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Leadership Key Take-aways for CXOs from CeBIT

Carsten Linz, Global Head, Center for Digital Leadership, SAP [NYSE:SAP]
Carsten Linz, Global Head, Center for Digital Leadership, SAP [NYSE:SAP]

Carsten Linz, Global Head, Center for Digital Leadership, SAP [NYSE:SAP]

No chance to attend the world’s biggest IT fair? I have filtered-out some key takeaways from the noise of CeBIT with its attached Global Conference and Scale 11 Start-up gathering. Here comes my summary for CXOs and everyone in charge for leading digital transformation and innovation.

Tackling the Challenge of Digital Divide

Under this year’s theme “d!conomy - no limits,“ Germany and partner country Japan gave clear commitment to join forces in promoting free trade and shaping the future through digitalization. Already during the CeBIT opening, the focus was not on big data, cloud, the IoT or Artificial Intelligence; instead at the center of attention was the question how digitalization impacts people, citizens, and employees.

We witness that the gap is widening between digital pros as well as digital natives, which are technically capable and intrinsically motivated to capture the digitalization opportunities and the large number of people being vastly alienated from digitalization. There are millions of people, who do not know yet what the future will bring with new technologies like Artificial Intelligence and hence face diffuse anxiety.

  ​Enabling life-long learning has become a key task for leadership teams in the digital age   

In this context, Japan’s ‘Society 5.0’ program stands out, as it aims at doing nothing less than holistically transforming Japan’s information society into a super-smart society. This should be reached by addressing five domains: an integrated government digitalization strategy, digital laws and regulations, digital innovation base on shared digital knowledge, inclusive education of all human resources and digital value systems for social acceptance.

Closing the Data-to-Insight-to-Action Gap

Digital innovation can not only help with new business opportunities but also improve people’s lives. For example, SAP’s executive board member Bernd Leukert presented to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a solution that helps to prevent natural catastrophes.

This marks the next important milestone for the SAP and European Space Agency (ESA) partnership after our joint Space App camp at Mobile World Congress. The natural disaster solution uses satellite earth observation data from ESA’s satellites to predict future hazards like landslides and flooding. With the help of Artificial Intelligence, the software can make suggestions as to which sites would be suitable for emergency camps and how to best proactively evacuate schools and hospitals.

My personal highlight was certainly the encounter with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on stage. Truly amazing to see how the two world leaders were impressed and consider making our solution a reality in Japan.

Innovating for the Future Instead of Digitizing the Past

Enabling life-long learning has become a key task for leadership teams in the digital age. Based on the shift in technology domains, leaders need to define the target state regarding required skills and competences, then compare this ambition with the status quo, and eventually manage the digital transformation systematically. Digital Innovation and Transformation Frameworks can serve as a starting point, however should be adjusted specifically to the company’s strategic path in a subsequent step.

Actually, we do not need digital strategies. What we truly need—for governments, companies and Lines of Business—are strategies with natively integrated digital empowerment. This necessity goes hand-in-hand with the need for more digitally-inclusive decision-making bodies. As basically every firm becomes a software company, the make-up of Executive Boards as well as Supervisory Boards also need to reflect digital leadership.

Digital transformation is foremost a leadership challenge! The task at hand is to inspire, enable, and empower leadership teams and employees with a digital mindset and skillset. The good news is there are patterns for successful digital leadership. CXOs can drive their organization to gain the competitive edge in a disruptive world.

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