2015 is the year that digital business took hold in the enterprise. For many companies, analog revenue is flattening and declining as they shift to new sources of growth from digital revenue, including the digitalisation of things. Gartner estimates indicate that 125,000 large organisations will have launched digital business initiatives by the year’s end. Yet, what is necessary in the enterprise to enable this transformation?
For CIOs, the challenge lies in how to retool their IT organisations with the knowledge, skills and experience needed to lead digital initiatives. In other words, how do you transform your team over time while still meeting the digital demands of the business today?
Play the short game, faster
Digital business demands that CIOs and their IT organisations develop digital technology skills such as cloud, mobile, Big Data and social analytics (a combination Gartner calls the Nexus of Forces), as well as acquire new digital business skills such as design thinking, data sciences, digital business design and user-centric design to drive transformation and sustain long-term performance — and fast.
To meet short-term needs and drive transformation, CIOs can use IT consultants, contractors and outsourcing services to develop the digital technology skills. They also can tap into this cohort to acquire new digital business skills such as design thinking, data sciences, digital business design and user-centric design.
However, this approach is not sustainable, productive nor differentiating beyond the immediate benefit of speed. CIOs must simultaneously focus on reskilling and upskilling to source, acquire and develop the knowledge, skills and competencies needed within their own teams in order to execute a digital business strategy. Traditional approaches such as computer-based training and certifications still have a role to play, but it’s time to work with your HR colleagues to overhaul learning and training programmes.
This is where reverse mentoring comes into play. We see this technique gaining traction among leading CIOs. First pioneered by GE and adopted since at scale by companies such as P&G, Johnson & Johnson and GM, it focuses on pairing mature senior employees with individuals entering the workplace for mutual benefit. Millennials possessing the dexterity and knowledge required for digital business become great resources for educating more tenured staff members on new technologies. In return, younger staff benefit from knowledge and capabilities imparted by senior staff, such as business acumen, protocol and decision-making skills that often come with time and experience.
Play the long game, better
Hiring consultants or contractors in the short-term and developing your own team’s skills in the mid-term helps CIOs drive digital transformation, but the future will be won by leaders who think and act even bigger.
To accelerate the creation of a new digital technology platform, leading CIOs take a radical approach; their organisations operate as venture investors. They are not prepared to simply wait for their existing suppliers to build digital capabilities. Instead, these CIOs identify and invest directly in small technology startups, buy a stake in their future, guide their direction based on the needs of the CIO’s organisation, and then acquire and integrate those startups into the business when the time is right to reap the maximum benefit.
These ‘techquisition’ CIOs first appeared in FinTech companies. We now see this trend adopted by industrial firms, which invest in automation software, and by retailers, which acquire vendors that possess unique algorithms designed to create differentiated customer experiences. These CIOs are using techquisitions to add new skills, capabilities and competencies to their teams to stay not only relevant to their organisations, but to win from within.
Play to win, bigger
Addressing the pace, scale and complexity of the skills and experience gap in your organisation won’t be solved by implementing one or the other of these initiatives. CIOs must drive multiple people-focused initiatives — including competing and/or unconventional programs — to succeed in an entirely new digital business environment. The stakes require conventional efforts and radical initiatives to win.