We discuss, at great lengths, the impact of digitisation on our organisations. But from an individual perspective, surprisingly little is said of the new digital skills that will be required in the future.
With the relentless pace of change that’s pummeling almost every industry vertical, how will we re-tool ourselves to remain relevant in the digital era?
This year, LinkedIn conducted probably the biggest skills survey to-date – looking at 54 million profiles across 350 industries. The results are fascinating: 19 of the 25 most in-demand skills today are in the technology realm. There is one very predominant theme: Big Data! The list includes data analysis, data mining and warehousing, and data modelling.
But this focus on Big Data is not the only digital skill-set that’s in high demand. Other ‘digital arts’ – like search engine marketing, software development, IT security, lean manufacturing, and computer-aided design and manufacturing – also feature in the top 25. We forget that data is but one part of an information system and its useless alone. For a system to be effective there needs to be “orchestration” data, logic, process and people interactions through user interfaces.
In recent years we’ve seen the introduction of the ‘Chief Digital Officer’, often positioned to champion the digital cause and to bring technology far closer to business. Cascading from the CDO are a host of new ‘digital-sounding’ roles.
From a cynic’s perspective, introducing the CDO role sounds very similar to the way we evolved the role of IT Manager, to Chief Information Officer. Many ask if CDO is just the latest incarnation of the CIO?
But perhaps the biggest problem is that, in the midst of all these title changes, we lose focus on what really matters. Digitisation in and of itself should never be the end-goal. As I discussed last week, the true meaning of digitisation is to turn the organisation ‘inside out’ – and create enhanced customer experiences that truly serve customers on their own terms.
This is just another round of “orchestration” (not in the technical sense) from a new “customer-centric” perspective.
The unfortunate reality in most large SA organisations is that the customer front-lines (such as the call centres and the physical outlets) are miserably under-funded when it comes to new technology. Too many times, the same old tired processes and systems create frustrating customer experiences.
Changing this dynamic (poor customer interaction), and taking the correct route to digitisation, is only possible by stacking your teams with a new set of skills.
We could categorise these digital skills into different domains. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but maybe offers a good starting point:
- New approaches… such as design thinking, service design, creative problem solving, lean startup principles, agile and continuous delivery, and customer validation.
- New technical skills… such as continuous software delivery, UX design, UI journey, prototyping, data science, and DevOps
- New people skills… like pitching, fundraising, lobbying for support, and multi-disciplinary team work
Flexible, virtual teams
And it’s not just the skills themselves that are changing. The very ways in which we acquire, hone, and apply these skills is shifting dramatically.
With the introduction of highly-reputable online learning tools – such as Coursera and The Khan Academy – individuals are exposed to new ways of learning. These modularised courses can be blended in different ways, representing a radical departure from the 3-5 year structured learning of universities and technikons to flipped classrooms and radical new ways of learning like AltMBA.
New online marketplaces – from the likes of Github, to Upwork, to Fiverr – have broken down international borders and catalysed new ways of applying one’s skills. The New Statesman reports that 40% of new jobs created in the past couple of years have been in self-employment.
Technology has spurred a new wave of entrepreneurship, and a break with the classical, 20th Century model of long-term, full time employees. Today, organisations can spin up virtual teams of diverse individuals from across the world, to tackle specific projects, and dismantle them again once the work is complete. This allows you to be more experimental, reactive to customer needs, deliver faster, smaller targeted applications that may fail, but fail fast and learn what works.
Ultimately, the digital era will demand new ways of thinking. The specific skills required may come and go with increasing rapidity, especially as artificial intelligence starts to augment and change the roles for us flesh-and-blood humans.
This raises a number of interesting questions not only for individuals, but also for employers… how to you access digital talent, how do you incentive, reward and continually upskill individuals? How do you compete for these in-demand skills (such as those in the area of Big Data and visualisation) in these new global marketplaces?