• February 15, 2017

Closing the Digital Literacy Gap With Agility

How to adapt digital transformation to the modern workforce.

The digital literacy gap may seem overblown, bringing to mind a fictional workforce that has to be repeatedly asked, “Did you try turning it off and on again?” when they have technology problems.

But, frankly, this chasm—existing between the tools and processes the organization is deploying to communicate, collaborate, and innovate, and the capability of its workforce to actually use them—is very real. In fact, a recent study by Capgemini Consulting and the MIT Center for Digital Business found that:

  • Executives across 50 industries operate with the perception that nearly 20 percent of millennials lack the analytical skills that are required in the modern workplace.
  • Only 46 percent of companies are investing in the development of digital skills.  

For enterprise organizations, this digital literacy gap poses one of the biggest barriers to transformation and innovation. Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s own survey of IT and business decision-makers found that 38 percent believe limited staff, skills, and expertise is their biggest barrier to transformation.

Whose Fault Is It?

While it’s easy to point the finger at the workforce and the systems that have prepared them for employment in this modern world, Cyril Coste, Principal Digital Transformation at HPE Enterprise Services UK, says enterprise organizations share the blame.

One reason: Many are asking a newer generation of employees to learn and adopt old-school methodologies and technologies that don’t jibe with how they’ve been programmed to think, learn, and operate. Often, this generation is asked to adapt to traditional tools, technologies, and methodologies, rather than the other way around. This problem is particularly acute in industries—like banking and insurance—where transformation wasn’t a strategic priority until recently.

“What we see with these types of companies is a sort of halfway commitment to transformation,” Coste says. “These organizations will say they’re investing in changes that encourage collaboration and rapid innovation, but they can’t move past old methods or old technologies—it ends up being some mix of waterfall and agile that doesn’t really work well for anyone.”

The Solution: Invest in Agility (and the Tools That Facilitate It)

To drive effective transformation and bridge gaps in digital literacy (particularly among younger workers), Coste believes organizations have to fully move past old-school operational models that follow linear, siloed paths to innovation.

“Years ago, everything started with R&D, then it moved to prototyping, then it went to marketing, then it launched,” Coste says. “That model doesn’t work anymore because by the time that cycle is complete, you’re already late to market.”

The solution? From Coste’s perspective, it starts with two things:

  1. Adopt a more agile approach to transformation that gives specific employees in specific disciplines the tools and processes they need to rapidly launch, test, measure, and iterate ideas.
  2. Don’t force every new technology on every employee. Instead, focus digital transformation efforts on ensuring specific teams and groups have the tools and training they need to navigate the first step effectively.

“This really has nothing to do with a specific tool or set of tools,” Coste says. “It’s a methodology that adapts to the world we live in. It’s understanding how people work and what they need to do their jobs better and faster. Once you know that, you can provide the training and education that facilitates that agility, instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.”

Like this story? Learn more about the importance of enterprise adaptability or read what analysts are saying about new solutions in the managed workplace market.

Cyril Coste is a Digital Transformation Principal, Advisory Services at HPE Enterprise Services UK. A veteran in the digital industry with more than 18 years of experience across business transformation, IT, and marketing strategy, Coste is responsible for providing both strategic and tactical leadership across transformation client engagements. Follow him on Twitter.