Leading Digitalization Takes Belief, Curiosity, and Courage to Change

IT Management | Insight | Published 04. Oct. 16

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How to engage your employees when your task is to digitalize your organization? Experts advise to find the right partners, focus on frontrunners, and to prepare to change yourself. New services and operational methods are created in networks.

by Markku Rimpiläinen


What kind of leadership results in operational change? Marja Rantala, the Deputy Director General and CIO at National Land Survey of Finland, has given the topic a lot of thought while taking her organization to the frontline of digitalization and says, “Good interaction and networking skills are essential. New services are created in networks and the leader has to be able to build up an ecosystem the serve change. The traditional borders of operations need to collapse from the way of new operational methods.”

Rantala also emphasizes that leaders themselves must have the courage to change and develop to be fully competent, but believes that nobody should expect them to be a super leader, “I question the trend of companies searching for some omniscient CDO whose shoulders the development responsibility is thrown on to. The point, instead, is to develop the capabilities of the whole organization.”

So, what kind of leaders will achieve success in the future?

“Five years from now leadership will be a collective action. They’ll be more  like a cooperation network, as it would be the curious and open people that will survive in this new world better than others.”

Focus on the Frontrunners

Vaasan, a big Finnish bakery, just three years ago was a very traditional organization whose IT, describes the Grouo IT Director, Jonas Hagner, as old-fashioned.

Then the board decided to start a massive transformation, “Almost all the fundamentals of operations were changed. The goal was to achieve new kind of agility. The transformation was relying strongly on the company strategy.”

Now, three years later, the change has been implemented and achieved, “We decided to focus on the early adopters who have both willingness and ability to develop. These people pushed the word forward and acted as change agents. Compared to us IT people, they were also better at seeing where and how the new tools and applications can be used in the day-to-day work. We have noticed that skillful users are able to come up with new uses for them that we haven’t even thought about. Moreover, they work next to their coworkers and can support and help them with small problems.

An IT organization has to be able to take the position of the end user, Hagner highlights, “If people cannot see the benefit from their own work, the motivation will usually be low.”

Three Tips for a Change Leader

  • Investigate the starting point as thoroughly as possible. You will save yourself from later surprises.
  • Change is not initiated from the IT function. If the change proposition has to be first sold for the top management, it is probably not worthwhile.
  • New leadership models should not be developed based on former structures – it has to be approached from the customer and operational view.

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