In today's technologically advanced world of business having a competitive edge is what leads to the success of a company. The company may employ some of the best technical brains as managers and executives. However, what if the CEO himself or herself is not very tech-savvy? Is that OK for a company that is known for being digitally savvy?

Most of the business success stories do not have a technical genius as the CEO or founder-CEO, bar a few like Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. Until a few years ago, most people who started a business belonged to an influential and a well-to-do family.

Today, we live in a world of technology and most startups are established by digitally savvy founders. But, despite how innovative today's companies are, not all need to be coded by a founder who is a technical geek. Digital companies too are like any other company and will have the same problems of achieving customer satisfaction as would a consumer goods company or any leading apparel brand.

Let's face facts: A CEO who's obsessed with coding throughout the day cannot do justice to his or her business. On the flip side, someone who is totally blank when it comes to technology won't even know what is happening in the company. And explaining technical things to such a person would be akin to explaining rocket science to a lay person.

Laypersons as CEOs

Today, anybody can start a business. Students (which also counts dropouts), marketing professionals, or anybody with a great idea. Not all of them necessarily will have a technical background.

While a success or failure doesn't depend on the digital savviness of the CEO, but it depends on the technology savviness of the company. One can't shun away from technology if he/she wants to build a competitive edge, for the business CEOs must know how technology works to stay updated and relevant in the market. A tech insight is crucial to stay ahead in the game.

Ignorance Doesn't Pay

A successful CEO will be more concerned about the mission and vision (not just giving out statements) of the company. Rather than spending hours delving into the intricacies of how a particular technology works, which may be very difficult to perceive. However, once the business is set and going, the CEO will find time to remain updated on the technological front by discussing the latest innovations with colleagues. He or she will want to be part of all technical discussions and have a say in the decisions.

Instead of focusing on how to build a product, it would serve CEOs well to learn how to use various gadgets, devices and apps being released in the market every other day. This will probably take them closer to how the customer thinks and what she or he expects.

Partnership Pays

Most non-technical CEOs will make up for their lack of technical skills by bringing in a partner who will fill the gap. This gives them time to focus on other core areas of running a business. The technical partner will take care of all aspects technical, especially hiring the right technical hands for the right job. Obviously, a non-technical CEO cannot know how to hire the best coders and developers, or network experts and specialists in cloud technology.

A technical partner is not only trustworthy but can explain the nuances of technology in private. A CEO has the responsibility of being answerable to the investors and needs to be well-informed in all aspects of business, be it technical, finance or HR related. There may be more questions related to technology as that is what most companies' businesses are based on today.

Knowing what is of consequence, and what isn't

When it comes to devising a digital strategy for the business, a CEO must know what is of consequence and what isn't. The management of a company needs to be sure of its digital strategy and know the nitty-gritties of accumulating data and interpreting it. CEOs with vision keep ahead of not just the competition, but of customers as well. They have the uncanny knack to predict requirements and have the products ready and launch it at the right moment. CEOs with intuition rather than digital savviness do better.

At the end of the day, non-technical CEOs need to know their limits when it comes to things technical. The good news is that this need never be a hindrance to developing the business as such things can be taken care of by able colleagues who are technically brilliant. What's more important is unwavering focus with a broad vision, and a smattering of digital ingenuity gleaned from technically sound peers that can help spell success.

Creating Digitally Savvy Executives

Is your CEO and the executive team digitally savvy? Do they interact with you in a communal way or over cocktails? In most fortune 500 companies the answer is more latter than former. The result of a survey by Domo is that only 39% of the CEOs from Fortune 500 companies use social media, and 70% of them use only single network.

Most CEOs would start a social media profile to put out their thoughts on social media about their industry or about their company. However, most CEOs tweet less than what they had tweeted at the beginning. The sentence, "Communicating with customers is never a waste of time" is true in this digital world and also before the world went digital.

The primary job of the CEO is to communicate with shareholders, employees, and also customers. He/she is not only the Chief Executive Officer, but also the Chief Communication Officer.

Some of the CEOs who have jumped the social media bandwagon are Doug McMillon, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Mary Barra, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg from Walmart, Tesla, Microsoft, Apple, General Motors, Virgin Group, and Facebook Inc respectively. Closer to home, Anand Mahindra, the Chairman of Mahindra Group is seen communicating on Twitter. He also takes time to reply to netizens.

Fears of Social Media Usage for CEOs

There are many excuses against social media usage. Some of the fears of CEOs social media usage and how such fears are unfounded:

  1. Social media is a waste of time: Social media is a waste of time if you do not manage your time well on it. Anything done without a purpose or limit can waste your time. A focused and limited time on social media can be valuable to understand customers, employees, competitors, the media, and the market.
  2. Communicating can be risky: Just like most CEOs are thoughtful about what they communicate through email, they must be thoughtful about what goes out into social media. The benefits of building a following will increase personal brand, and also the brand of the company you are involved in.
  3. Social media is not the preferred mode of communication: Weather CEOs send out snail mails when it was the only thing, or they send out tweets, they need to embrace the most powerful way to communicate, which is social media considering how many people you can reach.
  4. There are cyber-security and legal risks: Using social media is not a security threat, but giving out passwords or clicking on random links sure is not secure. Tweeting gets you a loyal audience to whom you can listen, not legal risks.
  5. Nothing is secondary to interpersonal communication: Both interpersonal communication and social media communication has its benefits. However, interpersonal cannot compare with social media with regards to scale. CEOs of large companies who cannot meet every employee sitting in different continents can use social media instead.

Hiring or creating a digitally savvy top management team is the first step. Then it is about finding the time to engage online, take feedback from the audience, and implement changes where it makes sense.

Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart would carry a yellow notebook. With this notebook, he would meet employees at different stores, record what they said, after which he would come back to discuss with his management team about it. Social media could be your digital yellow notepad, if you can call it that.

Do you need our help to set up your digital yellow notepad? Call Verbinden.

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