Peter Sondergaard at TNT Symposium: Part 5

Michaël Renotte I 3:32 pm, 15th December

A sought-after keynote speaker and industry thought leader, Peter Sondergaard* gave a notable presentation at the TNT Symposium' first edition in front of an audience of 400 tech decision-makers. Throughout this week, we propose you to relive - or discover - the best moments of Peter Sondergaard's inspirational speech.

Post-Pandemic Digitalization: An Explosion in Change

Part 5: Five post-pandemic digital focus areas

4. Build a strategy that embeds digital as the core of the vision

"The fourth point to build on is the business model change", said Peter Sondergaard. "How we think of ourselves as the next Tesla. But again, not in the sense of a 'from-to' exercise, but by focusing on what needs to change in between. Where we want to go because we want to be a sustainable business, we want to be a business that is focused on attracting the right employees and being diverse and equitable in what we do"

"We tend to describe the future world as being one where we are engaged in ecosystems", he continued. "Where in fact we have introduced new products. Where in fact what we have changed is the underlying processes of the organization. And that is all good, that is our dream, that is our vision. But we need to understand how we get there. That is a gradual shift that needs to be planned as part of a strategy that has a set of measurable KPIs, OKRs, you can call them whatever you want but measures that allow you to see the progress of how you change".

5. Digital organization, skills and leadership

"Part of that is to understand, I believe, that we don't really get to know what our organizational competencies are, or should I say more specifically, the maturity of our organizational competencies when it comes to digitalization", specified Peter Sondergaard.

"How would you rate your organization on your overall digital competencies on a scale from one to five? How good is - not just the IT organization  - but everybody at data, at dealing with multiplicity - the fact that there's duality in everything, at dealing with understanding technology?", he asked. "You wouldn't score yourself a five. I work with a company that actually does this and I can tell you the average is two".

"The point is: if you don't know your competencies or organizational competencies and the level of digital leadership skills in your organization, it's highly unlikely that you will succeed, which is why my fifth focus area is that now is the time to really revisit that competency level in three ways", he said.

"I would suggest we focus first on 'Are we really ready to change our organizations?'", he proposed. "We have clearly seen the last 20-22 months that organizational structures needed to adapt. We've clearly seen the workplaces change. But the question now is, as you build your strategy, 'Does that actually involve changing your organizational structure?'"

"The second thing is that it is incredibly important to build a pervasive technology competence across the business. It is certain that we don't have enough people who really understand data. We should very clearly make this part of primary school programs. Artificial intelligence and the knowledge of how to treat data should be taught in primary school, because it is needed as part of what we all do", stated Peter Sondergaard.

"And then, last but not least, we need to help all managers grow their digital skills", he said. "We tend to focus on developing the IT organization's competencies. That's great", he conceded, "but it isn't going to change what we do. I would suggest that what we should now consider doing is actually taking every manager - and by every manager, I mean from your CEO and all the way down to the first level manager in the organization - and really bringing them up from a digital competency perspective, both at what I would call the hard skills - skills such as the awareness of what technology can do, the awareness of how you work in an agile changing world, the awareness of data science, the awareness of artificial intelligence, but equally also, make them aware of the softer skills required".

"Keep in mind that the technology that you have in front of you has so many permutations of options that it is highly likely that whenever somebody comes and shows something to you, nobody else has done it", he said. "Yet, we all tend to operate on use cases. I mean a very common question that all of you probably hear is 'Just show me somebody that has done it'. But what if there isn't anybody that has done it?", he asked.

"We need to develop a storytelling skill set, a skill set that doesn't need to be entrusted just in one or two people but in everyone", he underlined. "It reminds me of a fascinating story", Peter Sondergaard told the audience. "I was with the CIO of Disney Corporation a couple of years ago. During the meeting, he said 'You know what? The skill set I most lack across my entire organization is storytelling'. The world's best storytelling organization, Disney, lacks storytelling! So you do too."

From digital optimization to digital acceleration

"Learn from the mistakes of our first wave of digitalization and the skewed digitalization that we did as a result of COVID", Peter Sondergaard advised the tech leaders gathered for the conference. "And now look at the opportunities presented in what I would call post-pandemic digitalization. Because it is immense, it is fascinating, and it is going to be an explosion of change, merely because we have to react to so many things around us".

"Make sure you build this into your strategy", he added. "I don't want to hear anyone saying 'I have a digital strategy' and then the CEO saying 'here's the strategy the board gave me'. There is only one single strategy. It may not all be about digital but digital is infused in everything that you do. You have to stop talking about digital strategy", he urged the audience.

"And last but not least, It's people who make us successful. And we entrust managers as the ones who should make your organizations successful. So make sure that every manager in your company is actually digitally competent in what they do going forward because you need it to succeed", he concluded. 

"May the computing force be with you!", he finally wished the audience.

Michael Renotte

*Peter Sondergaard was executive vice president and member of Gartner’s operating committee for 15 years. He founded The Sondergaard Group and now runs his own Executive Advisory business. Additionally he is chairman of the board for, an artificial intelligence platform company, DI2X, a digital leadership development and research institute, and DecideAct, a cloud-based strategy execution management and governance platform.

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