Should technology skills matter for Australians CEOs?

By Robert Half 19 September 2018

In a rapidly evolving business landscape, workplaces need to adapt to ongoing digital and technological transformation or risk being left behind.

To stay ahead, companies need staff who support and understand the importance of technology, starting with its leaders. However, at the top echelons of Australia’s top businesses, technology is an uncommon background for many leaders.

Robert Half’s CEO Tracker, which profiled the background of the ASX 200-listed CEOs, found that among the nation’s top companies, only 8% of Australians CEOs have a background in technology.

While not every leader needs to be a Security Architect or a Web Designer it remains important that CEOs and all business leaders have an understanding of how technology will continue to reshape many business operations and processes.

Leaders with a broad-based digital mind-set and who actively seek the opportunities that technology brings are key to successfully leading an organisation into the digital future. What is equally important with leveraging technology is ensuring that leaders understand how it functions and the benefits it can bring a business.

Being adaptable to change is critical for Australian CEOs

Australian CEOs must be prepared for change management. Technology will not stand still, and adaptability is fast becoming a hallmark of corporate success. Business leaders who maintain a forward focus can help inspire innovation within a company.

The advancement of automation and digital transformation is driving the need for business leaders who can successfully take advantage of these changes and encourage innovation.

Technology is reshaping innovation strategies, and opening the door for new products and services, new business models, and new processes. A BCG survey of the most innovative companies in 2018 identified the four leading types of innovations as Big Data analytics, the fast adoption of new technologies, mobile products and capabilities, and digital design.

In a competitive market, Australian business leaders who embrace change brought about by technology will have an upper hand in driving innovation strategies and remaining ahead of the competition.

How tech savvy do Australian CEOs need to be?

Chief executives don’t have to possess a postgraduate degree in computing to lead digital transformation efforts, nor is it necessary for leaders to understand coding. It is essential, however, to have a finger on the pulse of digital innovations and recognise the possibilities and opportunities they present to the company.

It can come down to seeing the company and its operating environment through a digital lens. Digital transformation demands a collective approach where all senior executives, including the CEO need to work together to drive the transformation. While a company’s Chief Information Officer is the head of the technology department, ultimately, the CEO must be able to see and assess how digitisation fits into the company’s strategy, while also recognising potential threats, especially for current day issues such as cyber-security.

Look for tomorrow’s leaders

Chief executives are responsible for communicating the company’s strategy to investors, customers and even regulatory authorities. This responsibility calls for the ability to respond to questions that may pivot around digital technology and how it is impacting the organisation as a whole.

While this will further drive the need for companies to pursue digitally literate leaders, it also highlights the value of ongoing training at all levels. Companies should look for potential leaders who are willing to invest in the professional development of their teams to manage the digital needs of the organisation today and into the future.

Demand for digitally literate leaders is rising

The ability and willingness of Australian CEOs to embrace digital technologies can be a deciding factor in a company’s competitive advantage.

If your business is looking to hire a CEO or similar senior leader, it’s important to identify candidates with not just a firm understanding of technology, but those who are adaptable to change and the opportunities that innovation presents. Market demand is set to rise for leaders who are able to develop a vision for a digitally driven future, and who can inspire their team to share that vision.

In today’s digital age, technology is impacting and will continue to impact work flow and key business decisions. CEOs cannot simply hand over the reins of technology to their CIO without understanding themselves how the company is being impacted by digitisation.

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