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Virtually every organization has a digital vision. The pandemic clearly demonstrated the need for agility, customers are showing a greater preference for digital experiences, and the competitive world in which we operate is driving the need for faster product and service innovation. It is no longer a question of whether organizations should embark on digital transformation, but how quickly they can accelerate digital enablement.

However, globally, we are amid uncertain times. Countless economic and political challenges are holding organizations back. We’ve seen many businesses already freeze their headcount, and some major brands even reduce headcount drastically.

The result is IT teams are at breaking point, struggling to “keep the lights on” with business-as-usual demands, while also expected to not just embark on digital enablement but to accelerate it and deliver the desired outcomes faster.

To truly drive change in uncertain times, we need to prioritize the areas we can control.

prioritizing obstacles

In the recent Randstad transformation report on CIO priorities in a dynamic market, seven of the nine top concerns for IT professionals were extraneous variables.

Graph with top concerns for IT professionals
Graph with top concerns for IT professionals
Source: Randstad

It’s difficult for any IT team to take a firm hold of these factors, but that does not mean they can’t be controlled, managed or resolved. Human psychology studies over the course of centuries tell us that humans crave control and disproportionately worry over factors outside their control.

The reality is that most of these factors of uncertainty are best navigated with greater digital agility, however it is these factors that are slowing us down in achieving our digital-first vision.

is the digital skills gap the biggest challenge?

The lack of technical expertise and skills within organizations isn’t the only factor creating the digital skills gap, and nor are the perpetual corporate hiring freezes due to economic uncertainty. There is a significant challenge in the form of upskilling and learning.

One should consider upskilling the existing workforce. Organizations are running to the bare minimum of operational efficacy. Because of this, IT teams do not have the capacity to develop their skills around their day job.

Hiring digital talent is proving to be tough. Tech talent is hard to come by and is therefore more expensive. Increasing salaries mean that when an organization does require digital capability, it’s an impossible task to find a suitable candidate at a reasonable price.

So, if you can’t upskill existing staff, hire new tech talent, or avoid the necessity of digital transformation, what alternatives are left?

is outsourced digitalization the solution?

Outsourcing digital projects has become common practice because it allows a more experienced team to take on the delivery of a project, and also frees up internal IT resources to continue with the day job. However, is this the most effective approach for digital enablement?

The evidence would suggest not. According to a McKinsey study in 2021, 69 percent of digital transformation projects fail.

Digitalization is strategic and multi-threaded and not as simple as pushing a project across to someone else to manage and deliver. Internal control and management is a necessity because digitalization comes from within an organization. It’s not a one-size-fits-all project. In fact, it’s not a project at all — it’s a continuous program of development and progression.

Digital enablement is only truly successful when it encompasses every internal view and draws together the ideologies and direction of every line of business. This simply isn’t possible for an external project delivery unit or third party. It requires clear direction from a skilled CIO/CTO.

is it time to take a different approach to digital enablement?

Existing IT teams do not have the capacity to drive digital enablement at the speed desired and needed by the business. Growing these teams through hiring, for many organizations, is not an option and even if unlimited headcount was realized, finding and attracting the right talent into your teams would be a difficult and lengthy process.

Simply outsourcing the problem is full of risk and as mentioned earlier, digital enablement is not a project, it is a continual program of change, and it is critical that you take your internal team along with you on the journey. A pure outsourcing approach does not do that.

The solution is not one of these options, but a careful mix of multiple. It is to retain control of your digital enablement while taking a talent-first approach to deliver on your strategic vision. By thinking holistically about your change program and creating an elastic pool of talent, you can inject the right skills in the right place, at the right time.

At Randstad Digital, our view is that the only way to accelerate digital enablement is to leverage and blend three key delivery models.

permanent and contingent talent

You need to acquire the necessary digital skills to drive your change programs. However, you need to do this in smart ways — bringing in permanent, digitally experienced people that will help guide you in the right direction. You also need to leverage contingent workers providing you with the elasticity to scale when required while also providing cover for your existing team as they embark on reskilling.

global delivery model

Many organizations are looking to deploy global delivery models to provide the skills required in lower-cost labor markets. Establishing these from scratch is difficult especially if you have no presence in these geographies. This is where working with a partner that has established global talent centers can be hugely valuable, providing you with flexible access to a ready made team of digital talent, wherever you are in the world.

outcome-focused delivery

There will always be those elements of your digital enablement that can be defined as a stand alone element and as such outsourced to an experienced team to design, develop and validate. Ensuring that this team and these deliverables are fully immersed in your wider change program is key to ensuring transformation success.

By thinking differently and embracing a variety of these delivery models, organizations can retain full control of their change programs, and ensure that their existing teams are taken with them on the journey. The success of any digital enablement program is the talent that you apply, and by creating this elastic talent pool, success not only becomes easier, but you gain the flexibility to take uncertainty in your stride and you can overcome the obstacles that will inevitably appear.

For more insight into these uncertain times, read the full Randstad digital transformation report.