Digital Disorientation and the CEO

The breakneck speed of innovation and emergence of new business models is causing disorientation in many. The world of Digital has been described by some as VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). I think ZIUP (Zipping, Innovative, Unbound, Potential) would be more befitting to this new Digital world.

Zipping - Startups and Digital pure plays are brewing up a storm. Higher clock speed, New business models and mind boggling innovations are all contributing to this new world of Digital zipping ahead. Momentum and velocity that is being seen, is like never before.

Innovative - Robotics, IoT, Mobility, 3D printers offer a tremendous combination for innovation. Pure plays are combining these innovations in creative ways and layering them with newer business models. Creativity and innovation are coming together to power the new economy.

Unbound - Definition of industry, Decision making methods, Established principles of structuring etc built the boundaries of success but the Digital world is not bound by all these factors.

Potential-The fact is, no one has been able to limit the boundaries of success in this new Digital world. It continues to be an untapped sea of potential.

VUCA and ZIUP happen to be the 2 sides of the Digital Revolution coin. VUCA instills fear whereas ZIUP builds excitement. VUCA can cause paralysis while ZIUP results in momentum. Regardless of one’s view, the fast pace and enormity of change is causing disorientation in many successful CEOs of traditional businesses. Added to this, pure play Digital competitors are new piranhas that are threatening the foundation of traditional businesses. CEOs of traditional businesses can’t just copy the Digital pure play model and ignore current reality. We come across many articles recommending parallel brand building of an independent pure play, inorganic acquisition etc. In other words, match the pure play with your own version of pure play – a powerful choice but one that is fraught with issues of managing duality.

The Indian IT services industry is not immune to this and neither is Mphasis. As its CEO, I am confronted with this reality. The possibility of being outdated and irrelevant is something that I battle constantly. Every day, one gets to read of some new business model, success, innovation and failure. The velocity of change is staggering and the absence of well-defined data, a huge obstacle. The realisation that as the CEO, I could be the resistance point in reinventing Mphasis was disconcerting.  I decided to take the challenge head on, realizing that 30 years of industry experience could be baggage. I refused to believe that I couldn’t change and decided to embark on a journey of self-transformation. While I believe that I have made some progress, I wouldn’t claim that I have succeeded. Self-transformation is a lot harder than directing others towards change. Fear of failure, ego and ignorance are 3 factors that I identified as common obstacles to self-transformation. After some deep introspection, I built a mind map. I started to focus on acquiring knowledge and identifying my blind spots around Digital. I reached out to educators, start-up entrepreneurs, PEs,VCs, Investment Bankers, and Millennial Leaders. I also ensure that I spend more time in the Digital Business space. I not only brainstorm and participate in external Digital events but also revisit paradigms for decision making that I had built. I continue to work on reprogramming my muscle memory by doing things that discomfort me. This ongoing journey continues to be rewarding and thrilling.

Within Mphasis, Focus, Cycle time, innovation and culture are four dimensions that we are dialing up on. We are diving deeper into industry verticals to drive adoption of Digital plays in traditional organizations. This also means that we have to defocus from some existing business areas. Digital organizations operate at a much higher clock speed and we have taken some radical steps to increase the clock speed. Empowerment of future leaders at the same level as our ExCo is one such example. We are getting these leaders to spearhead important initiatives such as Digital and GRC. Weaving Innovative culture within the DNA of the company is essential. To accelerate adoption of this DNA, we have provided 2 vehicles; Cart Up model and Mphasis Next Lab. Mphasis’ vibrant and young culture has been helpful and in addition, we are fine tuning certain aspects of our culture to enable greater innovation and risk taking.  As a small company, intensity and flexibility around the customer is our strength and in this transformation, we are guarding this strength and leveraging it to our advantage. By no means is the framework that we have adopted guarantees success, what we have ensured that we don’t stand still. We are moving forward because we want to meet our future rather than let circumstances decide our fate.

We are making disruptive moves as an antidote to disorientation and making customer centricity, the axis of stability. I am channeling my feeling of disorientation to ignite my quest for learning and wanting to take lead. Slow execution has a greater probability of failure and this is making me have a greater bias for speed.

Digital is the new revolution and standing still is not an option and I am personally enjoying the ride. “

2 Comments
  1. Avinash
  2. Suhayl Abidi

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