Without a doubt, technology transforms the way we do business. Any leader knows that staying ahead of the curve and investing in digital transformation can provide a competitive advantage.
Many new technology leaders who step into roles often inherit legacy IT systems and have to work with outdated tech that requires massive overhaul.
Ginni Rometty, former CEO and executive chairman of IBM, led IBM from a computer hardware company to a data and software services brand.
She directed the company to spend $8.5 billion acquiring around 30 companies between 2012 and 2015 and half of IBM’ $79.1 billion revenue in 2017 came from emerging high value segments of IT instead of its legacy software products.
Here are some lessons we can learn from Rometty’s time spent spearheading IBM’s technology and digital transformation strategy:
Transform, don’t turn around
Instead of looking to “turn around” something, see the change as transformative. For Rometty, she couldn’t attempt to turn around and save the 100-year-old brand from becoming irrelevant, instead she saw the changes as transformative.
“When you’re in tech, you have to transform,” Rometty told Harvard Business Review. “For us, it’s all about data. Our belief is that you’ll make better decisions if you can unlock the data.”
Using customer insights about IBM’s clients, she was able to transform the business into a service provider that clients needed.
Digital transformation takes hard work
During Rometty’s tenure as CEO, Warren Buffet sold a large share of his IBM stock for lack of confidence in Rometty leadership, but she was not deterred.
“You have to have passion. And you have to have clarity. But I think the most difficult thing is perseverance,” she told Harvard Business Review. “This is a large, highly profitable company that continues to do mission-critical work serving clients around the world — and at the same time reinventing itself.”
Whether your implementing critical IT infrastructure, embarking on a new digital strategy, or entering a new market, the lesson here is to always persevere.
Focus on becoming more agile
The adage “work smarter, not harder” is true. Rometty instituted “design thinking” across the organization and added new programs and platforms, like Slack, to enable teams to work smarter to drive workplace agility.
Data is at the core of digital transformation
“What steam was to the 18th century, electricity to the 19th, and hydrocarbons to the 20th, data will be to the 21st century,” said Rometty to Northwestern University. “That’s why I called data a new natural resource.”
Business leaders investing in technology must find ways to make data work for them.
When it comes to implementing new technology, leaders should ask these questions:
- What parts of my business can I transform to be more future facing?
- What programs, tools, and software would help my business be more agile?
- How can we make better use of the data we’re generating?
- How can I inspire others around me to preserve during difficult times?