Article: Developing e-Leaders: The Why, What and How

What e-Leadership skills are needed?

What skills are needed? From my experience running major business IT transformations as a European CIO and directing e-Leadership education programmes, the big challenge is to combine three diverse skills. The first is strong business competence with a comprehensive understanding both of line functions and of cross-functional business processes. Second is the ability to keep up-to-date with emerging technologies while making cost-effective use of existing technologies. Third, and from case feedback and experience, the most difficult, is to demonstrate the personal leadership and organisation political skills to deliver alignment. It is this combination of skills that we define as e-Leadership. Exacerbating the alignment skills issue is the expanding role of IT in organisations and society. Over time, we have seen that digital technologies have moved IT from the ‘back office’ administration into enhancing the ‘front-line’ both of customer experience and innovative products. Gartner’s original nexus of forces (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) has been supplemented by other emerging technologies, for example by the internet of things, and 3D (and 4D) printing. While some CIOs have embraced this additional challenge, others have not taken the lead and in consequence have seen the role and/or responsibilities of Chief Digital Officer go to colleagues or external recruits. A major debate is whether leaders must always be executives or can be found at any level in the organisation. I was asked to facilitate an IT leadership session at a top European multinational, where the senior HR person believed leadership development had to be for top managers while the CIO believed in developing leaders at all levels. It made for an interesting session!

How to develop e-Leadership

Research commissioned by the European Commission and other groups has led to an e-Leadership initiative. This initiative recognises the differences in leaders by classifying executives and professionals as different target audiences for e-Leadership education. The analysis, conducted initially in large scale enterprises, concluded that there is a significant shortage of e-Leadership skills in both groups. Developing these skills solely ‘on-the-job’ is not straightforward although the other extreme of doing an academic qualification without experience is not an alternative. The programmes developed at Henley over the last seven years therefore aim to develop insights by combining conceptual frameworks with relevant case studies in all three aspects of e-Leadership, connecting business, technology and personal development. What they all have in common is collaborations in the design of the programme with e-Leader customers – specifically Deutsche Telekom, PA Consulting and EuroCIO corporate members. Each programme uses ‘on-the-job’ assessed assignments to ensure that the learning directly relates to the organisation. A key message from participants is that they acquire the knowledge and the confidence to engage with senior executives in designing new business and operating models. With these strong testimonials, this approach has resulted in Henley advising on best practice curriculum profiles and hosting the UK e-Leadership event for the European Commission. **** Link to Henley e-Leadership summary report.

Bridging Demand and Supply for e-Leadership

To close the skills gap, the EC initiative aims to bridge the demand and supply for e-Leadership. A significant output was to create curriculum profiles that define the target content and approach for best practice – Leadership development programmes. As a result of Henley’s proven expertise in developing e-Leadership programmes, we have been invited to assist the EC initiative in defining e-Leadership curriculum profiles.

The concept of a curriculum profile (CP) is to capture the essential elements of any educational programme for e-leadership positions. CPs are mapped to the European e-Competence Framework e-CF which defines a comprehensive range of IT skills. Those successfully completing a course of education compliant with a CP are expected to be better prepared for e-leadership roles in the economy. The aim is that CPs can be used both by demand and supply stakeholders in the e-Leadership education ecosystem. EuroCIO, a membership group for CIOs of large organisations has been instrumental in the set-up of the initial CPs. Employer organisations can check their development needs by reviewing the learning outcomes for the relevant curriculum profiles. Educational institutions can use the CPs to evaluate existing and proposed programmes against best practice curricula. Several have already completed evaluation of their e-Leadership programme by matching these to the appropriate CP. At Henley, we found a close match to our Professional Programme in Business & Enterprise Architecture and it also suggested improvement areas that are being incorporated into the next run of the programme, starting October 2014. ***** Link to BEA programme page

e-Leadership Learning Outcomes
A key part of the curriculum profiles is the definition of learning outcomes. Learning outcomes for a profile are identified through analysis of the responsibilities and benefit delivery expected of the role. The starting point was to define meta-skills for an e-Leader. Based on consolidating inputs from prior EC reviews, the conclusion was that an e-Leader leads inter–­””‘disciplinary staff and builds capability to:
Innovate strategic business and operating modelsExploit digital trendsEnvision and drive change for business performanceInfluence stakeholders across boundaries

The next stage was to identify learning outcomes for key e-Leadership roles, with a priority being those of business and enterprise architects. The conclusion was that on successful completion of the curriculum, a business architect will be able to:

  • Create architectural designs that help Innovate strategic business and operating models
  • Exploit digital trends to develop target model architectures
  • Envision and drive architectural change for business performance
  • Influence architectural stakeholders across boundaries
  • Build architectural capability and lead interdisciplinary staff

Executives and professionals who operate at the business/IT boundary recognise that standing still is not an option. Evolution of business models and emerging technologies creates a significant risk that both staff and consultants will be seen as ‘legacy people’ similar to legacy systems that cannot cope with innovative digital technologies. My experiences firstly as a European CIO and now as the Professor of IT Leadership at Henley confirm that leading organisations who are pro-active in developing their staff have benefit significantly from this investment.