It's generally recognised, that one of the biggest challanges established organizations face in embracing new digital technologies, is a shortage of digital capabilities.
For example, in a 2017 Fujitsu survey of 1600 business executives from 14 countries, 70% of respondents said that there was a clear lack of digital skills in their organization. Other research supports this conclusion. The first question which this raises is what capabilities are really required to enable organizations to flourish in the digital world.
One lens on this is to think about the sorts of capabilities upon which the digital giants such as Google have built their success. Google refers to the people who have the mix of attributes that they regard as pivotal to the company’s growth and development as ‘Smart Creatives’. These people possess a broad mix of skills and characteristics, extending beyond pure technical expertise in different digital technologies, to include also team work, collaboration, open-mindedness and a willingness to learn, a more external and customer-centric focus, creativity, problem-solving and entrepreneurship. This acknowledges the reality that no-one can be expert in every aspect of digital or every aspect of business, and so the solution is for groups of people to come together, to pool their expertise and perspectives, to learn from each other, and work collectively and imaginatively to identify and solve real business problems.
This is again borne out by research. For example, a study by the OECD concluded that increased use of digital technologies at work is associated with tasks which require greater interaction with co-workers and customers, and more problem solving and creativity.
But if these are the capabilities that organizations need to embrace digital, how should they go about accessing them? What is clear is that there is a shortage of these skills, and they are in high demand. Recruitment will be expensive, and in an over-heated market, retention is often likely to be difficult. The use of third parties or contractors to provide the expertise needed is also likely to prove costly. And none of these solutions fulfil the need to combine the various digital capabilities referred to with a good understanding of the business in question.
Given this, organizations need to invest in their existing employees by providing the training and education required to better equip them to embrace digital and help unleash their full creative potential. They need to help them learn how to colour outside the lines, and increase their adaptability and flexibility in response to ongoing change and uncertainty. They need to make continuous learning and education at scale a core element of business strategy.