The Digital Director - Are you ready?

Nicole Donegan, Chief Operating Officer, Women on Boards, May 2019

Digitization, agility and a knowledge mindset will shape the future for organisations and Boards.


With an impressive 25 year career spanning roles such as CMO of major retailers, Managing Director of Facebook Australia/NZ and founder of the The Digital CEO, Steven Scheeler IS a digital leader.  He provided our 'Directors Circle' with a rare insight into the impact of digitization and what the future will look like for successful boards. Here’s a snapshot of our key takeouts.

Digital disruption is closing the gap between boards and consumers.  More than ever before boards need to make digitization a priority in order to keep pace with their customers, competitors and new disrputors.   The world is evolving exponentially, take the FaceBook example:

Facebook's exponential evolution
2004 – Facebook starts
2012 - 900 million users
2017 – More than 5 billions users across its platforms including Facebook, Messenger and Instagram.

It's likely to become survial of the fittest, so having digitally savy leaders will be key.

Key Attributes of the 'Digital Director' 

  1. They have a knowledge of digital and all of its elements
    There is a lot more to digital than a website. It includes processes, product development and user experience. Doing digital well is vital. Existing directors need to re-tool themselves to understand new technologies and consumers. They need to get closer to the customer and have a curiosity about their experience.  In Australia the banks and airlines are developing good consumer digital offerings and Dominos Pizza is seen as a leading mobile business, having built a technology business for pizza.  It's important to understand that digital has changed things - the competitive boundaries that sit around and between businesses are starting to melt away. e.g. hotel businesses with Airbnb; the car and taxi industry with Uber; Facebook has changed traditional media; and YouTube has changed traditional TV viewing.  While this provides new opportunities, it also threatens those who linger.

  2. They have a thirst for knowledge and a growth mindset
    To evolve with the pace of transformation directors needs to have an openness to learning so they can build their knowledge of digital and all of its elements.  This is not just your company website, but the whole customer journey and how it works. You can’t leave digital to ‘someone else.

  3. They have an agile approach to the busines
    The speed that things can move is now faster than ever before.  If you make decisions on old style speed, you won’t survive.  Develop a mindset to move a lot faster. Bring an urgency to your business so you can adapt.

    A good illustration of this is the 50 million timeframe. It took:
    • 40 years to get 50 million radios on earth.
    • 14 years to get 50 million TVs.
    • 1 year to get 50 million Facebook accounts.
    • 4 months for 50 million WeChat accounts. 

    Companies who make decisions in old style speed won’t survive.  Gone are the days when you can take three months to prepare a one year business plan that's not reviewed for 12 months.  Change needs to be quick and constant.
    Netflix is a good example of agility.  In 2010 they spent $0 on original content. In 2018 they spent more than $8 billion with 88 feature films; more than any Hollywood studio and virtually more than all Hollywood studios combined.
    Boards need to revisit their culture to be more nimble and agile. Ask youreslf 'what do we need to put in place and what talent do we need to make it happen fast?


  4. They understand data
    With online sales, social media and the internet of things, we have more data available than ever before, but not all organisations are using it.  Data is power.  CEOs and board members should recognize the importance of data and become digitally dexterous to understand:
    • what data you are collecting.
    • what data you are looking at to understand your business.
    • what is the data telling your organisation?

  5. They find and keep the talent
    Having the right mix of talent on your board is vital to lead your organisation in the digitized age. This may mean bringing in new or unconventional talent, who may be younger or have real world experience. Don’t be afraid to embrace new thinking and talent and to think outside the box.
    Boards govern organisations.  Now is the time to ensure both you and your board are digitally ready. For tomorrow cannot wait!
For more on Stephen Scheeler take a look at his Ted Talk.