Most of the talk and action around digital transformation centers on the technology that is required to propel a business forward in a competitive market or to pivot to a new business model. But are we focusing enough attention on the people and skills that are needed to help transform an organization?
If you’re an IT leader, you’re likely hiring for specific technology-related skills. Business leaders, on the other hand, are hiring for business-specific skills. Who is minding the gap between them? In talking with business and IT leaders, it’s clear that change managers are needed to help translate business to technical needs (and vice versa) in order to best support business goals. And as the need for transformation increases in every industry, it is soft skills that are lacking in many organizations.
“We are in very short supply of people who can turn technologies, products, [and] tools into solutions that have mission impact because…mission people don’t talk any tech and the tech people hate talking mission outcomes,” a government IT leader told the audience at a recent CIO roundtable hosted by IDG. “Those people who bridge that gap [are] change managers [who] drive the adoption of whatever solutions we create. The key is turning tools, services, [and] products into solutions that have mission outcome. Those translators are the most in demand and shortest in supply.”
More than three-quarters (77%) of the surveyed participants across three such roundtables cited “missing key skill sets needed to drive reinvention efforts” as the biggest challenge facing their organizations’ digital transformation efforts. The roundtables may be a small sample size, but it’s something I hear time and again from customers who are driving digital transformation.
Technologies such as business and process automation, application workflow orchestration, intelligent service and operations management, and DevOps tooling are meant to augment the human capability in the organization. AI and machine learning are great for processing large volume, but they still can’t replicate human behavior and thinking. (This is why truly autonomous vehicles are still a way off.)
To be successful, your organization needs change managers who can communicate, show creativity, manage projects, analyze results, have resiliency, be curious, and demonstrate empathy, to make sure the needs of the business are being met by the technical solutions and systems. It is the human augmentation of technology that sets context, understanding, and emotional connection. This is NOT the Tom character from Office Space who had his secretary bring the customer requirements down to the engineers.
Finding the right talent is never easy and the current market for technology-savvy employees is tight, particularly as the economy continues to expand as we exit the pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts demand for IT and tech-savvy talent will continue to grow through 2029.
Where do you find the talent? Home grown might be the way to go. A CompTIA survey shows that nearly 4 in 5 organizations (79%) are pursuing initiatives to address the skills gap in this tight labor market. Forty-two percent expect they’ll roll out new efforts to upskill and reskill current employees. Granted, not all soft skills can necessarily be taught, but focusing on upskilling and training your people is always good strategy.
It’s not just IT related. To take advantage of technological and societal shifts, organizations need to capitalize on human creativity, skills, and intellect across the enterprise. They need to develop new operating models addressing cultural, organizational, and systemic issues. And they need to change how they acquire and manage skills and talent to keep employees motivated and engaged.
As businesses continue their transformation journeys, forging their path to becoming an Autonomous Digital Enterprise (ADE) will require investments in intelligent automation and AI-enabled solutions, balanced with the human expertise needed to manage change. These organizations will be agile, customer-centric businesses that act on insights because of the investments made in technology and people. The people will drive the change – technology just enables it.
Ayman Sayed is CEO of BMC Software.
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