“Digitization” has become such a popular part of the business lexicon in recent years that, like many other business phrases in a dubious history of overuse and misuse, it means different things to different people, and that is never good in a professional conversation.
Most CIOs would use it to describe the long-term trend of technology becoming ever more important in business life and the effect this has had on firms around the world. But while digitization on this definition can create great opportunity for the IT function to become increasingly valuable to the business, CIOs know that one of the biggest barriers to reaping the benefits of digitization is the changes it requires from their teams.
IT employees may well enjoy using and talking about technology in their jobs, but unfortunately their mindset, skills, and competencies are not ready to help IT adapt to the frequent changes and uses of technology in large companies.
Digitization Means New Expectations for IT Teams
Digitization affects how employees in all IT roles do their jobs. For example, enterprise architects might now need to grant waivers to a start-up vendor at the request of the chief marketing officer, or IT “business relationship managers” must change their job description to act as consultants, brokers, and/or coaches to the rest of the business.
Unless IT employees are able to quickly and continuously adapt, any role in IT could prevent a company making the most of its digitization investments.
Create an Adaptive Workforce
To create an “adaptive” IT workforce, IT leaders must help improve employee competencies, functional expertise, and employees’ whole approach to their work.
Expand IT’s engagement competencies: IT organizations must think differently in how they define and apply competency models. An increasing need for all IT employees to offer the advice, resources, frameworks, and connections for business partners to exploit new digitization opportunities is critical.
It means that competencies in communication, decision making, and influence will be particularly important.
Replenish cutting-edge technical knowledge: Firms will fail to capitalize on digitization opportunities if they don’t have at least a few IT employees’ with the right technical skills.
Designing an IT workforce plan that focuses on IT recruitment, training, promotions, and compensation to attract, retain, and update technical functional expertise will keep IT employees’ skills up to scratch.
Develop a climate that is open to uncertainty and new ways of working: 94% of IT employees are risk adverse, overly reliant on process, or “siloed” (i.e., too narrowly focused on their own area of expertise). This is a problem for employees who are expected to work in new ways, with new stakeholders, or even deviate from set processes to accelerate the speed at which a team takes an idea to market.
Emphasizing performance metrics that focus on speed-to-market, business impact, and talent development over the more traditional operational and project health metrics can create a more open mindset amongst IT teams. IT leaders should also focus on changing teams’ attitudes toward risk and failure, and encourage collaboration so employees are willing and able to support new technologies.