Thriving in the Digital Economy: Some Key Trends to Watch

To remain competitive in the digital economy, business leaders need to understand the critical forces shaping it, and how to apply that knowledge to evaluate their unique opportunities and risks.  Josep Valor-Sabatier, a highly experienced researcher and executive-level instructor of technology management and strategy, can help you get there. He is a Professor of Information Systems and Academic Director of Custom Programs with the internationally acclaimed IESE Business School, and will bring decades of experience to an in-depth and interactive conversation at the Worldwide ERC® 2019 Global Workforce Symposium.  We caught up with Professor Valor earlier this month to talk about some of the things he’ll be covering in Boston this fall. Following are some highlights of that conversation:

  • The strategic planning lifecycle is shortening.

Strategic planning remains a critical process for businesses to have a road map to follow and goals to measure, but in the current fluidity of the digital economy, the process is rapidly evolving. Long gone are the days of setting three- to five-year goals against the backdrop of a certain level of predictability. Now, strategic planning requires much more frequent reviews to adjust or completely revise the tactical steps to implement the strategy, based on rapidly changing external influences.

The HR function maintains a fundamental role, providing insights into whether the right talent is in place to meet shorter-term needs and identifying where there may be gaps that can be filled by recruitment, training, mobility, independent contract or project-based support, or some combination of these.  But this “strategic planning half-life,” as Professor Valor describes it, demands much faster pivoting and decision making and shorter development and delivery cycles. This is typically realized through teams that can quickly adapt to shifting market conditions, competitive threats and consumer needs.

This shift has contributed to the rise of genuinely agile practices that we have seen taking hold in business functions beyond just IT – including HR – and across organizations of all sizes and industries.  Simply put, an agile approach adopts a framework that facilitates complex problem solving and continuous improvement. In the case of HR, that translates into building global, multidisciplinary teams who are equipped and empowered to make decisions, change roles and respond to evolving circumstances to deliver a product or service of value through step-by-step, incremental solutions. The agile approach challenges the status quo of individual- or specific-role- or skillset-focused hiring, training and assessment, and requires a team-building mindset. Equipping those teams with the right information and tools for rapid ideation, efficient processes and the project management required for speed to delivery is an important part of the current strategic planning and implementation lifecycle for all businesses.

  • No company operates in isolation; all business is global.

In spite of some recent political and policy shifts we’ve witnessed in the direction of nationalism, “history speaks very loudly about closed economies,” as Professor Valor reminds us.  The current difficulties and complexities of attempting to extricate the United Kingdom from the EU offer a contemporary example of the impracticalities of functioning in isolation. The rise and adoption of platform-based business models have us more interconnected and interdependent than we’ve ever been, and globalization is here to stay. Business and government alliances will remain essential for economic development, effective trade, and coordinated responses to geopolitical and environmental threats. The right strategic partnerships can help businesses develop faster innovations and launch new products in different markets and at lower costs and risks than if they were to try to go it alone.

“Alliances allow for enhanced market shares in new geographies and customer segments, and, of particular interest to HR, access to new talent.”

To be successful, global companies and teams must continue to develop the skills to work across and understand different cultures, management styles, languages and business norms.

  • The line between our professional and personal lives is increasingly blurring.

Our current levels of interconnectivity come with both opportunity and risk. The technology we use on a daily basis keeps us more closely and immediately in touch, while making it increasingly difficult to separate an individual from his or her employer. As consumers engage in posting photos, opinions, stories, comments, likes and shares across multiple social platforms – and the amount of personally identifiable information grows – companies must continually assess the responsibility, liability, privacy implications and exposure to risk presented by the digital behavior and footprints of their global talent.

  • The technology in our pockets is frequently outpacing that of company-wide IT systems.

Growing access to increasingly powerful and sophisticated digital tools on an individual level has translated into today’s talent feeling frequently frustrated by company equipment that seems obsolete in comparison. They may be tempted to turn to these personally owned devices for greater speed and efficiency, putting the company at security risks on multiple levels – from privacy and data protection laws to the safeguarding of sensitive or proprietary information.  This ties into and reinforces the point above, increasingly blurring the lines between personal and professional digital access and interactions.

These are just a few of several major developments and shifts that are reshaping the way we conduct business; recruit, develop and retain talent; and plan for the future.  Join the conversation in our closing keynote session on 18 October, when Professor Valor will provide additional information, insights and examples – and take your questions – to equip you with the tools you need to thrive in the digital economy.

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