Disrupt or be disrupted: The right talent for digital transformation

By Pluralsight

Visit Fortune, Bloomberg or the Harvard Business Review and you’re seeing them: headlines about digital transformation. Don’t be tricked into thinking this is another buzzword – it’s not. Digital transformation is the top strategic priority for half of executives globally.

What exactly does digital transformation mean? Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder at Silicon Valley-based firm Constellation Research Inc., defines the term as “the methodology in which organizations transform and create new business models and culture with digital technologies.” We sat down with Ray to discuss how today’s leaders can create a successful digital transformation. This is the first post in a six-part series.

Wanted: great technology talent. 

Sound familiar? We thought so. Every business is looking to add brilliance to their organization, and the right hire has never been more important. 

Organizations are pouring millions into new infrastructure and technology for digital transformation, and talent holds the key to seeing return from these changes. The world’s best engineers can be up to ten times more productive than their average peers. That means that the right employees have the potential to accelerate digital transformation by 20 to 30 percent according to McKinsey & Company. So, how can you find and develop talent that put you on the digital transformation fast track?

Make digital literacy a part of your culture 

Digital literacy should be the foundation of every employee’s skillset. It’s important to clarify that we’re not talking about hard technical skills. Employees who possess digital literacy don’t need to have an engineering background; they demonstrate it through a deep understanding of platforms, applications and collaborative tools used in their organization. And, most importantly, they know how to use these technologies to deliver on business objectives.

Increased communication and dedicated learning help digital literacy become a part of company culture. Organizations need more conversations about talent when a business group (e.g., product, IT, sales, HR) moves to adopt or own a digital system. The following questions can inspire discussion about digital literacy when implementing new technology: 

- Who uses this tool daily? Weekly? Monthly? 

- How are users being trained for a successful implementation and ongoing use? 

- Are there users who understand the potential of integrating this tool with other technology?

- Who is translating the data this tool produces?

Digital transformation requires thinking about how talent will be supported as technology becomes central to doing business. Objectives often accompany the adoption of new technology, but how regularly does the strategy include a plan for ongoing education and training of talent? Learning should be more than informal knowledge sharing: consider enablement through documentation, certifications and a technology learning platform. 

Find and develop digital artisans

While digital literacy is an initiative that applies to every job function, it may be more pronounced in non-technical roles. This doesn’t mean the greater responsibility in transformation lies with teams outside of engineering, product and IT. To the contrary, technical talent needs to develop new skills that extend far beyond knowing the latest web framework or cloud technology. Today’s business environment calls for digital artisans – a new breed of technical craftsmen that demonstrate a combination of right and left-brain thinking. 

Corporate business strategy is shifting to become more customer-centric, and in order to stay competitive, organizations need to encourage teams to think about user journeys and draw from empathy, in addition to data, to make decisions. In other words, technical talent should take an artisanal, holistic approach to designing product experiences instead of focusing on transactional engagement. 

“If you’ve got a lot of science background, engineering, technology math majors, we've got to balance some art, with people that can tell stories, people that understand ethnography, sociology, human computing interaction, and design.”

-- Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder, Constellation Research Inc.

Digital artisans can be formed from existing talent or brought on through hiring. What’s important is that they exist to balance the perspectives of pure technologists. Right brain qualities like communication, flexibility and creative thinking are big advantages as organizations grapple with the pace of change and integrating new technology into legacy systems. It’s likely that no one individual will possess all the qualities of a digital artisan, which is why embracing diverse backgrounds is critical to designing teams for digital transformation.   

Remember: talent – not tech – power ROI 

The full power of technology can’t be realized if leaders take a passive approach to improving digital literacy and creating artisan-style talent. It’s only when employees fully understand and leverage the capabilities of technology that they’re able to achieve desired business outcomes through innovation. Maximizing one’s investment in technology – and using talent to make it happen – is at the core of digital transformation. 

Hear more advice from Ray Wang about successfully navigating digital transformation on YouTube.

About the author

Pluralsight is the technology skills platform. We enable individuals and teams to grow their skills, accelerate their careers and create the future.