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CEOs in the digital era
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The Issues Facing CEOs in the Digital Age

If being a CEO were easy, everyone would be doing it. But the tough top job comes with its own unique set of challenges not for the weak-willed, especially for CEOs in the digital age.

The Bower Forum allowed companies across the world to come together in Dubai with other senior business leaders. They discussed all kinds of things, but the issues facing CEOs in the digital age kept emerging as a topic of conversation.

Primarily the discussion centred on the early days of a CEO’s long, and hopefully fruitful, time at the top. In addition, they talked about how to work with technology as a top tier executive.

The early days

Being a CEO is clearly not something that happens to everyone. What’s more, there is no “one size fits all” model for how to go about succeeding upon taking the job. Some CEOs at the Bower Forum suggested the first 100 days were the time to take action.

The considered themselves to be a breath of fresh air into the position, and should do their best to make an impact on the job. As they said, the job was not going to wait while they settled in and got comfortable.

The Bower Forum was diverse in its opinions. In fact, some CEOs believed in the opposite of quick action. Instead, they thought it best to spend some time meeting with people at all levels of the company. One CEO did this, formulating a strategy over three months. He was then able to engage board members through a deep knowledge and credibility.

This was in line with the experience of a CEO who had originally been a CFO. While there were no immediate wins for the company, the forum participant spent time building trust from employees.

Many members of the discussion believed that in the first year, if not sooner, they should secure their management team. If that meant hiring and firing based on the skill levels required, it was better to do so sooner rather than later. They did stress however, in order maintain stability they often hired from within the company

CEOs face a number of issues when starting the top job. It’s best they evaluate the uniqueness of their company, and act in the way that best suits them. No matter what, people will be watching. CEOs perform best when they communicate with their staff, engendering trust and showing their dedication.

CEOs in the digital age

With the amount of information available, there is no excuse for a CEO being uninformed. But forum members agreed that technological change is causing massive upheaval for organisations today. One noted computing power has closed the gap in time between researching and creating a project. Technology is always big news. The new iPhone dominated almost a week’s worth of news cycle.

The issue appears not to be the technology, nor the information available, but the sheer volume of both. The issue facing CEOs is prioritising the information, so they don’t waste time learning things that aren’t relevant.

While leaders found it important to draw on their board and top tier executives, they clarified they should have experience. Many board members are qualified for pre-technology managing. Now, new ideas and tech are being made available every day and they have to be adaptable.

If a CEO’s team cannot keep up with social media, immediate customer feedback, and digital communities, they are slowing them down.

Technology isn’t just a part of the workforce; it allows immediate conversation with stakeholders. CEOs have to balance communicating quickly, and communicating effectively.

Finally, CEOs agreed that sometimes, the best ideas come from within. There will always be someone who has a better method of doing something, or knows more about a subject. They suggested talking to the people on ground level for new ideas: the employees. Encouraging innovativeness and creativity, they also suggested making sure there is a reward system in place.

The incredible diversity and experience of the group of 75 CEOs and board chairs was a unique opportunity to learn. There are a number of issues facing CEOs in the digital age, and making it a little easier for the next generation will help everyone within their company.


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