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Sourcing talent on the digital frontier

Sourcing talent on the digital frontier

CIOs need to design and build dream teams – talented and qualified multifunctional experts inside and outside the business – who can supply the necessary skills, knowledge, and expertise. But how do you find them? Linda Price of Gartner shares some pointers.

There is no denying the many positives of the move to digital business, but an abundance of talent is not one of them. In fact, Gartner’s Talent on the Digital Frontier survey found that almost 90 per cent of digital business leaders found the competition for talent to be one of the biggest inhibitors to success. So how can you go about putting together your digital business ‘dream team’?

For many CIOs, digital business is a daunting new frontier fraught with as many risks and challenges as opportunities. Chief among those challenges is finding suitably talented people to help navigate the frontier. Selecting the right people for the right purpose at the right time is crucial, but also where most businesses fall short. Concerned about falling behind, CIOs might be tempted to lasso knowledge, expertise and skills indiscriminately without truly understanding when and how to apply them.

Digital business leaders and CIOs need to analyse talent across four stages of activity: discover, design, pilot and build out.

Linda Price, Gartner

Staffing the digital business is more than just identifying technical skills. To be successful, CIOs need to design and build dream teams – talented and qualified multifunctional experts inside and outside the business – who can supply the necessary skills, knowledge, and expertise. But how do you find them?

Four stages of activity

Digital business leaders and CIOs need to analyse talent across four stages of activity: discover, design, pilot and build out.

Read more: Prepare for machines as co-workers and co-dependents: Gartner

The early stages (discover and design) encourage experimentation and exploration, focusing on the ‘what’ and the ‘when’. Variability is expected to be high, while levels of control are low. Businesses need their best innovators, imagineers and brainstormers in domains such as marketing, digital anthropology, emerging technologies and customer experiences. At this stage, ideas fly, architectural trade-offs become understood and possibilities abound.

In the later stages (pilot and build out), the level of control begins to rise and the variability declines. Too much variability at this stage wastes time and erodes scalability. Businesses need their best program managers, change leaders, and information integrators as structure, scale, and complexity rise, and architectural guidelines define what’s practical.

Manoeuvring these stages is a balancing act, with variability and control acting as counterforces. Race too quickly to institute control and ill-formed ideas may solidify before they are ready. Wait too long to reduce variability and people may become indecisive.

Read more: CIOs must ‘flip’ their leadership styles to succeed in the digital economy

Six areas of expertise

Once you have figured out the stages of activities, it is time to fill the expertise gaps. Gartner sees these as the six key skill areas needed for digital business:

Business experts – know what makes the company, industry or market tick. Think product developers, industry gurus, business strategists, innovation teams, customer experience masters, business process experts and scenario artists.

Technology experts – know how 21st century technologies combine to drive revenue, and harness competitive advantage. Think enterprise architects, information architects, external experts, emerging technology groups, advanced service providers, system and information integrators and digital technology leaders.

Behavioural experts – know how people act, react and respond to changing stimuli, can manipulate the behaviours that drive digital business programs forward, and can differentiate individuals, groups and markets from one another. Think organisational change experts, workforce designers, global program leaders, sociologists, social network analysts and talent orchestrators.

Strategic experts – know which core enterprise capabilities feed strategy, and which capabilities affect digital business performance. Think business strategists, competitive analysts, M&A experts, partnership leaders, and digital marketing leaders.

Discipline experts – know the activities, exercises and regimens that develop or improve skills in accord with rules of conduct, and maintain behaviours and order through training and control. Think project managers, business process experts, intellectual property experts, copyright gurus, regulatory experts, financial analysts and investment experts.

Frontier domain experts – know advanced technologies, capabilities, and trends appearing on the edge of the digital radar, which can materially raise competitive advantage. Think advanced technology leaders, trend watchers, industry analysis and competitive intelligence analysts.

There are no hard and fast rules for staffing a digital business. A combination of the stages of activity and areas of expertise comes as close as possible to sourcing a digital dream team.

Aggressive competitors go even further, combining internal staff, external ecosystems of expertise, microsourcing, small company acquisitions, contests and competitions to quickly find and orchestrate expertise. But then, trailblazers have been pioneering frontiers for thousands of years. Unfortunately, that leaves conservative businesses daunted and paralysed as they continue to rely on outdated talent practices that have no place on the digital frontier.

Read more: Gartner on surviving – and thriving – in the digital world

Linda Price (linda.price@gartner.com) is group vice-president, Gartner Executive Programs, Asia Pacific.

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