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Managing digital talent to make transformation happen

Ken Wong
Ken WongAP Senior Vice President and President
I lead a fortune 500 tech company's rapid growth markets in Asia Pacific across PCs, mobile devices, and data centre infrastructure. I have extensive experience over the last two decades managing complex geographies in technology leadership roles at global, regional and country levels. I enjoy turning data insights and analysis into a powerful strategic direction that has seen us deliver exceptional innovation.

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Leaders in global organisations are acutely aware of the need to focus on – and invest in – a successful digital transformation. What’s less clear is how to deploy the talent needed to be successful in such transformations, or where that talent comes from.

The reality is that transformations represent a continuing process. Digital capabilities morph and change at the rate at which new technologies and applications are created. Those that aren’t short-lived have significant implications.

When considering the essential elements of digital transformations, the management of exceptional digital talent is key.

 

Great talent, great digital outcomes

Critical thinking and decision making on which digital technologies and strategies to pursue are essential. You need people fluent in the broader technological ecosystems associated with emerging IT such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Alongside leadership roles you need product owners, tech evangelists, agility experts, user experience designers, front end and mobile engineers, devops teams, data analysts, machine learning gurus – the list goes on.

When considering the essential elements of digital transformations, the management of exceptional digital talent is key.

To attract this kind of talent, McKinsey notes that thinking outside the box can pay dividends. For example, use your normal hiring strategies, but add some non-traditional pathways such as online discussion groups and LinkedIn networks for a different perspective. It’s also a good idea to be strategic and hire a couple of top tier individuals who will be able to attract other talented digital workers through their own networks.

Refocus your efforts on internal training to acquire hard-to-find digital skills. This provides a positive career path for those already inside your organisation and sidesteps any real or perceived talent shortage.

At Lenovo, we’ve also had great success using non-traditional methods via our Future Leaders Program, which reaches out to graduates from universities worldwide. We have to work hard to position Lenovo as a meaningful and viable option for graduates in a competitive marketplace, offering fast-track career development which places them in business critical leadership roles within five years.

Refocus your efforts on internal training to acquire hard-to-find digital skills.

We also focus on senior digital leaders. I’m excited about two recent appointments. Our new CTO, Dr. Yong Rui, is an artificial intelligence expert who joins us from Microsoft, while our new President of Lenovo’s Data Centre Group, Kirk Skaugen, is a widely respected technology leader with vast experience in high performance computing, cloud, and the IoT. Both of these appointments set the right digital leadership tone for ourselves and those wishing to join our team.

 

Digital success is a cultural consideration

Leaders often ask: ‘Are we prepared for the digital disruptions here right now, and for those to come? How can we anticipate the trends which will affect our business? Are we capable of disrupting industry norms ourselves?’

Success in the digital arena is directly proportionate to the quality of digital talent you hire and manage. To that end, creating and maintaining a positive digital culture goes hand in hand with this success.

Success in the digital arena is directly proportionate to the quality of digital talent you hire and manage.

According to MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press, 75%+ of “digitally maturing” organisations give their employees the resources and opportunities needed to develop their digital acumen, compared to only 14% of “early-stage” companies. Success appears to breed success — “71% of digitally maturing companies say they are able to attract new talent based on their use of digital, while only 10% of their early-stage peers can do so.”

Source: MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press

In my experience, acquiring and retaining top talent is a more likely outcome when your organisation can demonstrate that your digital strategy is aligned with the company’s overall strategy. Digital teams work effectively when digital culture, structure and strategy is in sync.

 

The changing workplace and digital business

The last 5-10 years has been an interesting and exciting time in terms of changes to the traditional workplace. Commonplace today are practical concepts like virtual distributed team mobilisation, collaboration, remote-working techniques and so on. How do these changes affect digital business journeys in terms of productivity, customer loyalty and profitability?

I believe they intersect harmoniously. Today, globalisation is a business reality driven in part by technologies such as mobility, cloud computing, and web conferencing. The very same teams which contribute to your successful digital transformation value the freedom to work autonomously and balance work obligations remotely. Organisations must design the workplace with these factors in mind if they hope to attract, motivate and retain the digital talent necessary to help define their success.

The very same teams which contribute to your successful digital transformation value the freedom to work autonomously and balance work obligations remotely.

We know enterprise digital transformation is absolutely crucial. Gartner tells us that by 2020, CEOs expect 41% of their enterprise revenue to come from digital business. And that many organisations are still figuring out how to make this happen.

Apply some of the principles on managing your digital talent outlined here, and I believe you’ll be one considerable step closer to tangible, profitable outcomes.

I look forward to your comments. Please tag me below or find me on Twitter.

 

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