Digital Transformation requires a talented workforce and leadership
PHOTO: Shutterstock: Digital transformation requires a talented workforce and leadership

Organizations yearning for digital transformation should take heed, competitors and consultants may steal your digital-savvy employees. That's one finding from the "Constellation Research 2017 Digital Transformation Study" published Oct. 19. 

The demand for workers that understand how to implement and use big data, IoT, artificial intelligence and synchronous ledger technologies (SLT) and blockchain will only grow. Those who invest in building a digital workforce by cultivating talent and offering a digital training program will keep the talent poachers away, according to Constellation Research report authors Chris Kanaracus, Courtney Sato and R "Ray" Wang.

Constellation received 105 responses; 18 percent of which were CEOs, 20 percent lines-of-business managers and 16 percent IT managers. 

Data Literacy, Content Skills

Headshot of Courtney Sato of Constellation Research.
Courtney Sato
Workers will need to possess the skills that enable them to contribute to digital businesses, according to Sato, Constellation's director of research development. "This could be data literacy, the ability to conceive and implement new data-driven business models, technological skills needed to support the IT infrastructure of digital businesses, or the ability to create engaging content," said Sato. Suggestions included in the report can help organizations cultivate a culture that drives enthusiasm about digital skills learning. Those, she said, include creating networks of excellence, promoting a change agent program, hackathons, skills bootcamps and participating in classes as a team.

"When the team is learning together everyone is on the same page when someone proposes a new idea," Sato said. "Programs that enable good ideas to reach management ensure good ideas resulting from the culture of learning don’t go to waste."

Employee Experience Matters

Employee retention and experience is on the minds of more than a few industry experts. In San-Francisco based Altimeter's third "State of Digital Transformation Report" released earlier this month, researchers evolved the criteria from the prior year's report to include employee experience's role in digital transformation initiatives. 

Brian Solis, author of the report, told CMSWire that company culture is the "number one inhibitor" of transformation (and innovation) efforts.

CEOs Lead Digital Transformation

The good news from the Constellation Research report? CEOs are getting more involved in their company's digital transformation efforts. Twenty-nine percent of respondents identified the CEO as the leader of digital transformation strategies, more than any other C-level role. "The big changes and surprises were how much CEOs were leading the change," said Wang, principal analyst and Constellation Research founder. "In the past, we’d ask CIOs, CDOs and CMOs or COOs, and they all thought they needed more buy-in. What’s shifted is that the business model disruption requires board level support."

So where does the often-hyped chief digital officer (CDO) land? Only 8 percent of organizations say their CDO leads digital transformation efforts, and 19 percent said the CIO leads the way. Comparatively, the Altimeter report found CIOs supplanting CMOs as the leader of digital change efforts: CIOs got the leaders nod from 28.2 percent of respondents, while CMOs fell to 22.9 percent.

CDOs Still Needed

Organizations still need chief digital officers to "lead the change," Wang said. But he cautions, "In the future we will have digitally enabled CXOs. These folks will have to blend quant and qualitative skills and emerge as what we call digital artisans." According to him, Chief digital officers come in many flavors, he said: including those also serving as CTOs, which is common in the higher education, public sector and agency world.   

"Some CDOs are driving real business model shift," Wang added. "They tend to have operations and IT experience. Other CDOs are just focused on digital technologies in a marketing capacity. We believe that the CDO roles will go away by 2025."

Reluctance on AI, Blockchain

Two of the more hyped enterprise technology trends include artificial intelligence and blockchain. Constellation's survey, however, found most respondents not fully committing resources and attention. Here's a look at the AI findings:

Screenshot of the findings on artificial intelligence in Constellation Research's Digital Transformation report.

And here are the findings on blockchain:

Screenshot of the findings on blockchain in Constellation Research's Digital Transformation report.


"I was surprised by the relatively low investment in AI," said Sato. "We work with a lot of early adopters so we just expected everyone to be investing in AI this year." However the report predicts investment to pick up substantially in 2018. Sato was also surprised with the low investment in synchronous ledger tech (blockchain). There has been so much hype, so many news stories about blockchain this year that I expected a lot of companies to be investing in ledger tech. It was interesting to see that most companies are waiting on the sidelines for someone to have a breakthrough."  

Wang said most organizations in 2018 will start in AI with predictive analytics and work their way to machine learning algorithms and automation.  

"This is the foundation to get to AI," he said. "Quick wins will come in the automation of next best actions and recommendations."