Mind the Gap

Digital Maturing - Your Leadership Responsibility

Blog post by Pernille Kræmmergaard, April 2024
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"Please mind the gap between the train and the platform" is how my new book, which will be published in mid-May, begins. And it continues like this...

In London's busy Underground, people swarm in and out of the clattering train carriages as the loudspeaker call reminds them to mind the gap between the train and the platform. The message is repeated at least 200,000 times every day, and it's also posted on the platforms themselves.

This has been the case since 1968, when the loudspeaker announcements replaced the staff who helped passengers get in and out of the carriages safely without tripping. And despite the hustle and bustle - with four million daily passengers, The Tube is one of the busiest transportation systems in the world - it's rare that anyone gets hurt, precisely because they're aware of the gap.

It's a term I've started to use, but in a different context. For me, it's about the gap between the capabilities of a company or organization and the demands of the outside world.

When I visit companies and public organizations, it's clear that they have long since understood the importance of digital technologies. Their use is high on their agenda, and surveys and my own experience show that there is a high demand for digital competencies.

But at the same time, many are frustrated. They feel that their reality is changing rapidly, tasks are becoming more complex, there are new demands and expectations from customers, employees and partners, not to mention society in general: climate, sustainability, social responsibility, cyber security, data ethics, etc. This is not new in itself - the competitive landscape has always been changing - but the speed of change and complexity makes it necessary to approach change differently than before.

The technological challenge in particular is pressing, and many of the leaders I speak to realize that there are gaps that they need to be aware of because they can be fatal. The newer technologies are often described as disruptive. This means that they have the potential to radically disrupt the way things have traditionally been done. They can create entirely new markets or business models, making existing products and services obsolete. And this disruptive potential increases the risk of gaps that can become critical.

You can distinguish between external gaps - the gaps between the expectations and demands of the outside world and the company's willingness and ability to meet them - and internal gaps: all those places where there is a mismatch between departments, strategy, organization, technological knowledge and skills, etc. The external ones are typically the ones driving digitalization.

There can be a gap between what their own companies can do and what new and perhaps more agile "born digital" competitors can do. There may be a gap between their own digital maturity and that of the industry, where they are falling behind. Some have also found it difficult to meet the demands and expectations of customers and partners. At the same time, investors and owners have become aware of whether companies and organizations are competitive when it comes to the use of digital technologies.

The gap between the current capabilities of companies and organizations and the expectations of the outside world is driving the need for digital development in many places. It is also a critical gap. If it gets too big, you can't - as in the London Underground - simply remind yourself to take a slightly bigger step; instead, you fall into the gap, and that can be fatal.

More importantly: If you only react to the immediate pressure you're experiencing, there's a high risk that you'll continue to fall behind. Instead, seize the opportunity to consciously work on digital maturity and make strategic choices about where you need to be in the short and long term, preferably with more ambitious goals than what you feel you need right now.

Businesses and organizations have always had to evolve to meet the expectations of the outside world. But digital technologies are constantly evolving, many at a rapid pace, and once you've fallen behind, it can be almost impossible to close the gap. Therefore, digital evolution requires constant attention and strategic foresight.

It's primarily this dangerous gap that this book will help you close. But there are other gaps that can also be problematic. Within the company or organization, there can be different types of gaps in digital development, for example between departments, between the strategic needs and the actual skills, between the intent and the organizational framework, etc. You can read more about how to deal with them in the book, which also presents the new Generation 6 of digital maturity and much more.

If you are interested in reading the book, it can already be pre-ordered (in Danish) here.

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