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Five tips from the top: Pearls of wisdom from business leaders

In the last few years, we've seen a huge amount of change in almost every industry thanks to the rise of constantly connected, mobile devices and cloud services. As a result, every business is hearing loud customer demands for new connected experiences.

It’s clear that businesses need to ensure they’re implementing the right digital strategies to avoid falling behind the competition – which may include an established competitor, or an agile, hungry start-up.

Recently, I’ve had the chance to talk to technology leaders from some of the world’s largest companies for CIO Upload, Apigee’s new series of podcasts. I asked digital innovators such as Aneesh Chopra, the first CTO of the United States of America and Erez Yarkoni, CIO at Telstra how they have ensured their organisation remains relevant to its customers by providing useful and seamless digital experiences.

The sheer speed at which technology is developing can make it difficult to know which approaches to take, so here are some of the top tips for how today’s business leaders can keep up and thrive in today’s digital economy, taken from my conversations with technology leaders from across the globe:

  1. Be open

“Whether you’re working with your internal IT department or with agencies, it’s important that their default mind-set is “open” and not “closed.” By that I mean giving people the chance to experiment with the data and the tools they have available to them, as this is often how the best opportunities for organisations can be found.

"For example, when I was working in government, we asked teams to dig into datasets which previously had not been made public. By doing this, we found datasets we didn’t know existed and we were able to develop new services which were genuinely useful for the public using this data. Digital leaders should create conditions where people feel free to explore different opportunities and come up with creative solutions which we may never have known existed.” Aneesh Chopra, First CTO of the United States of America

  1. Culture is key

“Whether it’s the IT department or the business as a whole, leaders need to create an environment where employees feel empowered to make decisions and can focus on delivering high quality experiences for customers. This also means encouraging people to focus not just on their part of the business, but to also talk to their colleagues working in other departments so they can learn from what they are doing.

"This can provide teams with fresh perspectives and ways of thinking to help stimulate new ideas for their own work. Everything stems from a company’s culture and by fostering creativity and collaboration, you’re making sure that everyone in your business is contributing to making the best products for your customers.” Stuart Hughes, CTO,

  1. Be agile

“Any company, be it a traditional business or a start-up, should focus on being agile. More established organisations should aim to update their legacy systems and open up their digital service to development from vibrant and new developer communities. This is vital for any business today. If you want to maintain your competitive edge and keep up with a fast-moving industry, you need to finesse your internal infrastructure to allow agile development and decision-making.”Ingrid-Helen Arnold, CIO, SAP

  1. Consider your audience

“It’s really important that businesses take the time to think about the different audiences who will be interacting with their digital services. Most organisations will have a wide variety of demographics using their app or website, including employees as well as customers. And within these groups, people will have a different level of experience with digital – some people might expect seamless interaction across their multiple devices whilst others might be primarily using your website.

"It’s important to recognise these different needs and develop a universal approach which works for all these users. It’s certainly a big challenge, but the closer a company can get to accommodating its wide-ranging customer base, the happier these users will be.” Madeleine Fackler, former CIO, Johnson & Johnson

  1. Always link back to business strategy

“Many digital leaders will get asked by their teams: “how do we know we’re working on the right thing?” Digital leaders should encourage any teams developing new digital experiences to see how these match up against the overall business strategy. For example, at Telstra, some of our key business focuses include driving customer advocacy and adding to our core services to provide real value to our consumers.

"Developers should view any project they’re working on through this business lens and reconsider any that don’t help progress the business’ objectives.” Erez Yarkoni, CIO, Telstra Corp.

These tips come as part of Apigee’s new series of podcasts with digital leaders from some of the world’s biggest companies, found on the Apigee app, CIO Upload.

Greg Brail, Chief Architect, Apigee

Image source: Shutterstock/TechnoVectors