C-Suite Insights: Digitalization Challenges for Leaders

In my work, I meet business leaders from all over the world who have advice, stories and personal tips to provide. I sit down with these leaders to give them the opportunity to provide current business advice and give a glimpse to their personal stories as a business leader.

This week I interviewed Matt Preschern, CMO and Executive Vice President of HCL Technologies, a $6.1 billion global information technology services company. Matt leads all marketing functions including global business and strategic marketing, sales enablement and corporate communications to drive demand, growth and value for the HCL Technologies brand.

How would you define digital transformation?

About half a century ago, the shelf life of a Fortune 500 company was 60 years. By 2010, it was down to 18 years. At the same time, the number of $1 billion dollar start-ups had increased from less than 40 to over 100. We're also expecting that by 2020, just about three quarters of the Fortune 500 companies will have not existed five years ago.

What are the key reasons why this is happening? There's new technology, which has leveled the playing field and has reduced entry barriers. There's a significant change in customer expectations, and how these customers are expected to interact in the digital age. Then, there is significant more competition from the new foreign digital companies that are causing widespread disruption.

The concern around digital disruption is that now there is a level playing field, and increasingly a 21st century enterprise construct that is experience-centric, outcome-based, agile and lean, and increasingly eco-system driven.

The challenge for Fortune 500 companies is to be nimble enough for digital transformation. How do these companies navigate such a radical change?

When you think of the digital age, or the digital challenges that companies face, each company needs a healthy level of introspective, to help look at what's happening in the marketplace. If you look at various industry verticals, whether it's banking, insurance, healthcare, or consumer goods. The biggest challenge, and why I think many companies are struggling with traditional brick and mortar, your main competition is not necessarily within your own sector.

These new start-ups that are coming in are born digital companies that have different business models and don't necessarily look at the confines of a specific industry. But they take into consideration entire eco-systems. They are not bound by products or any pricing models, and therefore, as a CEO or C-Suite member, you have to be very cautious and look across sectors as to what the latest trends are at any given point in time.

As you look at the Fortune 500 today, who do you see as an example of doing a good job with digital transformation?

We're finding across a number of sectors a whole range of brick and mortar companies that are doing some pretty interesting things. They're actually combining their business strategy and their digital strategy.
For example, Delta Airlines is in an industry that has had many challenges but has done a fantastic job in the last 10 years to entirely change their customer experience at every touchstone. Another one is UPS, who is entirely changing how we use e-commerce. Red Bull is marrying online experiences with incredible real-life experiences.
What I see with these companies is digital maturity, and they view digital transformation with a different sense of urgency. These are just some top of mind examples of companies that I respect.

What would you say is the most important leadership quality for the success of a leader and their company in this time of great change?

I'm personally a huge believer in this notion of EQ (emotional quotient) in addition to IQ (intelligence quotient). The ability of the leader to inspire people to want to be part of something very special, your company. Then to inspire those people to move in a direction that more often than not is challenging because it's new.

If you, as a leader, can inspire your troops, and can have people who want to be there with you, and they want to tackle things with you, together, I think that's one of the single-most important attributes that a leader needs to exhibit, and hopefully on a day-in and day-out basis.

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