August 01, 2021 / 06:30 PM / By Proshare Research / Header Image
Executive Summary - Governance Meets New World
"Working from home makes it much harder to delineate work time from personal time. I encourage all of our employees to have a disciplined schedule for when you will work, and when you will not, and to stick to that schedule." - Dan Springer, CEO of DocuSign
With COVID-19 still bearing down on several global economies the whole concepts of work, purpose, collaboration, and CEO remuneration are taking on new dimensions requiring fresh insights, new strategies, and critical rethinking. As DocuSign's chief executive officer (CEO), Dan Springer, noted in the quotation above, the emerging flexible work culture may require some work.
Not only is the workplace in need of a do-over but also corporate structures and management approaches may need a remake. Organizations are scooting along the transition tarmac from pyramid structures to flatter engagements with fluid collaborative teams and defined goals. This has been called 'holacracy' or a working system where teams engage, disengage, and reengage to achieve specific corporate goals and responsibilities are shared across employees according to required needs to meet specific objectives (see illustration 1 below).
Illustration 1: From Hierarchy to Holacracy
The post-COVID-19 age will usher a period where organizations must be agile to survive, hierarchical structure will have their place but to respond swiftly to the moving corporate and economic pieces companies will need to work in small and large cohesive clusters to meet either physical production targets or service delivery standards. Organizations must increasingly become what long-time Royal Dutch Shell strategist, Aries de Gues called the 'living company'. According to Peter Senge who wrote the forward to the book of the same title, "Seeing a company as a machine implies that it will run down unless it is rebuilt by management. Seeing a company as a living being means that it is capable of regenerating itself, of continuity as an identifiable entity beyond its present members".
It is this sustainability that the holacracy-structured company attempts to achieve as it reshapes itself for assignments and targets to ensure that customers' needs, and expectations are exceeded or at least met.
In going forward from 2021 several local companies will have to come to terms with the pains of making the transition from hierarchical organizational structures to organizational structures that are flatter but significantly more agile and responsive to a setting sprinkled with uncertainty. To cope with the transition, corporate boards will have to make some key decisions that would involve:
The domestic Nigerian corporation from 2021 would have to rethink, reimagine and restrategize. The days of the laidback corporate behemoths imposing themselves on consumers are over, companies that aim for sustainability in today's environment must be nimble, competitive, and imaginative. The absence of imagination or creativity means being buried in the graveyard of yesterday's giants. In the coming technological storm, the only shelters for organizations that want to see their logos on corporate buildings are consumer sensitivity, corporate agility, and market awareness (see illustration 2 below).
Illustration 2: The Hard Work of Change
In the new age of the company, sustainability will mean more than products and services it would mean regular process and product iterations that are set to meeting specific but changing or changeable consumer needs. Environment, social and governance (ESG) considerations will become majorly important to the corporate service or product delivery processes, as companies move in lockstep with social and consumer signaling. In this ecosystem, gone will be the enterprise high on corporate influence and low on consumer satisfaction, and in will be the business that is high on consumer aspirations and low on product or service history. Indeed, for the sustainable company, tomorrow does not wait, it is already here.
The Ways of Tomorrow's Markets
Tomorrow's markets like people can be cranky. The uncertainty of consumer preferences remains a fundamental part of the changing dynamics of product and service markets. Unlike 40 years ago consumers in the 2000s expect to be served by companies in a manner that emphasizes precision, speed, and empathy. The contemporary consumer is impatient and quickly pivots to alternative products or services as soon as expectations are not met. The new consumer is not a taker but a demander, she or he insists that service or product promise be fulfilled or 'canceled' meaning that the product gets dropped from the consumer's scale of preferences and this could become viral as the consumer's experience is narrated on multiple social media platforms.
A recent example of how consumers influence product or service demand was a recent press conference where Christiano Ronaldo of Juventus in Italian Serie 'A' knocked two bottles of Coca Cola together and picked up a bottle of water and exclaimed 'agua!' or 'water!' the market value of the Cocoa Cola company fell by US$4bn on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) hours after the press briefing.
The incident demonstrates the rising power of millennial consumers and the environmental, social, and governance concerns of contemporary buyers. The aspirational company will have to align itself with the greener and health-conscious views of millennial and post-millennial consumers or they would go the way of the digital imaging company, Rank Xerox, which fizzled from being a prominent Fortune 100 company in 1998 to filing bankruptcy within a decade.
Corporate sustainability should not be about the past but about the future, analysts observe that companies aiming for longevity must dream dreams and see visions rather than stay stuck in historical time warps. Nigeria's corporate giants of the past are largely resting peacefully in the scrapyard of yesterday's greats as new companies emerge as corporate champions (see illustration 3 below).
Illustration 3: Corporate Nigeria in Transition
If a company is to navigate the complexities and uncertainties that will dominate business decisions between 2021 and 2025 must be prepared to address the following five issues:
The Age of Data
Corporations in 2021 will see big data as an increasingly important part of their business strategy. The use of consumer and customer-related data to refine corporate approaches to markets and business segments would define the state of market play. Digital laggards will see their businesses shrink to a modest pile of dust as digital vanguards grow their market share and deepen customer engagement through faster service and product delivery nodes and customized value chain engagement.
The agile data-driven enterprise will weave past consumer resistance and match consumer expectations as it supports rising aspirations. Firms stuck along traditional channels of consumer interaction are likely to eat chaff for breakfast as they stay trapped in the past (see illustration 4 below).
Illustration 4: Trapped to Agile
The agile corporation will make data and analytics a central part of the business management processes as the daily flow of information is filtered to provide strategic insights and business-sensitive triggers to consumer changes. However, companies may fail to achieve the optimal results desired from data-inspired executive decision-making, if the process of data-titration, interpretation, and presentation is left to the company's information and technology (IT) department.
This is a common mistake of several local Nigerian businesses. The IT manager is seen as an ombudsman that waves a magic wand over the company's strategic problems and they all disappear. This is fantasy gone wild. The IT department can only work with the data it is given and even at that, it is unlikely to understand the context and nuances of the interpretation of the data it processes, this requires deeper thinking and greater technical ability by way of analytics.
The suitably agile company would likely adopt a task-defined team arrangement with representatives from different departments in the company that provide different perspectives and context to the data that requires interpretation and forms the basis of scenario-dependent recommendations.
Companies designed for sustainability would require data-savvy chief executive offices (CEOs) who would lead the charge for a frontal response to the messages received from data analytics.
The CEO must bring all managers up to speed with the relevant corporate market data and align the data with budget plans. The different corporate teams would adjust business actions to goals required to meet customer and investor expectations. The IT department of companies, therefore, provides the platform but not the levers for data application.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Corporate Playbook
Technology is not simply an add-on for the company of the future but a plug-in. The company that hopes to remain sustainable over the next decade cannot afford to simply attach technology to the old ways of operating; it must tear up the old playbook and write a new script with the customer as the primary focus of engagement. Data analytics and artificial intelligence will become the hub of a new way of engineering products and services that meet consumer needs and encourage spending decisions.
Corporate analysts have noted that if companies want to adopt analytics and artificial intelligence to build business sustainability, they cannot simply buy off-the-shelf solutions and add them to existing operations, things, unfortunately, are not that simple.
In a recent article on the use of analytics and artificial intelligence in the biopharma business, McKinsey Consulting writers Stephanie Bayer, Sulay Sandy, Ulf Schrader, and Matthias Spiegl note six key principles in ensuring that adoption is successful or at least beneficial (see illustration 5 below).
Illustration 5: Six Principles of Leveraging Digital and Analytics
The authors note that companies that intend to use AI to leverage corporate strategy must first Start with a leadership-backed, impact-driven strategy and roadmap. In other words, the AI strategy must be driven from the top of the company and must be designed to achieve high-impact results along a collectively agreed path. Why AI?
According to the McKinsey researchers AI adoption "can drive the next wave of business optimization by transforming operational performance, shortening time to market, improving quality and yield, reducing supply chain volatility, and accelerating technology transfers" outcomes that most companies would cherish considering the impact that the recent COVID-19 pandemic has had on their 2020 operations.
The second consideration in the clever use of AI according to the writers involves accelerating transformation with experienced leaders, skilled staff, and multifunctional teams. In their study of the biopharma sector, they note that "As part of the people and leadership strategy, it is also important for companies to identify the skills they need, including those that can be filled internally with training and development; investing in their talent will be vital for companies to establish digital as a competitive advantage. For external sourcing, we have seen pharma and biopharma companies form successful partnerships with research and academia. These partnerships have given them firsthand knowledge of technology advancements and enabled them to bring those advancements to the shop floor". Despite the importance of technology, the people required to implement its adoption as part of the business process are just as important as the mathematical algorithms and code scripts, they use to gain a deeper understanding of their customers.
A third consideration for the strategic use of AI is the implementation of a strategy, architecture, and governance framework for data use. This would see to it that companies take advantage of big data to shape their products and services and provide organizational support structures that are focused on delivering value to consumers or users of the company's outputs.
The writers note that the fourth stop in the transition from a trapped to agile AI-enhanced corporation is the building of a tried-and-tested delivery methodology for digital and analytic solutions. They noted that "Delivering digital-and-analytics solutions is a complex process that requires an intense commitment of time and resources. It's not a one-time effort, but a new way of working that is essential for high-performing organizations".
According to the authors of the report "Success requires a delivery protocol that codifies technology-enabled best practices for delivering digital-and-analytics solutions tried and tested by practitioners. This protocol helps ensure predictability, output quality, and uniformity in solution delivery. It is essential for scaling solutions that have been successfully piloted. Just as you would not institute a new change-over process without standard operating procedures, you should not embark on a digital-and-analytics transformation without a delivery protocol".
The delivery protocol involves a look at processes, people, and technology enablers. By creating, clarifying, and implementing a delivery protocol a company stands a better chance of ensuring that its digital transformation endures, and the organization is properly prepared to face future disruptions.
Constructing a fit-for-purpose technology stack is the fifth element of the digital master plan of a sustainable business operation. But what does a fit-for-purpose technology stack mean? What this, means is that companies that want to build defensive shields against business disruptions between 2021 and 2030 must ensure that they put in place operating technology (OT) and information technology (IT) that allow differentiated performance across teams and service or product lines. For example, a Nigerian Zenith Bank could decide that the operating technology needed for consumer retail banking should be a shade or two different from the OT of investment or wholesale banking. Take FBNH, Nigeria's oldest financial Holdco, for example, the operating technology for its agency banking success is different from the operating technology that drives the operations of its FBNQuest investment banking arm.
Outside the banking and finance sector, the same principle would apply. Nimble companies would need to develop technology stacks suited to products or services. In reviewing OT and IT companies need to carefully consider their platforms and how it connects to data sources. Mining data and the production of actionable reports would be critical in the new economy as companies elbow one another to provide consumers with exceptional product and service journeys.
McKinsey's researchers noted that "The rollout of new digital solutions should be accompanied by division-wide change management. Your change management plan should include ways to get senior-leadership support, formalize new incentives, engage with employees, and empower key influencers".
To wrap up the AI transformation initiative companies will need to tackle the people problem. To drive adoption and change the C-suite executives must engage with their frontline. The last mile adoption and culture change needed for corporate agility remain one of the most difficult stages in building an organization that is nimble enough to withstand a black swan event like COVID-19 (see illustration 6 below).
Illustration 6: Nigerian Businesses: The Search for Agility
Hal Gregersen, senior lecturer MIT Sloan recently observed that companies "...make enormous investments into the technical side of digital transitions and comparatively minimal investments in actually helping the individuals navigate the challenging transition". This imbalance in resource commitment could reduce the effectiveness of the overall digital/AI strategy as human resource limitations restrict the scaling of businesses.
As businesses absorb AI into their operations to improve productivity and customer product or service experience, they must equally be prepared to improve the skills of their workers and ensure that the right balance is achieved between AI adoption and worker adaptation. The frontline worker is just as important as the backline techie.
As AI and ML become integral parts of the modern business process worker compensation in the new tech-inspired environment has begun to raise fresh issues centered on adequate work compensation for both C-suite executives and line managers. Indeed, even factory and shop floor workers are beginning to look towards a realignment of work and pay.
CEO Incomes in the New Age of Tech
How do workers get compensated in an age of flexible work? Should incomes remain the same as in the pre-COVID period or should they be tweaked to accommodate changes in work/lifestyle choices?
The experience in Nigeria suggests that employers believe that there is no need to adjust worker compensation for the change in operational location. Most employers argue that the same volume of work gets done whether the worker works from home or the office because deliverables remain unchanged. Working from home (WFH) has its benefits but also poses some challenges resulting in some companies rescinding or modifying the flexible work arrangement.
Most companies that adopt flexible work practices require their staff to be in the office physically from between one to three days a week. A few companies have adopted a rotational system were coming to work physically occurs on alternate weeks with departments requiring teams to come in after a full week of physical absence.
It appears that several companies are in a 'touch and feel' mode where they experiment with the best arrangement that achieves optimal performance. However, a few corporate analysts are beginning to rethink remote work and believe it comes with some drawbacks that have not been properly assessed, the problems of WFH according to these observers include but are not limited to the following:
The Flip Side
Does the new work environment suggest a different ecosystem for labor compensation? Should the CEOs pay somehow reflect his or her new digital reality?
The jury is still out on how much remote work adds to worker productivity and improved corporate earnings but what is clear is that workers' salaries and compensations may not change significantly because of the new work mode, but what could be a fair game for change is the new streams of earning opportunities resulting from remote work.
Workers could find that they could more easily generate extra incomes from a bit of moonlighting on digital projects. For CEOs, this could mean in-house mentorship on remote digital and mobile platforms and digital podcasts that help other C-suite executives get a grasp of glacial business changes and how to cope with the disruption. Indeed documenting digital learning moments and using them as resource materials for corporate guidance could prove invaluable as it provides carefully curated decision making insights to help corporate managers navigate problems ranging from black swan events like the COVID-19 Pandemic through to grey swan events like commodity price declines and then onto the less difficult white swans events like rising domestic interest rates as the federal government competes with the private sector to compete for funds needed to fill the widening FGN annual budget deficit.
Strategic thinking and corporate positioning and repositing will become premium considerations going forward. Former longtime Shell Dutch corporate strategist Aries de Geus's 'living company' must be a thinking company with tremendous resources committed to thinking and the translation of thought to pre-emptive corporate action supported by data analytics, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI).
Sustainability will increasingly require a more aggressive approach towards consumer satisfaction, process optimization, and corporate agility.
CEO pay in a fast-paced world of change would depend on how adaptable companies prove to be, slow companies will see the salaries and other compensations of their CEO's tank as the revenues fall on the back of shrinking patronage. As the demography of customers change sustainable companies must learn how to ride the varying waves of consumer expectations (see illustration 7 below)
Illustration 7: Generation in Transition
CEOs who want to protect their compensation and perhaps see them grow must develop a deeper corporate understanding of the customer of the future and design goods and services around the expected preferences. CEOs may need to worry less about yesterday as they muse over tomorrow.
Section 1 of the report delves into fleshing out the contours of the new digital reality of work and corporate service and product delivery. The section reviews the new ideas that dominate corporate conversations around corporate sustainability, environment, social, and governance (ESG) issues that shape the corporate interface with customers. The younger and increasingly dominant customer clusters around generation Y and Z were born between 1980 and 2010. This young demography is communal, digital, and high on ethics (contrary to the perception of baby boomers and their forerunners that generation Y and Z are unfocused drugged-up vagabonds). The section draws the outlines of the new local realities of corporate Nigeria.
Section 2 takes a tour of the many sides of CEO remunerations in 2020. It does a rundown of CEO compensation and scrubs the data for unique perspectives. The report drives through corporate sectors to see how the compensation of CEOs differed from industry to industry. ICT sector (MTN) and the Oil &Gas sector (Seplat Energy) were top of the log of executive compensation for companies listed on the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX). However, the ICT only had two companies in the list of top ten most highly paid executives in Nigeria while the Consumer Goods sector had three executives.
Section 3 pivots towards a slightly broader look at top executive compensations and assess total compensation considering bonuses, dividends, and any other ancillary benefit from running the business. It was noted that no Insurance company on the N GX paid a dividend in 2020. This depressed the total compensation of their top executives. Top executives in Dangote and MTN while they appear in the top ten executive incomes in corporate Nigeria, they do not hold shares in the companies they run. Surprisingly, Herbert Wigwe of Access Bank is not in the top ten earners list based on his basic compensation despite the relative sparkling performance of the bank in 2020 which defied COVID-19 pains. However, when expected dividends are thrown into the mix Wigwe rises to the third position of top-earning CEOs of companies listed on the NGX.
Section 4 does a deep dive into how executive compensation relates to company performance. It benchmarks executive compensation against corporate earnings and changes in staff cost. For example, in Seplat executive compensation rose while the company posted a yearly loss, but a quick explanation would be that the planned increase in staff cost was before the onset of COVID-19 and a downward spiral in oil prices because of the Q1 2020 disagreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia over the quantity of oil considered optimal to stabilize prices against sagging global demand.
Section 5 looks at the executive pay packet at tries to shake tea leaves to gain an understanding of the underlying drivers. Does the CEO's pay tie in with profitability or revenue growth? Is the CEO's remuneration a reflection of his or her superior managerial skill or talent? Prey what in heavens name lurks behind those C-suite salaries? Like coconut water, the top Nigerian CEO's income is a mystery.
The final section of the report, Section 6, takes a shot at explaining work and productivity in an age of rampant technology. The CEO must rise beyond being a boss to being a visioner, a thinker, and a tech denizen, the CEO may not be a tech wizard but must have sufficient knowledge of how emerging technology could disrupt or enhance business. Leaving the understanding of technology to the in-house nerds could prove dangerous, particularly since such nerds rarely have an appreciation of the overall way in which things hang together within the broader context of medium to long-term corporate objectives.
Disruption is here and all CEOs must have a hang of technology and how adoption or adaptation will plug into corporate strategy and sustainability.
Downloadable Versions of 2021 Report (PDF)
Previous Years's Reports and Related Links
3. CEO Remuneration 2018 - PDF Report