The recent World Economic Forum 2021 Global Risks Report strongly highlights the knock-on effects that tech leaders will face, such as IT infrastructure breakdown or tech governance and cybersecurity failure, with adverse tech advances as an existential threat in the long term (five to ten years). This new normal will usher a series of shifts that will alter business and technology forever.

Technology leaders should seize the moment and set out a compelling vision in the face of these challenges. They must outline highly adaptive strategies that address both internal business and external market environments to prepare their firm for the future.

By 2030, Forrester predicts that a new set of leaders will emerge who will take customer obsession into the future. These leaders will be future fit, driving strategies that are adaptive, creative, and resilient. They will help their organisations excel in technology innovation, make big bets on new business models, new talent, and new ways of working, and be more adaptive and resilient to the disruptive forces that will characterise the 2020s.

Future Fit Leadership

Future fit leaders drive their role beyond IT. They are business-savvy CIOs, empowered to take up a more influential leadership position beyond the traditional remit of the IT organisation. They have a sense of urgency for setting out a future fit technology vision, taking an outside-in, customer-obsessed perspective not constrained by the bounds of IT. Future fit leaders reveal excellent change leadership skills. They demonstrate sound decision-making, brilliant tactics, and confidence in the value of their decisions. They build trusted coalitions with their peers, provide a clear vision, and create a trusting collaborative environment for self-regulating teams. One CIO set a simple three-word homeworking policy for their team: “We trust you.”

Future Fit Technology Strategy

Organisations that successfully navigated through the COVID-19 crisis were prepared for change. They adapted to the situation, found creative solutions to the challenges they faced, and were resilient to ensure the business continued to serve its customers. A future fit technology strategy is a customer-obsessed approach to technology that enables a company to quickly reconfigure business structures and capabilities to meet future customer and employee needs with adaptivity, creativity, and resilience. For example, Mastercard’s adaptive culture pushed it to pursue emerging adjacent markets such as cutting-edge fraud solutions, B2B payments, and business optimisation services. And when Uber’s rideshare business took a hit, it doubled down on its delivery business and workforce.

Crisis-Driven Innovation

In a crisis, people and businesses behave in extraordinary ways. Throughout the pandemic, command and control were relaxed, and autonomy enabled quicker decision-making. New habits and behaviours have emerged and will continue. The key to seizing post-crisis growth opportunities is to learn, apply, and embed these cultural shifts as new ways of working. The pandemic pushed many companies to quickly modify products, distribution, and delivery methods. Takeda Pharmaceutical rapidly ramped up processing of COVID-19 survivors’ plasma and established partnerships with competitors to achieve the plasma volumes required. Standing up the initial partnership took less time than was previously possible, using cloud technology with security already in place. The pandemic has also shown that innovation can be sparked when governments engage the private sector to respond to large-scale challenges — if risks and rewards are shared fairly and light but effective governance is in place.