Level 3 Communications

Anthony Christie

Digital Transformation and the Greater Good – Part II

The 2017 MIT Sloan Symposium is right around the corner and I’ve been thinking more about the concept of digital transformation and the greater good. It’s been a recurring theme for me: last year, I argued that companies have a responsibility to consider the human factor as they undergo their digital transformations.

This year, my panel will tackle the tougher question of who owns technology in the organization today. It’s sure to be a healthy debate – and I look forward to weighing the subject with my esteemed panelists and sharing our perspectives in a future post.

In the meantime, there’s an integral piece to the puzzle that overlaps both the discussion of corporate conscience and the rightful ownership of technology: our constituents. I’m talking about shareholders, customers and employees. After all, good strategic technology decisions help organizations deliver on investment, meet customer expectations and create new career opportunities for employees – all part of the greater good.

There are several emerging trends that beg for no single person to be solely responsible for technology. But it depends. Look at the comparison of current market cap and vehicles sold between Ford and GM versus an outlier like Tesla. Now, I’m not an analyst and I don’t own shares of any of these companies, but at the same time, you must assume: the leaders at Ford and GM have to be comparing their profitability and market cap to Tesla as they consider their next strategic moves.

Autonomous cars? Clean cars? Shared cars? These are fundamental and profound technology decisions that these companies are making about their future business models. For example, I thought Ford was setting a new strategy when it proclaimed last year “We’re going to be a transportation company with fully autonomous vehicles by 2021.” GM, for its part, is now partnering with Lyft to release thousands of self-driving electric cars by 2018. Yet I wonder how much teeth these statements have? Are the strategies to support them fully articulate?

This is where we see the net of digital transformation widening. It’s about rethinking the entire organization and the fluidity of the workforce. Technology decisions do not just belong to the CTO or CIO – or even the CEO any longer. Technology decisions require shared accountability and shared goals – not siloed operations competing from separate divisions. Businesses can’t make the shift too quickly; the pursuit of the greater good isn’t just pie in the sky. Decisions around technology need to be made quickly or really good people (stakeholders, employees, consumers) can be hurt by other business models. 

One of the things we at Level 3 see every day is companies on both ends of this spectrum: businesses working to adapt to their digital transformations and new companies born from new technologies, already on the edge of what’s possible. We work with companies, delivering secure products and innovative solutions no matter where on the continuum they currently reside. The ability to take an impartial view, to advise and consult on the digital evolution from the perspective of what works best for an organization, no matter the vintage of your IT, is one of our greatest differentiators. 

Smart companies are figuring out how to transform their business models with technology. As with most technology shifts, we must measure the urge to move with speed against the need to do so deliberately. Successful digital transformation requires us to move fast enough to open up new career paths for the next generation, embrace new skillsets in the workforce and advance the gig economy. At the same time, we  must ensure the efficiency and security of the business. The interests of our shareholders, customers and employees depend on it.  

Read more in-depth insight from Anthony in the first of this series of articles on Digital Transformation and the Greater Good