Only 7% of companies have digitally savvy leadership

That’s one of the findings of a study done by MIT Sloan researchers from CISR (Center for Information Systems Research) and published in the Spring 2021 edition of the MIT Sloan Management Review. The study was made with almost 17,000 executives of 1,984 large global companies. Among the companies they studied, the average top management team has nine members. Overall, only 17% of individual team members are digitally savvy.

They define being digitally savvy as having an understanding, developed through experience and education, of the impact that emerging technologies have on businesses’ success.

More interesting findings:

  • CIOs and CTOs are the most digitally savvy executives. But only around 45% are digitally savvy.
  • In terms of CEOs, COOs and heads of marketing, around 23% of them are digitally savvy.
  • Sales and CFO executives are 12% digitally savvy.
  • In terms of industries, at the top, with 30% digitally savvy executives, we have media, software, and telecom.
  • At the bottom (1% digitally savvy executives): construction; arts, entertainment, and recreation; and agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting.
  • Somewhere in the middle (12% digitally savvy): finance and insurance.

Why this matters?

According to the study, having a digitally savvy C-level impacts directly in the bottom line. For instance, A digitally savvy CEO together with a digitally savvy CFO who, rather than operating as a gatekeeper, can help identify which digital investments have potential to promote breakthrough performance are associated with a 6.7 pp increase in revenue growth.

In this study, the authors compared the performance of the top 25% digitally savvy management teams with the 25% bottom, and the differences are impressive:

top 25% digitally savvy management teamsbottom 25% digitally savvy management teams
% of revenues from new offerings in the past three years59%18%
% of revenues from cross-selling53%15%
Moving from command-and-control to a coach-and-communicate orientation83%28%
Holding people accountable85%41%
Encouraging innovation85%30%

Call to all product people and product leaders

I do believe it is our responsibility as product people and product leaders to help change this. Product people are digitally savvy, with a deep understanding, developed through experience and education, of the impact that emerging technologies have on businesses’ success.

During my period lead the digital transformation at Lopes, the biggest real estate company in Brazil, between 2020 and 2022, one thing that was clear to me is that we had to bridge the gap between business and technology so the company could take the most out of its investment in technology.

To help bridge this gap I created the concept of digital drops and business drops. Every month we had two important moments in the company:

  • Business Drops at Lopes Labs All-Hands: Lopes Labs is the name of the technology and innovation team I led at Lopes. During our All-Hands our team met for around 2 hours and we celebrated our results, shared learnings and welcomed new members. We always separated around 20 minutes so people from the business could talk about their areas and educate the Lopes Labs team. Below are examples of the topics we covered:
Lopes Labs Business Drops example
  • Digital Drops at Lopes Labs Update: every month we gathered the entire company for one hour to show Lopes Labs recent results and achievements. Between 5 to 10 minutes of this meeting was dedicated to share some topic on digital product development and management. Below are examples of the topics we covered:
Lopes Labs Digital Drops example

Announcing: new public training on vision and strategy

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I’ve been helping companies bridge the gap between business and technology through education, coaching, and advisory services on digital product development and management. Check here how I can help you and your company.

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