learning to code
Digital is pushing us to transform our businesses on multiple levels and demands new skillsets from employees PHOTO: #WOCinTech Chat

As digital technology continues to drive change at a frenetic pace, it is imperative that digital services organizations keep pace by staying relevant and responsive to the changing needs of their customers. 

The key to doing that is to identify emerging trends, look for gaps that could represent the next disruptive technology and prepare your workforce for the changes to come.

Holistic and Adaptive Skillsets Required

This is simple in concept, but coping with such changes requires looking internally and externally across both customers and partners. It demands holistic and adaptive skillsets from your workforce that are capable of providing solutions that demonstrate contextual proof-of-concept (POC) and can deliver prototypes right from the get go. 

Generating such a holistic culture requires flexibility and a shared view of the changing conditions. At my company, one of the ways we drive this ‘outside-in’ digital perspective is to instill an ambassador mindset in our customer-facing team. 

Staffing Cross-Functional Teams 

We constantly vet technology vendors to keep on top of trends. We vet partners and talk with analysts. We build repositories of intelligence on the cloud and use collaboration tools to expand on our observations by sharing what we see. 

These techniques allow our cross-functional teams to maintain an open flow of communication. Throughout the process, we are constantly addressing the issue of relevance and asking, what skills do we need to master to offer the best possible solutions to address the evolving needs of our customers?

Techniques for Tackling Change

We also work to tackle change at both the individual and team levels by helping our teams build contextualized, industry-specific skill inventories which might look different for each business. 

To do this, we have individual team members take on what we call T-shaped goals, where each digital team member has a core set of digital expertise — represented by the vertical bar of the letter T— that combines with a broader understanding of the overall digital landscape — represented by the horizontal bar of the T. 

This arrangement gives us the flexibility on a team level to allow individuals with specialized skills to train others. 

Meshing with Customer Needs

We keep other considerations in mind as well. As Gartner notes in its Top Ten Strategic Technology Trends for 2017, organizations must find ways to align with the digital “mesh” in which enterprises serve their customers through multiple, dynamically connected technologies such as IoT and applications. 

This service transformation also requires a complex web of solutions, starting with customer experience that combines with data, cognitive and artificial intelligence, and application programming interfaces (APIs). 

Envisioning Design Thinking as Sales Support 

Such service transformations need to be supported by a scalable architecture, which today resides mostly on the cloud. Digital teams working in this environment must be ready to converse as one and work across silos to provide a set of targeted solutions. 

Digital now allows teams’ key ideas to go beyond PowerPoint in ways that combine design thinking and rapid prototyping as sales support — and eventually as a standalone service — to our customers.

Core Teams and Skill Clusters 

To support this idea, we are working to create a team of digital specialists who can quickly take a concept from concept to realization by working closely with industry experts to create prototypes. Some of these digital specialists might be part of a core team, while others can be leveraged from talent pools within the practices.

From a digital delivery viewpoint, this all means that the definition of the IT developer is moving away from silos and specialized talent towards the T-shaped model described earlier. In this paradigm, development is led by Agile, Lean and DevOps. 

The result is that many of these capabilities can be formed into clusters where employees can re-tool to take on new challenges but also benefit from defined career paths.

Future-Proofing Your Employees

Skill clusters can be identified and refresher courses provided based on customer demand and market needs. Employees’ skills can then be honed further through in-house projects and hands-on training.

The push to future-proof employees by adaptively managing and honing their skillsets is being driven by the ever-changing demands of the digital world. These changes stand to transform industries in fundamental ways and companies must rise to the challenge of reinventing themselves to keep pace with faster and faster developments.