Thursday, June 30, 2022

Investments in digital technology are a waste without employees who can make it useful, experts say

A recent study revealed that one in four Canadian technology leaders think their use of digital tools and tech is having little to no effect in driving true business value.

The study from KPMG noted that it’s not enough for companies to just publish a new website and then forget about it. According to the company, meaningful digital transformation requires full, end-to-end digital experiences powered by technology that generates value over the long term.

“A lot of organizations just need to be more thoughtful about how technology can really help employees do their job, or help customers experience…The first big thing is truly understanding and empathizing with what people need technology for,” said Professor Kathryn Brohman, an associate professor and director of the Master of Digital Product Management program at Smith School of Business.

Digital skills are no longer valuable solely for employees within IT departments. As digital transformation continues to become a main focus for organizations, it’s vital that all employees are properly trained on digital skills, Brohman said. Without this practice, Canadian businesses and employees are at risk of being left behind.

A global survey of companies with more than 1,000 employees from research firm RAND Europe found that more than half agreed that a shortage of digital talent has led to a loss of competitive advantage, and that if the digital skills gap isn’t closed soon, there will be negative impacts on product development, innovation, and customer experiences. Additionally, business investments in technology are a waste without equal attention paid to the employees who can actually make it useful and drive business value. 

Currently, employers are focusing on looking for tech talent and up-skilling their employees’ digital skills.

“It all comes down to this whole idea that organizations need a fundamentally new set of practices to accommodate the needs of the digital age. And that is really why these new skills are so high in demand,” Brohman said.

She said that common work practices are changing and the usual set of training that employees get might not be enough any more. 

Digital Product Management is a more recent practice, which builds off of old project management practices that leverage marketing techniques, product management, and tech tools, Brohman said.

“And so when you stick together technology and product management, you come up with this new practice, and that new practice really is the new skill set.”

She said the top priority in this practice, and to up-skill employees in general, is low code and no code skills. 

“The ability to use these no code, low code tools, so that you can interface with the technology without actually having to code, that’s probably the most important skill,” Brohman added.

While actual technical skills seem to be what many organizations are focusing on, Brohman said the biggest gap is actually connecting the technology practices to the business practices and effectively using digital skills to enhance businesses.

When it comes to actual steps businesses can take, she suggested social and creative ways that get everyone involved and learning, like a hackathon, is a good place to start. Additionally, Brohman noted that some companies have built digital labs but they need to be constructed “quite thoughtfully” to really work. 

Other steps businesses can take include reengineering current practices around managing technology, and lastly informing and educating senior leadership around what digital transformation means.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Samira Balsara
Samira Balsara
Samira is a writer for IT World Canada. She is currently pursuing a journalism degree at Toronto Metropolitan University (formally known as Ryerson) and hopes to become a news anchor or write journalistic profiles. You can email her at sbalsara@itwc.ca

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