tiistai 30. syyskuuta 2014

Digital transformation and executives

Digital transformation is quite of a buzzword nowadays. The topic is approached from various angles in marketing departments, board meetings and of course, all over the internet. But then again, society really is changing in many fundamental ways. 

The aim of this blog post is to highlight our key findings related to digital transformation in the past couple of years. Our perspective to the issue is executive education, referring to the changes associated with the application of digital technologies in business development and management education. I´ll briefly reflect upon our main learnings about the topic arising from running open executive education on digital transformation, as well as implementing various in-house management development programs tailored to companies and public organizations. 

Evolution of the topic in executive education curriculum

Kick-off for the first @webforexecs programme
(Finlandia Hall, Helsinki 2012, #webforexecs)
We run probably the biggest Executive MBA program in Finland (about 200 executive students studying at the moment, seminars mostly at Helsinki). It goes without saying that e-commerce and internet related phenomena have been one of the key topics in the program as long as the business has been using internet. However, it was the transformational rise of social media, mobile technologies and cloud that placed the issue into the growth trajectory and touched executives on a personal level. No longer managers were speculating whether digital transformation would have an effect in their particular field of industry. It was evident and there was a demand for managerial perspective on social media and digital transformation.

In the past couple of years we have been witnessing two major mindset changes in the executives we have been working with. 

1) There is a need for real hands-on competence building regarding digital technologies. People are not after only information and lectures, but in addition workshops and first-hand experiences around these issues. Managers now want to build up personal understanding what "going digital" really means.

2) Recent changes in customer behavior is something that executives are striving to understand. Internet and e-commerce around the turn of the millennium made things global. Now the connected consumer sharing and seeking advises from their network, electronic word of mouth and evolving dynamics of path to purchase is making things even more difficult to grasp. This "digital behavior" is stretching gradually into all age groups and shows no signs of slowing.

Where to go from now on? 

So what´s next? The following are some challenges we are tackling in our current executive education programs on digital transformation. 
Executive workshop on productivity and learning
(Helsinki Congress Paasitorni 2013)
  • Giving iPads to students is easy. They are just devices that you can get from the shop. What is more valuable is instructing executives in building personal development clouds in order to tap into the full potential of digital services.
    Personal professional use of social media is an essential skill.
  • Communicational power of social media is an organizational effort.
    We are moving from restricting employees use of social media during office hours into employee advocacy strategies and content marketing utilizing digital platforms. Power is in the people.
  • True learning is not only an increase in information. It is thinking and doing things differently. The ability to create value is stemming from community architecture design and our understanding of the dynamics of participation
  • Campaign mentality and only attracting fans and likes won´t do. We need innovative ways of leveraging digital and creating meaningful and shareable experiences to our customers

Requesting bold experiments is more easily said than done. For example increasing transparency of the digital age in business isn´t all rainbows and unicorns. You and your customers getting aware of global competition, being exposed to case benchmarks from leading companies etc is an eye-opening experience. Trying new things and starting to run your operations in the "open kitchen" mode ain´t that much easier. I can remember the resistance justified suspicion from some of our students when we decided to use Facebook group discussions as a learning platform for our change management EMBA module back in 2008. Or the touch of discouragement academic discourse when Yammer was launched for our executive education unit´s internal use in 2009.
Neal Schaeffer on social media strategies
(Helsinki 2014, #jyuEMBA) 

We still have a lot to learn about digital transformation. But what is sure is that you have to start the change somewhere. And find new avenues of action. In our case for example, facilitating optimal learning experiences for EMBAs could be enriched by new forms of cooperation among AMBA accredited  business schools around the world. There is a lot to do in this field in cooperation with various partners and stakeholders. 

Some say that doing nothing (regarding digital transformation) is also always an option. Well you can make that choice, but then you have to ask yourself: 

"Do I play a leadership role in my organization?"

Pasi Aaltola
Director of MBA Education

Avance Executive Education
Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics

3 kommenttia:

  1. Kirjoittaja on poistanut tämän kommentin.

  2. Interesting blog post ideas and Pasi. There is so much to do and the words "digital transformation" mean such different things to anyone That you ask That it is One of Those terms That mean everything and nothing to most people. The digital transformation of society has Already started, and this includes education, business, social interactions, research, news, politics, revolutions, as well as consuming and sharing of information (Which includes Unfortunately cat videos). For businesses it goes further than this of course, and That is the idea. Big data, artificial intelligence, automation, cloud-based everything, virtualization, are just part of the puzzle, but the long march has Begun. Now the question you pose implicitly is how best to prepare the new or current generation of managers / leaders for the transformation. Letting them play with the iPads is one "easy win". Another, and I think essential element, is to have leading companies share their Digital Workflows with others. There are so many moving parts That just by showing someone "how we do it", even partially, can help others relate to That Their company / industry. Just like when I ask you what apps you are using in your Workflows, it leads us to try new things and understand how they can interact with and complement the way we are Already doing things. Glad you are at the forefront of trying to Make That Happen.
    Alon Rozen
    Executive Dean / Doyen
    Associate Professor of Innovation & Management
    École des Ponts Business School
    (an AMBA-accredited school too)

  3. Thanks for sharing your ideas. Your suggestion about sharing digital workflows and best practices is excellent. Now we do that often on individual level in everyday life, but in management education that should be addressed also in organizational context.