Digital business incompetence will cause a quarter of businesses to lose competitive ranking by 2017, according to Gartner, Inc. During the second quarter of 2013, Gartner conducted a survey of 151 participants who were intimately involved in making digital business strategy decisions or in locating, developing and acquiring talent for those digital business strategy endeavours. Ninety per cent of respondents thought that competition for talent will make or break digital business success.
"The next decade will move beyond the notion of using technology to automate businesses and toward positioning technology as revenue builder, market maker and customer finder," said Diane Morello, managing vice president at Gartner. "When companies have those targets in mind, digital business becomes real. The impact of digital business will be undeniable: It will introduce new business models, cause industries to be 'digitally remastered' and change the way that businesses put great minds to work.
"Few things have jumped into the consciousness of business executives as quickly as digital business," continued Ms Morello. "In our recent Talent on the Digital Frontier survey, roughly one in two participants said that their digital business strategy either is their business strategy or is at least an integrated part of that business strategy."
According to Ms Morello, a digital business strategy creates value and revenue from digital assets. It goes beyond process automation to transform processes, business models and customer experience by exploiting the pervasive digital connections between systems, people, places and things.
Digital business has rapidly become a lingua franca of modern business, a common and unifying language across people whose native languages — in the modern age, the languages of organisations, companies, cultures and occupations — are different.
To jump-start digital business activity, Gartner recommends identifying key strategy players and possessors of technology and business expertise both inside and outside the enterprise and engaging them to launch a digital business community of practice to enrich cross-business understanding. CIOs who learn to orchestrate talent across multiple employment models and channels can take advantage of global ecosystems to build digital expertise quickly.
"Demand is growing for insight into digital business, particularly among CEOs and CIOs who fear that their companies may be falling behind new business models and competitive opportunities," said Ms Morello. "Their concern is justified. Digital business will concentrate almost exclusively on new sources of revenue derived from new products, services, channels and information for new customers and constituencies. On top of the expectation that digital business expertise will spread around businesses within two or three years, other indicators suggest that digital business represents not an extension of the past, but rather, a different trajectory. Revenue ambitions will go unmet if CIOs and senior executives ignore the cultural and organizational challenges that accompany digital business."
The world of digital business does more than pose challenges for CIOs and other executives. It also opens opportunities to use digital technology to reach beyond organizational boundaries, to assemble problem-solving expertise from around the world, to weave a fabric of knowledge and expertise across communities of practice, and to understand and exploit new models of work. Notably, the quest for digital business expertise provides an undeniable opportunity for CIOs and HR executives to create a robust alliance that helps them meet their respective outcomes. Leading-edge CIOs become leading edge because their HR and talent strategy counterparts support them.
"Together, CIOs and HR talent executives scour the globe for qualified experts and talented people and bring them into their work streams, no matter their locations or their employment arrangements," said Ms Morello. "Relying solely on tactics of yesterday to find, acquire and develop digital business knowledge, skills and competencies will cause many businesses to fall behind as other businesses advance. The impact on people, talent and long-term workforce strategy will be high, and the willingness to break through stale or aging people practices will build advantage."
Ms Morello advised CIOs to work with high-influence HR executives to investigate talent orchestration and to redesign the learning programmes required to build digital business expertise. The focus should be on hiring, developing and deploying versatile and multi-disciplined teams of people. Once teams are hired, the organisation should promote employee engagement as doing so will make the organisation more attractive to prospective employees and increase talent retention rates throughout the shift toward the digital strategy.
More detailed analysis is available in the report "Talent on the Digital Frontier: The Stakes Rise in Digital Business." The report is available on Gartner's web site at http://www.gartner.com/resId=2591917.
Ms Morello will provide additional analysis on IT workforce trends at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013.