Arrogant digital hubs and mainstream dinosaurs – do you have an internal digital gap
You may have read about the “digital divide” between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not. Now we are observing the digital divide inside some of the world’s most successful companies as investment in digital hubs and new digital talent risks alienating existing managers and professionals.
Digital transformation is the latest trend and organisations are investing heavily to build digital centres of expertise or “hubs”. These hubs are often well resourced and get a lot of attention from senior leaders. At the same time there is a lot of focus on bringing in “digital talent” from outside the organization to accelerate the building of this scarce and valuable capability.
The people in digital hubs are tasked to deliver transformational change on tight deadlines, there is a sense of urgency, particularly about transforming the customer journey and customer experience. In talking to people in these hubs we hear a sense of frustration in how long it takes to change things in the broader legacy business. We also observe some impatience with some digitally proficient people describing their colleagues in the mainstream business as “dinosaurs” or complaining “they don’t get it” and about how long it takes to bring about change in business practices and ways of working.
At the same time people in the legacy business are often equally frustrated and feel excluded from the work that is going on in digital transformation. Some are worried about getting left behind, others are irritated that digital is getting all the resource and attention “they are the new superstars, let them get on with it”.
Specialists in, for example, marketing who are keen to develop digital expertise may find themselves side-tracked by the assumption that this talent is only available outside. Yes, there are some specific skills involved in digital marketing but arguably it’s easier to expose a talented marketeer to the new range of tools and techniques that digital offers than it is to turn someone with a more technical bias into someone who really understands your customers and their needs and what to communicate to them.
In any business, our ability to effect change through changing people is a relatively small lever. Success will come from updating the majority of people who will stay with you during this change process.
This does not mean we need to bring everyone to the same level of capability. Many companies are evolving into a two-speed organization with the part of the business needing to operate at digital speed running on a different cadence and cycle to the more stable parts of the business which focus on sustained execution of the basics.
It’s hard, however, to imagine that this won’t translate to two-speed careers for the people involved.
The solution seems to be much more focus on operationalising innovations from the digital hub and bringing digital more widely into the organization. We need to make sure that our digital hubs don’t just focus on technology but also on changing culture and ways of working. Research is already showing that something like 85% of the value of a digital transformation come from changes in these areas rather than just technology.
Functions like HR and change management also need to raise their game, to operate and evolve at digital speed and to build capability for bringing about large-scale change in the relevant parts of the wider organization.
We have been running exploratory workshops with some of our clients to bring together, for example, Digital and HR people. They have common interests but are often not well aligned at this stage. Neither can succeed without the other so now is the time to get aligned and engaged.
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