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Author's profile photo Susan Galer

Are Employees the Biggest Roadblock to Digital Transformation?

/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/munichstudyblogscn_866279.pngAccording to the latest research findings, talent is threatening to become the major bottleneck of the next digital era, when connectivity changes everything. The study, entitled, “Skills for Digital Transformation,” was conducted by Technical University of Munich and SAP.

Although the sampling size (81) of C-suite executives and regional cut were relatively small, the results spotlight major gaps for companies intent on digital transformation. I spoke with Dr. Helmut Krcmar, a professor at the Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM), to find out more.

“Companies that see their business model under pressure today and haven’t invested in skill development yet risk becoming obsolete,” said Dr. Krcmar. “The business potential of innovative digital technologies isn’t always apparent up front. Companies need to invest in a broad set of digital skills in order to explore this potential.”

Although digital transformation is driven from the top, designing a strategy requires both tech-savvy leaders from the business and business-savvy leaders from IT. More than ever, companies need to invest in cross-functional knowledge at the executive level on down. This study’s findings bear this out. Eighty-eight percent of these C-suite respondents said extensive business-related knowledge on the IT side is crucial for developing a digital transformation strategy, and 57 percent said business executives need extensive technology skills to be able to develop a successful and simple digital transformation strategy for their company.

It’s not just that companies lack enough qualified people in new skills, think: data scientists who understand how to analyze data for business action and outcomes, security experts who think way beyond protecting the company’s perimeter, or mobile app developers able iterate on-the-fly. Digital transformation is an organizational change process reaching every corner of the company. An organization’s ability to use the business potential of innovative technologies also depends on its ability to manage and orchestrate this metamorphosis. It’s not surprising 84 percent of this study’s respondents agreed that business change management is of major importance for successful digital transformation.

Krcmar, who is teaching the first openSAP Enterprise MOOC course tackling major business issues, entitled, “Leadership in the Digital Transformation,” cautioned that traditional companies aren’t necessarily moving as fast as innovations like mobile apps.

“It will take a while for companies to start to change their behavior and how they do business,” he said. “Also, everything doesn’t have to be done immediately. Organizational change, where you change the mindset of people, is a much slower process.”

Meanwhile, digital age education is upending employee learning approaches. Technology acumen is already an important part of MBA curricula. Corporate learning is rapidly evolving as well. This is why SAP has developed its comprehensive online learning platform in the SAP Learning Hub. Participants have the flexibility to purchase and access training when they need it, including real-time sessions, sometimes before new solutions are released. This gives customers and partners a jump-start in understanding how the latest innovations can benefit organizations.

Krcmar said the ideal approach to digital age learning consists of 10 percent formalized, 20 percent collaboration and 70 percent on-the-job training. “Companies have to approach things from the customer’s viewpoint when someone is willing, ready and hungry to learn. Corporate learning is evolving just like consumer education. Nobody reads a 40-page instructional manual when they can watch a YouTube video to solve a problem in the moment.”

Everyone is interested in learning about digital transformation and gaining the skills they need, but many don’t know where to begin. In a cloud-based business world, flexible, networked learning is a good place to start.

Follow me @smgaler

Related content:

Skills for Digital Transformation: download the study

Article: Employees Lack Skills for Digital Transformation

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