To win in IT get into the digital skills race

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Delegates at the East Africa CIO100 Symposium

The success of any transformation initiative is highly dependent on people and as organizations across various industries rush to be “Digitally Compliant” and think about its deployment in 2019 and beyond, the role and race for talent and digital skills couldn’t be stressed enough during the recent East Africa CIO100 Symposium.

All too often organizations embarking on digital transformation journey’s tend to invest a lot in new systems, consultants and partnerships but forget about investing in their teams and addressing the cultural aspects. Such initiatives are launched with great promise but do not stand the test of time

George Njuguna, CIO HF Group

In a moment that was akin to a TED Talk session hosted in Naivasha, Kenya, George Njuguna, CIO, HF Group delved into the critical role of people in driving digital transformation and paradigm shift that requires organizations to attract and maintain high performing individuals and teams to deliver on the digital agenda.

All too often organizations embarking on digital transformation journey’s tend to invest a lot in new systems, consultants and partnerships but forget about investing in their teams and addressing the cultural aspects. Such initiatives are launched with great promise but do not stand the test of time said Njuguna.

“If we are “in IT to win IT” then the people transformation agenda is as important as the technical transformation agenda, because it is the former that drives the latter.”

George Njuguna, CIO HF Group

In a 2017 Forrestor Report, the three top hurdles that slow down digital transformation project were identified as Legacy/Incompatible Technology; Shortfall in People and Skills and; An inability to Work Across Functions.

George Njuguna, CIO HF Group

According to a Research by MIT Sloan Management Review, 70 percent of Global executives believe they do not have the right skills, leader or operating model to adopt to disruption. Therefore, we have empirical data to prove that a large component of business successful in digital transformation is getting the people aspect right.

“If we are “in IT to win IT” then the people transformation agenda is as important as the technical transformation agenda, because it is the former that drives the latter,” Njuguna said adding that a Paradigm shift is required in the way organizations attract and maintain high performing individuals and teams to deliver on Digital Transformation. CIOs can no longer leave this role to Human Resource (HR) departments, he emphasized. There is a need for them to work hand in hand with HR to come up with new and innovative ways of engaging digital talent.

Njuguna addressed six areas that require the paradigm shift as follows:-

  1. Leadership: There is a need for Change-Agile Leaders who are forward thinkers focused on the future and not the present challenges. Leaders must be able to adopt to a constantly changing business and technology environment. These are leaders who are not afraid to take risks, but create an environment for experimentation and free thinking that propels innovation. Change-Agile leaders create partnerships with their peers to get everyone behind the digital journey.
  2. Millenial Workforce: The millennial workforce are not afraid to job hop and demand convenience. If a job is not meeting their expectations, they will quit and look for another job. The organization must focus more on getting their best and not boxing them into conventional working methods that are more skewed towards presence than performance. One must also spend time selling to them a purpose that is larger than the organization, because millenials are drawn to purpose not just profit.
  3. Culture: Anyone who has led any organizational transformation initiative, will confess that the biggest hurdle is culture. Peter Drucker said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. No matter how many disruptive technologies an organization buys, the big C will always stand in the way of implementation, and if they get past implementation, then they will falter at adoption and commercialization. A digital business requires a digital culture. Technology cannot take the place of leadership and values, which are required to drive change and establish a strong digital disruption culture.
  4. Sourcing: Across industries, there is a race for digital skills is on. The constantly emerging digital transformation initiatives are re-defining business models and creating high demand for digital skills to design, navigate and manipulate the digital space. There is no degree in Digital Transformation, what organizations must do is identify multi dimensional individuals who can bring a host of diverse skills and are willing to consistently learn new disciplines.
  5. Compensation: Traditional HR practices involve having a standard set of compensation and benefits per job grade. However, employees of today are looking for choice and a cafeteria-style benefits plan may be the best way to go. This custom-selection option is an employee benefits plan that allows employees to choose among a variety of offerings to create a benefits package that best meets their needs and those of their family. This could mean trading off pension and optical cover for something else that makes sense to them because the needs of the Millennial are not the same as for Gen X and an organization should not purport to know what is best for their staff, especially given the fact that most employee benefit plans have not been revised in years.
  6. Mentorship: Conventional thinking assumes that mentoring can only be done by an older person. Creating a digital savvy organization means gaining the skills and what comes easy to millenials by teaming them up with older team members for mentoring. In essence, reverse mentoring refers to an initiative in which older executives are paired with and mentored by younger employees on topics such as technology, social media and current trends.

Peter Drucker said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”. Leading the paradigm shift will require a new type of C level executive, that is willing to challenge the status quo and not just regurgitate and reinforce traditional management policies, processes and practices.

If you are “In IT to Win IT”, then you must be a leader, willing to pioneer new ways of working, not just a manager stuck in the past. Managers maintain, but leaders move organizations forward.

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