Does your Board have the right Digital Leaders?

Do Australia’s top businesses and their leaders understand the digital future? This is the question being posed by Talent’s Managing Director Richard Earl who says that to remain at the forefront of technological innovation and digital disruption, corporations must ensure they have the right leaders with the correct digital skills to make sure they can lead the way and take responsibility for the digital transformation of their organisations.


For Australian businesses to compete globally, their boards must accept responsibility and ensure they are well equipped with digital experience.

A 2014 study by Russell Reynolds Associates investigated the board members of over 300 large companies, including Fortune 100 companies in the United States and equivalent Fortune 100 companies in Asia Pacific and Europe. Interestingly it found that across the Asia Pacific region only 2% of these companies have specific and sufficient digital expertise represented on their boards, in stark contrast to the United States which has 24%.

Given the increasing role of technology in driving business growth and delivering customer value, in addition to  the ever persistent threats from cyber crime, Australian boards can no longer charge sole responsibility for  leading their organisation’s digital strategy to  the CIO.

Executive and non-executive Directors need to be digitally literate and have strong understanding of technology to facilitate asking the right questions of their C-Suite management team if they are to effectively oversee their investments into digital strategies for growth.

What does this mean for Australia’s digital leaders?

For Australian businesses to compete on the world stage in this new digital economy whilst maintaining a high level of corporate governance, top executives need to have strong digital acumen. From social media, to big data, the cloud, to ecommerce and cybersecurity, as corporations evolve and innovate, so to must those in senior board positions.

Earl says “to guide a business in innovative ways, board members must understand what innovation looks like. This means having a strong awareness of new technology and how it forms part of the businesses strategic plan.”

Finding the right digital talent locally can be challenging.   According to Earl “Australia does have a limited talent pool” when it comes to digital leaders at the executive level so corporates may have to look abroad to fill this gap.

In one of his first statements as being elected Liberal Leader, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative. We can’t be defensive, we can’t future-proof ourselves.”

“We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility in change is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.”

This sentiment is echoed by many in the Australian Technology sector including Earl who believes investing in further education is the key to Australia delivering our own home grown future executive level digital leaders.

“We need to see organisations like the Australian Institute of Company Directors include digital innovation within their course material in order to encourage awareness and insight for aspiring or existing Non Executive Directors.  Every Non Exec Director currently out there should be reappraising their skill sets in order to be relevant for the companies of tomorrow.