Digitalization changes the business by demanding not only organizational transformations, but also a specific composition of executives. Participants in the "Leaders of the Digital Age. Theory and Practice of Business Leaders Transformation" discussed what key competencies they should have.

Success of technology transformation depends on the human factor – on leader’s ability to develop constantly and manage changes, his or her readiness to explore and make decisions under elevated uncertainty. Digital transformation leaders are always innovators and visionaries converting technology advantages into investments.

According to Nikolay Verkhovskiy, Executive Director of the Digital Transformation Center at the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, competencies of a digital transformation leader can be divided into several directions. Those are business logic transformation, technology knowledge, ability to tell a hype from what will really impact the market. Another important criterion is skills to manage organizational culture, new design methods, and working practices.

"A person who achieved great results when working in a linear company might simply defy new technologies. And when entrusted with something related to digitalization, he or she will start explaining why it should not be done. There is another type – technoromantics, they are obsessed with digitalization. It is crucial to find a perfect balance between these two types of employees," said Nikolay Verkhovskiy.

Agnes Ritter, CTO of Severstal, emphasized that digital transformation would not deliver the required results unless the business strategy is changed. According to the World Economic Forum, in 2018 all companies in the world invested over USD 1 trillion in digital technologies. However, only one percent of managers said these investments had paid off. This is because the transformations were not carried out properly.

"Technologies work by themselves, too. For instance, there is no doubt that an artificial neural network can predict a machine will fail two hours before it occurs. However, the main thing in digital transformation is people. It is impossible to bring new technologies into an “old” company. Therefore, you must change the culture in your company and involve people in technology development," said Agnes Ritter.

Rajendra Srivastava, Dean of the Indian School of Business, reminded that company transformation must be initiated from above or supported by a manager. In this case, the process is supposed to be carried out according to a clear plan considering all potential risks.

"We have a lot of transformation processes going on, and we have to understand how to prevent any adverse impact on the existing business processes. For that end, a relevant investment fund and relevant regulations must be in place to take these ideas and implement them subject to our requests," said Rajendra Srivastava.

The topic was discussed by Yakov Sergienko, Senior Partner at McKinsey and Company CIS, Alexei Sokolov, Managing Partner at Egon Zehnder, and Dmitry Prokhorenko, HR Director of URALCHEM.