Talent, not technology, key to success in a digital future

When it comes to translating technological innovations into real business results, technology is relatively easy to come by; it is talent that is often the limiting factor.

 

Companies have to simultaneously fill today’s roles and plan for future ones, most of them non-existent at the moment. Indeed, in a survey we conducted for the forthcoming book Goliath’s Revenge we found that only 27% of small companies and 29% of large companies believe they have the right talent for digital transformation.

Through our research we also uncovered six strategies companies can employ to ensure they have the people to accelerate digital innovation.

1. Honour institutional knowledge

Though it can be tempting to focus on new technical talent in a digital transformation, the better approach is a model that integrates new digital talent with the domain knowledge that comes from legacy employees. And it’s important to provide the right structures, incentives, and rewards to enable high performance in these integrated teams.

2. Go beyond the three ‘D’s of digital roles and skillsets

Beyond the designers, developers, and data scientists that everyone is battling for today, companies must explore what new roles are likely to emerge in digital disruptors.

These may include product incubation managers, behavioral scientists, journey mappers, business modelers, solution finders, and emerging tech specialists. Maybe soon you’ll need an AI specialist in your HR department – and if you will, the time to think about it is now.

3. Invest in preemptive skill development

Once you’ve identified the skills and roles, invest in building the right talent ecosystem, which will typically include internal people, external hires, partners, and freelancers. It will be critical to empower your employees with continuous digital learning programmes, job mobility, and skill grafting to retool themselves and play their part in transforming your organization.

4. Groom “venture general managers” to scale your innovation opportunities

Most general managers who are skilled at running an existing business unit or function don’t have the necessary entrepreneurial or digital skills to also drive a disruptive innovation opportunity. The ideal leadership profile for people driving those parts of the business, especially for future roles, is what we call a “balanced T” venture general manager.

These managers favour skills such as capital raising, design thinking, lean startup execution, calculated risk taking, creating go-to-market strategies, and venture scaling, in balance with product and technology expertise that is directly relevant to the market being pursued.

Beyond these competencies, venture general managers, or “intrapreneurs” possess an entrepreneur’s mindset along with the savvy and domain knowledge to navigate the typical corporate blockers and incubate and scale a breakthrough opportunity.

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Sayyed Shozib Abbas

Sayyed Shozib Abbas aims to create a passion for Technology in youth which will enable them to acquire new skills.

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