Senior Executives Are Falling Behind The Digital Curve — Here's What It Takes to Stay Ahead. Learn how to stay ahead of the digital curve with the top areas of digital transformation that all corporate leaders should know.

By Tim Madden

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As digitalization continues to shape the modern business landscape, senior executives are now more than ever required to stay current and relevant. A Deloitte survey found that 67% of executives felt "uncomfortable" accessing or using data from advanced analytic systems.

For executives to stay ahead of the curve, having a solid understanding of digital literacy is essential. This includes being knowledgeable about new technologies and their potential challenges and risks. It also means being up-to-date on the latest software, hardware, and digital tools trends that can help increase efficiency, productivity and communication.

So what major areas of digital literacy should senior executives focus on to stay current and relevant?

Related: 11 Leadership Guidelines For The Digital Age

Accepting AI and machine learning

If the time it took for companies to adopt the internet felt short, the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) has felt even shorter.

AI and machine learning aren't necessarily new technologies; their practical uses are evolving quickly. Senior executives should be familiar with AI and its capabilities to understand how it can help improve the customer experience and overall business operations.

94% of corporate leaders surveyed by Deloitte believe that AI will profoundly affect their businesses within the next three years. Learning what AI offers in data analytics and workflow automation can help senior executives stay relevant in the digital era.

Embracing big data analytics

Analytics has always been a powerful tool for businesses, but the rise of big data has made them even more valuable. With big data comes an increased potential to gain insights into customer behavior and preferences that can help inform better decisions and strategies. A NewVantage Partners survey found that 97% of senior executives are boosting their investments in data initiatives.

Senior executives should be familiar with the fundamentals of big data analytics and understand how they can use big data to their advantage. They should be able to leverage analytics to improve decision-making, identify market trends, and uncover customer needs more efficiently.

Implementing agile methodology

The digital landscape is constantly changing, and senior executives need to stay agile in order to keep up with the latest trends.

Agile methodologies — those that focus on rapid delivery and iterative development cycles — are becoming increasingly common in the enterprise. Senior executives should be familiar with agile principles and be able to apply them to their own organizations.

Agile-focused leaders are often better equipped to handle change and adapt quickly to disruptive market trends. They can also provide better guidance for their teams, enabling them to move faster and successfully transition into the digital era.

Investing in cybersecurity and privacy

As digital transformation takes hold, the need for strong security protocols and privacy practices becomes even more critical. A KPMG survey found that 39% of senior executives see their company as unprepared to handle cyber attacks. Executives need to understand the basics of cybersecurity and ensure their organization complies with applicable regulations.

It's also critical to understand the importance of protecting customer data and how companies can ensure they're providing a secure user experience. This includes understanding the latest security trends and best practices and how to respond quickly in case of a cyber attack.

Related: The Emerging Cybersecurity Trends In 2023

Upskilling and reskilling the workforce

Enhancing one's digital literacy goes beyond learning for yourself — it should also include staying up-to-date on the skills necessary to successfully train and manage a digital workforce. No matter where your teams work, they want to know that they are being equipped and empowered to perform their jobs effectively.

Senior executives should strive to learn about the latest upskilling and reskilling trends in digital fields, such as AI, machine learning, and automation. They should also understand how these technologies can improve overall business operations — from boosting employee productivity and efficiency to unlocking new insights into customer behavior.

Supercharging innovation across the organization

Technology can be an excellent tool for driving innovation and creativity, but senior executives must understand how to leverage it effectively. This means having a clear vision of where the organization is going and using digital tools to help achieve that goal.

Creativity should be encouraged across departments, and senior executives should be able to provide guidance and resources that help teams develop innovative solutions.

Engaging in the digital marketplace

Business is moving from the brick-and-mortar world to the digital environment, and executives need to understand how to engage effectively in this new marketplace. Investing time and resources into how a company can engage online and utilizing digital channels to reach customers is essential for success in the digital world.

Senior executives should grasp the evolving e-commerce landscape well and be familiar with best practices such as leveraging customer reviews, providing targeted promotions, and using data-driven insights to create personalized experiences.

For instance, understanding how to use social media platforms and other digital tools to build customer relationships can help create a more loyal base of followers.

The bottom line

The world is changing and leaders need to understand the importance of staying ahead of the digital curve.

As senior executives, it's essential to recognize that embracing digital transformation is no longer an optional strategy — it's a requirement for success in today's economy. Fortunately, the resources and knowledge are available to help you get up to speed quickly, so start exploring and learning today.

Your teams — and your customers — will thank you.

Tim Madden

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Executive Career Upgrades

Tim Madden is a veteran headhunter that has led teams that have placed over 6,000 professionals. He has worked at the largest recruitment firm in the world, responsible for over 50 million dollars of placements of executives. He's a nationally recognized recruiter and has served in the US Army.

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