How Leaders are Building Digital Skills


Cloud, mobile, social, and big data are changing the game of business.

But to play the game well, leaders need to grow new skills.

In order to create new customer experiences and market-leading operational capabilities, leaders need to invest in digital skills.

Our Cloud-First, Mobile-First world provides unprecedented possibilities in terms of connectivity and compute resources for changing customer experiences, transforming the workforce, and transforming operations, and creating new business models.   Companies every day are building amazing solutions that integrate Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data capabilities as well as what the Internet of Things brings to the table.   But to take advantage of these capabilities, you need leaders that grow and invest in a digital platform and in digital skills.

In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share how top leaders grow their digital skills.

Creating Great Customer Experiences Requires New Skills and New Ways of Working

Whether you want to reimagine your customer experience, or reimagine your operations, it takes new skills, and new ways of working.   Companies that don’t have the right digital skills struggle.   Worse, everybody is competing for the same skills, including social media analysts, mobile marketers, cloud architects, and data scientists.

Via Leading Digital:

“Creating great customer experiences or market-leading operational capabilities is more than technology challenge.  It’s also an organizational challenge requiring new skills and new ways of working.  Yet, 77 percent of companies in our first year of research cited missing digital skills as a major hurdle to their digital transformation success. To compound the problem, most companies are chasing after similar skills–social media analysts, mobile marketers, cloud architects, or data scientists, to name a few.”

How Digital Masters are Building Skills

If you want to help your company become a Digital Master, or, if you want to be a high-performing leader, you need to invest in digital skills.  

Via Leading Digital:

“So what are Digital Masters doing differently when it comes to skills? First, they are investing.  Of the Digital Masters we surveyed, 82 percent are building the digital skills they need to support transformation efforts.  Only 40 perce3nt of nonmasters are doing so.

Second, Digital Masters are accelerating and creating  a gap.  Our survey research shows that the masters had greater digital skills than nonmasters, reporting 31 percent higher social media skills, 38 percent higher mobile skills, and 19 percent higher analytics skills.

But Digital Masters did not start with higher skills.  Burberry did not become excellent at digital marketing. and channels overnight.  CEO Ahrendts hired a new, dynamic marketing team whose members mirrored the behaviors of the millennial customer.  Nor did Caesars excel at delivering personalized customer experience solely because its CEO, Gary Loveman, has a PhD in economics from MIT. Caesars’ executives actively incorporated quantitative skills into the marketing area.  In these companies, like other Digital Masters, top executives worked hard to build the digital skills they needed.”

The Line Between Technical Skills and Leadership Skills is Blurring Fast

The gap is huge but the lines blur fast.  There is a huge demand for people that are both business savvy and technology savvy.

Via Leading Digital:

“The skills difference extends beyond technology.  Digital Masters report 36 percent higher skills in digital leadership than nonmasters. Digital transformation requires changes to processes and thinking–changes that span your internal organizational silos.  ‘The clear delineation between technical skills and leadership skills in blurring fast.

The impact of digital technologies is now felt not only in the IT and technical departments, but also across the entire organization.  Digital transformation’s need for cross-functional collaboration creates a huge demand for hybrid digital skills— technical people who need to be more business savvy and businesspeople who need to be more technology savvy.  A retail executive explained: ‘We are trying for the first time to work across the company.  That implies going through a new level of complexity in the organization, and requires people to manage and network differently.  That, I think, is the most important skills that needs to be developed.’”

Successful Leaders Will Have Business and Technical Skills

True hybrid professionals will be the leaders of tomorrow.

Via Leading Digital:

“The need for new skills can also result from the need to bridge the communication gap between digital and business competences.  One executive said, ‘I need a charismatic quant–somebody who’s an influencer and can carry his weight in a senior meeting, but at the same time, someone who can roll up his sleeves and look at data tables and build models and enjoy it.’

These bridging roles may soon become the responsibility of every manager. ‘I believe,’ said Markus Nordlin, CIO of Zurich Insurance, ‘that the successful leaders of tomorrow, in any business or industry, are going to be true hybrid professionals who have spent some time in IT but have shifted to operations and vice-versa.’”

Digital Skills Create Competitive Advantage and Enable Digital Transformation

To keep up and get ahead, you need to master Digital Skills and be able to use them in a business savvy way.

Via Leading Digital:

“Aspiring Digital Masters are all chasing the same technical skills.  The shortage of digital skills is unprecedented.  In Europe alone, forecasts point to nearly a million vacancies for IT-related roles by 2015.  And globally, out of the 4.4 million big-data jobs to be created by 2015, only a third will be filled.

But by the same token, business professionals will increasingly need to be comfortable with digital tools and technologies to perform their core roles.  By 2015, research firm IDC expects that 90 percent of all jobs will require IT skills.  Some business functions are already adding technology skills to their mix.  Gartner reports that 70 percent of the companies they surveyed have a chief marketing technologist to support the digitization of the function.

This skills race won’t slow down anytime soon.  Having the right digital skills is an important source of competitive advantage and a key enabler of digital transformation.  Companies that build skills faster will get ahead.

To win at the digital skills race, you will need to tap into multiple approaches–hiring, partnering, incubating, and the like.  It’s not easy, as one executive explained: ‘Our recruiters don’t know where to go to find these people, and people with the right skills don’t look to our kind of company for opportunities.’  HR organization will need to get up to speed quickly.  A recent Capgemini Consulting survey found that only 30 percent of HR functions were actively involved in digital skills development.  This needs to change.  Many Digital Masters have a carefully crafted plan to fight and win the talent race.”

All of the capabilities of Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data are right at your fingertips.

Using these capabilities in meaningful ways takes a combination of business and technical skills, as well as great organizational change leadership skills.

If you can master business skills and combine them with great technical skills, you can lead you, your team, your organization, and others to change the world.

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