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A framework for getting “skilled up”

Being digital-first.

It’s hardly believeable that just 20 years ago the Internet was only for the geeks, and engineers. It’s now entirely ubiquitous, reaching into every nook and cranny of life.

However, not every organisation is “skilled-up” and able to leverage the massive competitive advantage that digital skills offer. An estimated one-third of organisations lack basic digital skills and this is a major issue that needs addressing if organisations are to remain relevant into the next decade.

Since the 1990s, we’ve been committed to driving digital adoption through the open sharing of knowledge, collaboration, and the development of open knowledgebases. In fact, the biggest lesson we’ve learned over the last three decades is that knowledge is power – technologies, skills, platforms and fashions come and go. To thrive long-term in the digital space requires you to be “always learning”.

For many managers and business operators there seems to exist the mantra of “this is how I do it” and that often remains unchanged for years or decades. This creates resistance to learning new digital skills, despite the appreciable difference to any organisation’s ability to exist, adapt and compete within the digital space. Everyone lives and operates in the digital space.

We think it’s pretty clear, we’re living in a hyper-connected and super-disruptive world so we all should adopt at least a level of connected-ness and embrace disruptive thinking. Sticking to what you did five or ten years ago probably ain’t gonna cut it today – you need to move with the times. Otherwise you’ll fall out of line with customers, suppliers, partners and technology – and that means someone is gonna steal your lunch.

Interestingly, we’ve discovered the absence of basic digital skills is one of the significant reasons behind client/supplier/partner problems and dissatifaction. We regard this as so critical to the success of our relationships we explore the digital skills of our clients during the “discovery” phase. It highlights with alarming accuracy the areas that we are going to be successful and also those that are going to cause friction and challenge us both.

On more than a few occasions we have not pursued business relationships when we felt the digital matchmaking was less than desirable.

Since 2014, we have operated using an outline framework with clients, we’re not asking for the moon on a stick, but we expect our bestest clients to be able to operate fluidly in the digital space. This includes:

  • Information: Find, manage and securely store digital information and content, specifically: cloud storage, accessibility, analytics, security, sharing, version-control and processes.
  • Communications: Communicate, interact, collaborate, share and connect with customers and partners. This doesn’t mean “we use email”, as most organisations misuse it badly. It does include; maintaining relationships, social media, collaboration tools and customer service via multiple channels.
  • Transact: Goods and services, organise finances, legal compliance, and security
  • Problem Solving: Increased independence and confidence by solving problems using digital tools to manage interaction (e.g. video conferencing, instant chat and collaborative applications) and accurately scoping possible, safe, validated solutions to issues.
  • Engagement: Engage with communities and create digital content for marketing, operations and internal employees.
  • AI: Including use of autonomous operations, automated services, bots, augmented application layers and natural voice control.
  • Innovation: Collaboration, trust, break-it-fix-it-fast, disruption, and agility.

Yes it’s a wishlist and, yes, it may seem quite demanding but it largely forms what will be expected from everyone who lives and works in the digital space next decade. Whilst less than 30% of organisations currently “pass the test”, this will grow both organically as millennials and Gen Z folks enter the workplace and as old dinosaurs die.

Today, it’s the norm for junior employees in a organisation to be more digitally savvy than the managers – longer-term this will become a major threat for organisations with digitally-ignorant leaders. The time is act is now, and that means much of the C-level having to learn a lot, quickly.

Footnote: This article is based on “Basic Digital Skills for Organisations”, originally published on our site in November 2015. It is re-written from the ground-up to reflect recent changes around AI, standards of digital literacy and shortened to make it more digestible.