Archive of: Research
Peak Performance: How Combining Employee Engagement and Performance Management Fuels Organizational Success
The landscape for performance management is changing dramatically. Business leaders know they can get more value using performance management as a tool to engage and develop people rather than to just assess them. However, while they recognize the link between employees’ level of engagement and their performance, most organizations still operate performance management and employee engagement on separate tracks, according to this recent research report I wrote for Harvard Business Review Analytic Services.
Digital leaders share three common attributes.
- Leadership: In addition to having a formal digital strategy, digital leaders are much more likely to have the CEO leading their digital transformation. But CEOs don’t work in a vacuum; two-thirds of respondents view their CIO as critical to the success of their digital transformation as well.
- Data & analytics: Digital leaders use data and analytics to a much greater degree – both to understand what customers want and to improve operations and forecasting.
- Open to taking risk: Innovation, invention and change all involve risk, and digital leaders are significantly more open to taking risks in pursuit of new digital business opportunities than are hybrids and non-digitals. And they build this into their culture.
New research reveals an alarming reality. Digital disruption is upon us, yet a significant percentage of organizations are doing nothing to increase their digital abilities.
Eighty percent of nearly 800 business leaders surveyed by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services say their industry will be disrupted by digital trends, and most of those said their industry has either passed the tipping point of disruption (28%) or will by 2020 (56%). However, nearly a quarter of respondents to the Microsoft-sponsored research have done little or nothing to become more digital.
For the past two years, I’ve conducted a half dozen or so major research projects on digital business. At the outset, I looked for a definition that we could present to participating executives that would ground the research in something tangible. There wasn’t much out there. Even MIT's Center for Digital Business hadn't pinned this down. So we created our own definition as “the transformation of business models, products and/or operations from the use of information and communications technologies.”
OK, but wow, that was vague — transformation from what — and to what? Do a search today, and you'll find a lot more of the same.
Having completed all this research — survey results from thousands of business leaders around the world and interviews with close to a hundred executives, analysts and academics, my thinking has shifted. Today I define digital business as…
I have to admit it — I'm baffled. In all the research I've done in the past year, business leaders again and again say they believe the CIO is the right person to lead digital innovation. And yet, again and again, there's a gap between where everyone — CIOs and their business partners included — think the CIO should be and where they actually are. CIOs just can't seem to break out of the technology service provider role.
In the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study, "Business Transformation and the CIO Role," 94% of respondents said CIOs would add the most value to the business by either leading business technology transformation or, even better, leading IT-driven business innovation and strategy. Only 6% voted for the CIO to focus on running the IT function to support business operations. And yet the vast majority — 70% — said that's exactly where the CIO spends his or her time.
I've also had a number of conversations lately with strategic CIOs who view their role as helping their business leverage information — they frame the digital opportunity in that context. Sure, they need technology to do that, but that's not where the value lies or how they define their role.
Back in the 1990s and into the early part of the 2000s, we ran an awards program at CIO magazine called the Enterprise Value Awards. This was a unique and truly outstanding awards program that scrutinized the work being done by CIOs and their business partners — and the results being delivered — through the use of information technology. Every nomination had to have a CIO and a business leader as joint sponsors. They had to prove claimed financial value by having the company's CFO sign off on the numbers. Every finalist received a site visit from an experienced reviewer who met in person with company leaders and users of the system to vet the claims being made. These review board members then presented their findings to a blue-ribbon panel of CIOs at a day-long meeting in Boston. The winners were recognized at an annual Enterprise Value Retreat.
I just had my first highlights reel made and I'm pretty excited. I delivered the opening keynote at the Oracle Cloud World conference in Boston in December 2014. Oracle did a great job filming it in the first place, and my friend the very talented videographer Craig Kimberley at Skyprop Media did a great job editing it down to a couple of minutes. This shows both my onstage work and the kinds of (very visual) slides that I create. I hope you like it!
Creating the conditions for and harnessing innovation isn't easy, especially for large organizations. Innovation Accelerators — companies that are committed to innovation across the enterprise — take a managed, structured approach. That may seem contradictory — after all, isn't innovation supposed to be creative and spontaneous? Creative, yes, but if you rely on spontaneous combustion to light your innovation process, your results will be uneven at best.
One of the most interesting research projects I've worked on in the past year was an HBR Analytics Services study sponsored by Red Hat as part of their Enterprisers Project. In it, we divided the universe based on respondents' posture toward IT-driven business innovation — for simplicity's sake, let's call it digital innovation. There were three categories:
Innovation Accelerators: These respondents said that digital innovation is a consciously pursued strategy throughout the organization — it's in their company's DNA.
Ad Hoc Innovators: These companies have pockets of digital innovation, but it is not pervasive or replicated across the whole company.
Low Prioritizers: At these firms, digital innovation is not a priority; they focus elsewhere.
Business leaders anticipate dramatic change in all aspects of their operations over the next three years, according to recent research from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (you can download a copy of the report I authored, Business Transformation and the CIO Role, at the HBR website). Some companies are accelerating this change by committing to IT-enabled business innovation as a core strategy. To understand just how massive the changes will be, consider this: 70 percent of these “innovation accelerators" (about a third of respondents) expect the ways in which they engage with customers to be transformed in three years, rating it eight or higher on a 10-point change scale. That's right: 70 percent. Transformed. Sixty-four percent anticipate that same degree of change in their products and services, their business models and the ways employees work.