Is your business about to be digitally disrupted? How can you see around that corner unless you are staying abreast of the changes in today’s digital world? If you or your C-suite peers don’t really “get” social media, rely on the CIO as the “AV Guy,” or still only use a couple of apps on that super computer in your pocket, it’s time to get your technology muscle in shape. Here are a few simple pointers to use for yourself, or to use with your C-Suite peers to cross train for the digital race we are all in, whether we like it or not.
1. Get a “digital native” mentor. Do you have kids? A niece or nephew perhaps? Maybe some recent college graduates in your company that would love the chance to reverse mentor an executive and network with the C-Suite? This is a win-win. You can help an up-and-coming employee, or improve your relationship with a relative by simply being open to learning about the world in which the digital native lives. Take time to listen to how they use social media tools, ask them about their favorite sources for news, take them to lunch and ask them what they think about your company’s digital strategy. You may find that they will be more open to your non-digital coaching once they see how receptive you are to their own words of wisdom.
2. Use consumer digital tools in your day to day life. There are some great digital tools out there that can serve a double purpose for your team. They can help you learn to get comfortable using technology, give you a better understanding of some of the terms in the world of Social, Mobile, and Cloud technologies, and they can make your personal life a little easier. Here are some of my favorites:
Google Photos – This great photo app not only backs up your photos to the “cloud” but uses advanced algorithms to enable you to search and find your favorite “sunset” pictures, or all the pictures of your Aunt Martha. This is a great consumer tool to protect your precious memories, but can also start the brain thinking about big data, and how that might give you greater insights in your business.
Uber – Take a ride on this disrupter. I don’t think the taxi industry expected an “app” on a smartphone to digitally disrupt their world, but it did, and it did so in a dramatic fashion. Uber has over a million active drivers, and delivers over 3 million rides per day. A lunchtime conversation about Uber can help stoke the (much-needed) fire of paranoia in your C-suite.
Tesla – Even if no one in your executive team owns a Tesla, they should study what Elon Musk is up to with Tesla Motors. This all electric vehicle, assembled by robots, is updated over the internet and has the best self-driving technology available to the general consumer. The model S scored 103 out of 100 on the consumer reports test. Now Tesla is aiming for a more mass market car with the introduction of the Model 3. Can this upstart take on the big automakers? More paranoia? Good.
3.Look at examples of disruption outside your industry. To quote the late, great Andy Groves, “only the paranoid survive.” The industry is littered with examples of companies who thought it “couldn’t happen to them.” Kodak, Blockbuster, Borders all lost out to the digital tsunami that is upon us. How can you apply their lessons to your company’s strategic planning sessions? Will Tesla be able to surpass GM? Their model S already outsells the high end luxury models in the U.S. What small company is gunning for a share of your market? How are they thinking about it? Probably very differently than you. Maybe you should ask some digital natives to sit in on your next strategy meeting when you are thinking about the threats to your business model.
Actively engage the threat. Raise your own awareness to the digital world around you. Grow your business with the help of digital, or someone else will be happy to do it for you.
Greg Simpson joined Synchrony in 2014 as a senior vice president and CTO. He works closely with Synchrony’s CIO on developing technology strategy and sits on the company’s IT steering committee. Overseeing a large global team, Greg is responsible for key IT functions, including enterprise architecture, business intelligence, business continuity planning and disaster recovery, data centers, voice and data networks, service delivery and operations as well as end user services and collaboration.
Based in Synchrony's Kettering, Ohio, offices, Greg serves on the company's IT Engagement Committee and is a senior leader participating in Synchrony’s Business Leadership Program. He is also a mentor to many members of the IT team.
Prior to joining Synchrony, Greg served as GE's CTO for eight years. In that role, he created the shared services infrastructure team that supports all GE businesses. He also advised GE’s CIO and business CIOs on new technology directions and served on the company’s IT council. The service business Greg created leveraged GE’s scale to increase control and decrease costs, and it facilitated collaboration across GE through common solutions. The scope of GE’s shared services included more than 15,000 systems, GE’s full collaboration/messaging environment, and data/voice/video solutions around the world. In addition, Greg’s team kicked off the initial commercial cloud supporting the launch of GE’s software center of excellence.
Greg has an extensive IT career that spans more than 30 years with GE. Prior to becoming the CTO of GE in November of 2005, Greg served in a number of business CTO roles, including in GE's healthcare, aviation and lighting businesses. He also was the CIO for a major GE Healthcare acquisition, and earlier in his career he served as commercial quality leader at GE Lighting, where he led Six Sigma initiatives, including the implementation of one of the first web-based order tracking/status systems at GE.
A regular spokesperson on business technology trends, Greg has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other national media outlets.
Greg received a BSME from Purdue University and an MSME from Case Western Reserve University. He lives in Loveland, Ohio, with his wife and their two children.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Greg Simpson and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications Inc. or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.