Cloud, IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality – implications for business leaders and executive search

Cloud, IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality – implications for business leaders and executive search

This Inter­view was con­duct­ed by Glasford Inter­na­tion­al Deutsch­land Research. GID Research is the Ger­man office’ research & ana­lyt­ics Think-Tank.  The inter­view is the first in a series of Glasford Inter­na­tion­al expert state­ments on cur­rent spe­cif­ic busi­ness devel­op­ments and trends.

Hel­lo David, you are the CEO of Glasford Inter­na­tion­al Deutsch­land, for­mer mem­ber of the Board and for­mer leader of the prac­tice Tech­nol­o­gy. One of your focus areas is find­ing extra­or­di­nary lead­ers in the field of IT and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. These days a lot of dis­rup­tive changes and inno­va­tions are com­ing up in IT. We hear a lot about Cloud, IoT, Machine Learn­ing, Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence and Virtual/Augmented Real­i­ty. Tak­ing our focus away from these tech­no­log­i­cal trends to the human ele­ment — the busi­ness lead­ers -, can you tell us what does it mean to be a leader who is con­front­ed with this chal­leng­ing envi­ron­ment? In what ways do you expect new stage IT to fun­da­men­tal­ly change the nature of business?

First of all, I would like to empha­size how impor­tant it is to align the rela­tion­ship between tech­no­log­i­cal change and nec­es­sary human actions. Being a suc­cess­ful leader in old IT struc­tures does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean being good in new IT times. But we also should not hys­ter­i­cal­ly ques­tion every­thing. The nature of busi­ness itself will not be affect­ed. It will fur­ther on be about mak­ing mon­ey, being bet­ter than the com­pe­ti­tion and deliv­er­ing util­i­ty for the cus­tomer (B2B or B2C). But even if the nature of busi­ness will not change, there are three major changes you have to tack­le if you want to stay suc­cess­ful in those times: the rel­e­vant skillset of lead­ers, the orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture of com­pa­nies and the nature of rela­tion­ships between com­pa­nies in a com­pet­i­tive market.

What exact­ly do you mean with changes in orga­ni­za­tion­al structures?

Speak­ing very prospec­tive­ly about IT, in 10–15 years, being firm at a com­put­er like device and being able to speak a com­put­er lan­guage (know how to code) will be more or less basic edu­ca­tion. In fore­see­able future IT will have such an extra­or­di­nary impor­tance and impact, that this fact will be mir­rored in the orga­ni­za­tion­al frame­work of every com­pa­ny. An increas­ing num­ber of com­pre­hen­sive set of dif­fer­ent Direc­tor and C‑Roles all with regard to IT will appear. Even the small and mid­dle-sized busi­ness­es will need a CIO/CTO as well as a Chief Secu­ri­ty Offi­cer. Fur­ther­more, busi­ness suc­cess will large­ly depend on the good­ness of the IT back­bone of a com­pa­ny. Hence, a very IT affine CGO (Chief Growth Offi­cer) will be a wide­spread role in the future. Align­ing var­i­ous IT-relat­ed roles with the oth­er more or less online dri­ven func­tions in a com­pa­ny will be a major task, not to speak about align­ing the C‑Roles of new IT among them­selves. Anoth­er demand­ing task will be inte­gra­tion of the rift between IT C‑Suite lev­el and the IT “ground-work-force”. Suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies will be those ones, which real­ly under­stand that they need a com­pa­ny-wide com­pre­hen­sive and inte­grat­ed IT strat­e­gy. In such an envi­ron­ment, all new-stage IT solu­tions must have a val­ue gen­er­at­ing place e.g. VR for mar­ket­ing, Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence for devel­op­ment, Cloud for data, knowl­edge and infra­struc­ture, IoT for devel­op­ment, mar­ket­ing etc.

In your view, how will these changes alter the required tal­ent pro­file for future IT and busi­ness leaders?

There are two major changes that future lead­ers’ skillset have to expe­ri­ence. Both changes look con­tra­dic­to­ry at the first sight, but they are not, they com­ple­ment each oth­er. The first one is to stay up to date on com­pe­ti­tion, tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ments, mar­ket devel­op­ments, etc. In the near future, learn­ing agili­ty and adapt­abil­i­ty will be the key for suc­cess. If you want to stay suc­cess­ful in such a dynam­ic envi­ron­ment, you need lead­ers that are will­ing to learn all the time, every­day and are will­ing to trans­form what they have learned into new action.

Par­al­lel there will be an increas­ing need for lead­ers, who are will­ing to stick to their goals even in times of short-term flops. You will not be suc­cess­ful, if you have unsta­ble deci­sion-mak­ers chang­ing strat­e­gy and direc­tion every time the mar­ket cap­i­tal­iza­tion declines. In those cas­es, you will get grind­ed up among com­pa­nies that are able to act in a sta­ble and con­fi­dent man­ner. Hence, there will be a need for lead­ers who act as entre­pre­neurs and visionaries.

New IT is chang­ing lead­er­ship roles’ with­in orga­ni­za­tions — with no posi­tion being more affect­ed than that of the chief infor­ma­tion offi­cer. In your opin­ion, what are the biggest changes the CIO needs to adapt to?

Todays’ CIOs often act in a very oper­a­tive role. Relat­ed to what I have said about the gen­er­al com­pa­ny struc­ture, the role of the clas­si­cal CIO has to shift from IT strat­e­gy provider to the facil­i­ta­tor of change. The CIO has to focus on help­ing all IT relat­ed employ­ees per­form­ing their job in the course of the over­all IT strat­e­gy the best way they could do. In addi­tion, the mind­set of the CIO will increas­ing­ly have to change to sales and mar­ket­ing ori­ent­ed, as online sales will depend on the IT equip­ment and its’ usage in a company.

Are there any major dif­fer­ences across mar­kets or regions with regards to new IT trends?

Of course, there are mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ences between regions. If we look at Europe or more specif­i­cal­ly Ger­many, the con­cern for secu­ri­ty and data pro­tec­tion is espe­cial­ly strong. Not only busi­ness lead­ers, but also their cus­tomers want to have their data and knowl­edge secure. Hence, cloud secu­ri­ty, secu­ri­ty of inter­con­nect­ed devices and also secu­ri­ty of AI (aim­ing at the ques­tion how intel­li­gent should machines be?), should be the utmost con­cern of lead­ers in this spe­cif­ic field — in par­tic­u­lar if they want to get their prod­ucts into every­day life as every­day solu­tions — be it B2B or B2C.

You have point­ed out that rela­tion­ships between com­pa­nies in mar­kets will change. How will this change look like?

In the near future dif­fer­ences between prod­ucts and mar­kets will con­tin­u­ous­ly dimin­ish. The amount of con­nec­tions between them will expe­ri­ence rapid growth. The inter­net of things (inter­net of every­thing) will lead to inter­faces of many prod­ucts. There­fore strate­gic part­ner­ships between com­pa­nies will be a cen­tral issue exec­u­tives have to tack­le. Prod­ucts will be not just prod­ucts but com­plex solu­tions. We can already observe such a devel­op­ment with­in online mar­ket (with regard to cloud plat­forms and ecosystems).

What is the great­est chal­lenge for exec­u­tive search in such an environment?

In today´s dynam­ic and com­plex envi­ron­ment it will def­i­nite­ly be the abil­i­ty to sep­a­rate between nec­es­sary actions and unnec­es­sary ones. Locat­ing future growth poten­tials and the will­ing­ness to learn con­stant­ly will be the key to last­ing suc­cess. With increas­ing com­pe­ti­tion with­in exec­u­tive search mar­ket, there will be a con­stant need to find a new way how to dis­cov­er, reach and attract future tal­ent. On the one hand, it will large­ly depend on imple­men­ta­tion of new and inno­v­a­tive sourc­ing strate­gies, as well as on out­stand­ing can­di­date expe­ri­ence. There­fore, each suc­cess­ful exec­u­tive search com­pa­ny will need to find their own way how to stand out of the crowd and offer unique ser­vices both for can­di­dates and clients. On the oth­er hand, large net­work of per­son­al con­tacts will con­tin­ue to play an extreme­ly impor­tant role, espe­cial­ly in an envi­ron­ment over­flowed with a large num­ber of recruiters look­ing for top talent. 

Fur­ther­more, in such a rapid­ly chang­ing field exec­u­tive search itself has to be very agile in learn­ing to always deliv­er the most rel­e­vant and excel­lent results. In IT busi­ness for exam­ple, where things change very quick­ly and new devel­op­ment reshapes the field on a dai­ly basis, it would be mis­lead­ing to focus exclu­sive­ly on past per­for­mance of your can­di­dates. Any aspir­ing exec­u­tive search com­pa­ny will have to devel­op hir­ing and selec­tion meth­ods, which are able to take into account poten­tial and future growth of the candidates.

Thank you for your time David, have a nice day.