A recent industry roundtable highlighted the need for leaders to be aware of the challenges around managing global teams, or run the risk of alienating today’s digital and globally dispersed workforce. With the emergence of UC, technology was identified as a key enabler for collaboration, as well as providing a platform for sustainable business practices.
Meeting over telepresence, a fully immersive video conferencing technology, across the UK, France, Brussels, Singapore, China, South Africa and India, the roundtable discussed the traditional role of the CEO and how technologies, particularly Unified Communications, were transforming that role, as leaders manage a global and always-on workforce. Professors from leading international business schools including Nottingham Business School (UK), ESCP (Paris, France), EDHEC (Lille, France), TSM (Netherlands), Ashridge and Royal Holloway (UK), and GIBS (South Africa) discussed the future opportunities facing this space, with a number of senior executives from Tata Communications and its customers. Future social and economic development, made possible by video conferencing, and its role in bringing needed expertise into developing nations, especially in the areas of education and medicine, were also key topics on the table. For these opportunities to be fully realized, business leaders face some very specific challenges.
Professor Mollie Painter-Morland, Professor and Academic Director, Nottingham Business School & ABIS, argued that “the speed and complexity that characterizes global organisations puts conventional leadership theories under pressure. Today’s leaders must be prepared to embrace experimentation and engage with other stakeholders to spontaneously co-create new visions and strategies for their organizations. Instead of managing their organizations in a demand-and-control fashion, they have to embrace more relational leadership styles.”
“The challenges of the modern leader are compounded by the new social norms that technologies such as Unified Communications bring,” says Vinod Kumar, MD and CEO, Tata Communications. “Today, managers can run teams across the world that, for months at a time, they don’t get to meet with. Modern leaders need to adapt to this trend and change their communication style to one that empowers remote employees. There is a need to embrace innovative and pervasive forms of entreprise communications tools such as two-way video and the plethora of enterprise level social networking tools available today.”
The emergence of Unified Communications technologies also brings with it exciting opportunities for speedy collaboration and idea creation. During the roundtable, it was recognized that this collaboration is allowing new forms of systemic leadership, where remote teams work together and the best ideas and the most suited people take a natural leadership role. In a world where teams are global, leaders at every level must now understand how to balance individuality and co-creation across their teams. But this new environment also presents risks. Too much information can lead to information overload and errors in decision-making. These risks can only be managed by leaders who can embrace the relational checks and balances that the right blend of new technologies facilitate. Technologies such as unified communications make new forms of stakeholder engagement possible and allow for relational accountability to emerge. Furthermore, technological advances allow organizations to expand their role as global citizens, especially in emerging markets.
The discussion went on to highlight the changing role of the CIO. IT spending was said to be shifting from the IT department to the business, with the growth of cloud and the trend for BYOD being evidence of that. Is the CIO becoming more of an ‘orchestrator of services’ than the final decision maker, as Enterprise IT becomes more consumerised?