Our 'What Matters to the Board' series starts with a look at the evolving digital landscape. Kathryn Parsons from DeCoded explores why it's important for digital to feature on the board agenda.
[Kathyrn Parsons] We are entering a digital revolution; that is hugely exciting for someone like me that feels empowered by technology. If I didn’t feel empowered I’d be very scared because revolutions are destructive and a lot of businesses are going to be destroyed. The organisations that define the world as we know it right now may not exist in five years time.
There is no business that isn’t a technology business now, and we see organisations that have existed for 50 or 100 years looking at an uncertain future in the next three years because of the scrappy start-ups that come along and eat their entire business. There is a huge responsibility for big business in re-skilling every single strata of their organisation to prepare them for a digital economy and to see that technology is not something to be scared of. As the art of what is possible becomes evident you start to be able to innovate and see the possibilities that technology brings to you and your business.
We see a lot of people with digital innovation on the agenda. Often very very high up, and increasingly up the ladder. But that’s entirely different to actually being passionate about technology and evangelistic about it. It’s not just saying we’re going to address the issue of technology, it's saying 'I love it, I’m curious about it, I’m willing to explore it'. And then when the whole business senses you are passionate and evangelistic about it they follow suit. Everybody decides that actually this isn’t for someone else, it’s not the job of the IT team or the developer team, this is my responsibility to be innovating, exploring and seeing how I can be better at what I do.
It’s a humbling and amazing moment when the leaders of businesses say, 'you know what, I’m a great leader but I don’t understand this and I’m willing to learn' and then they take that first step. When they're open to learning about the new world that has evolved in the last five years.
Look at how you can restructure your entire business, innovate really, with that knowledge and with that skill and better communicate with the digital people within your business. Because they’re probably not just within your IT department, they may sit within all different parts of your business. There is incredible latent talent, digital talent, within all businesses, the answer’s not always on the outside.
At De-coded it was fascinating when boards of businesses started to learn of us. These incredibly competent leaders, surely they understood a technology or had technology represented at board level? But it was exactly the same challenges as when an eight year old doesn’t understand the languages behind the screen. None of us have been taught these things in a school. There are a lucky few who actually taught themselves and understand that whole language, that whole world. That is why we should be very proud of the UK for having put coding on the curriculum. Seven year olds can now learn technology skills in the classroom. It’s a sign that we are investing in the future digital talent of the UK.
But we can’t wait 15 years for that talent pool to enter the market place. So businesses need to innovate, adapt and learn now.
This is the new pen, paper and pencil. If you have an idea don’t talk about it for six months, prototype it.
This series is aimed at helping board members and report writers to engage in the issues and questions most pertinent to their board. We'll be interviewing leading figures on a variety of topics like risk, culture, ethics, people and annual reporting.
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