across the borders. Keeping this virtual team focused will be another item to handle. Professionals pursuing the technical line of being architects will need to move beyond product tags in a true enterprise solution expert mode.

Staffing/HR will be bound by challenges of keeping the contract virtual work force bound and deliver by the contracts. Short aggressive timelines to deliver will push companies to pick the best to build strong teams. I can also visualize a scenario apt for bidding for best talents – unless organizations traditionally still reeling under the AMS-AD kind of frame of work have already not started preparing their workforce on digital solutions and all its technicalities.

Hence the leaders will need to be on their toes and take very quick decisions to assemble teams, create solutions and deliver the same to the clients – cheap, pretty, sustainable, differentiator- all rolled into one, solutions .  Juggling between priorities and comprehending what is coming up, will require aggressive leadership skills and just not skills to manage it. It will be like conventional SDLC vs Agile where shorter cycles to delivery are an emphasis. Thought leadership will be key as conceptualization of new holistic solutions will be what leaders will need to breath, walk, talk, sleep with. A hands off approach like in the last wave will not work.

I have seen an opportunistic approach to building workforce to deliver these more technological solutions (a JIT?). We also seem to deliberate a lot on “create once and deliver multiple times” concept,  under the garb of reusability – which will not hold water when it comes to differentiating solutions.

Repeatability of solutions will come down and we will need to consistently innovate (  Innovation does not come naturally to everyone and hence the need to understand and tide with technology which is changing by the minute, will become quintessential.

In short, we need more leaders to deal with the Digital Wave phenomena. We may need to create the innovative pack of leaders who can clone their thought processes into their teams! Weaving collaboratively through the solutions is going to become inevitable! …and “All the best” to those who are waiting to manage these delivered solutions….it is never too late to take up the re-skilling journey.


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