Can Executives Over 50 Set an Effective Digital Agenda for Their Companies? (Part 2)

Spend Matters welcomes back David C. Wyld, Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University, for another guest post. For the first part of this article, click here

As Andrew McAfee, principal researcher at the MIT Center for Digital Business, commented in their new report: “I get the impression sometimes that a lot of the management teams at companies say: ‘Would you please stop the technology innovation? We can take a break from this and just digest what we’ve been doing for the past few years.’”

One survey participant commented that this feeling of tech fatigue can lead to inaction: “Senior leaders seem to understand the importance/relevance — they’re not dummies — but they seem to be paralyzed by business systems and business processes that will take a good deal of effort and cash to change/adapt.”


And so, this report from MIT’s Center for Digital Business and Capgemini Consulting does raise the issue of a dangerous “digital disconnect” between the leaders and followers in today’s companies. What happens when you combine “legacy” executives and “legacy” systems with a workforce and a customer base that expects (and demands) access to the latest and greatest technology?

The “age element” is certainly something both organizational leaders and their procurement executives should bear in mind when looking at technology issues. Yes, there is a deeper context for all organizational decisions. There is a pre-history that must be taken into account, as well as organizational processes, context, and culture concerns.

Likewise, decisions, once they’re made, act like the stone falling into the pond, with ripple effects that have impressive duration and reach. And when dealing with technology concerns, the intensity is even greater. Yet, decisions must be made regarding how to best integrate tech into the organization strategically, and then, how to tactically make this happen. This is where procurement comes into the equation.

The acquisition function in the organization is indeed the tip of the tech spear, making the buys of the gadgets and gizmos, software and apps, and everything in between servers and services that can easily total in the millions and even billions of dollars annually. So, 20-somethings to 60-somethings must find a way to coalesce around the same organizational tech vision - and the implementation of such through IT procurement and actual IT utilization - in order to move the company forward toward a digital future that produces real, tangible results in terms of better customer service, better internal workings, and ultimately, a payoff in terms of actual dollars and cents on the bottom line.

And finally, as the saying goes, age is just a number. An executive’s personal propensity to use technology and how much he or she truly embraces and understands the digital transformation going on all around us in every aspect of our lives is by no means age-dictated. After all, the two companies specifically cited in Embracing Digital Technology: A New Strategic Imperative as bright stars in leveraging digital technology are headed not by 20-somethings, but by AARP-eligible CEOs - Howard Schultz (60) of Starbucks and Brian Matthew Krzanich (53) of Intel (and going back a bit, to Gordon Moore - of Moore’s Law – who is now 84).

So, whether your CEO carries an iPhone or a Blackberry, their attitude toward technology - and how they project that outwardly to employees, customers and other corporate stakeholders, will go a long way towards setting a digital agenda for the organization to follow - and for procurement staffers to make happen through buying the right tech to make it happen.

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