Kathy Gibson is at Gartner Symposium in Cape Town – Achieving digital dexterity is key for organisations to succeed in digital business transformation – and the CIO is the catalyst to make this happen.

You cannot reach techqulibrium if your workforce doesn’t have the right skills, says Helen Poitevin, research vice-president at Gartner.

“The digital component of most jobs is increasing. Technical skills are important, but are not enough to steer a successful digital business transformation,” says Poitevin. “Business and IT leaders need to employ the right talent with a specific set of mindsets, beliefs and behaviours — which we call digital dexterity — to launch, finish and capitalise on digital initiatives.”

People with the right attributes to be digitally dexterous (DD) are innovative, analytic, creative, agile and collaborative.

Organisations with high levels of DD are three times more likely to succeed in their digital transformation projects – and at speed, Poitevin points out. “They are quicker to launch, finish and obtain the outcomes they seek from digital initiatives,” says Poitevin.

Digitally dexterous people have both the ambition and the ability to work digitally, as well as the ambition and ability to build digital businesses.

“We talk about the pace of change at work, and the everything customer – if you don’t have digital dexterity, your employees will not be able to keep up,” Poitevin says.

However, there is currently a digital dexterity gap, where the ability of employees to exploit technology isn’t keeping up with the rate of technological change.

What’s needed, says Poitevin, is a digital workplace programme, a business strategy to boost workforce digital dexterity through an engaging and intuitive work environnment.

The CIO is key to delivering this digital workplace programme, bringing the employee experience in line with the business outcomes of digital transformation.

“Increasingly, it’s the responsibility of the CIO to operationalise the enterprise culture and the prevalence of digital dexterity in the workplace,” says Daniel Sanchez Reina, senior research director at Gartner. “The CIO will play a key role in supporting desired behaviors and changing the processes, procedures, policies and management practices that shape how work gets done to encourage desired behaviors.”

The CIO is the culture change leader and the chief HR officer (CHRO) is a key partner to the CIO in shifting the mindset of their own IT team members from “this is the way we have always done things” to “how can we do things better?”

“This will only happen by applying a framework of culture change, which includes increasing the digital dexterity of the entire organisation,” says Sanchez Reina.

He adds that digital dexterity means different things at different levels of the organisation.

“Sometimes we think about digital dexterity as applying to the general staff,” says Sanchez Reina. “But we forget that leaders have to develop a digital mindset. If I am not able to think in terms of digital – even if I am not an expert – I will not be able to lead a digital team.

“I think each level in the organisation requires different levels of digital dexterity.”

In 2019, 29% of CIOs in EMEA viewed digital business as a top priority, so improving digital dexterity throughout the organisation is crucial. To help their employees to develop digital dexterity traits, business leaders need to build them up by enabling enterprise agility and developing digital competencies. Above all, business leaders need to make digital dexterity a C-suite priority.

“Mindsets and practices shape culture, and technology acts as an amplifier of that culture. Technology by itself seldomly changes an organisation’s culture”, says Sanchez Reina. Technology is often the backbone of how work gets done and reinforces the company culture, which is why culture change is becoming an increasing responsibility of IT.

A massive two-thirds of companies do not fulfil their transformational ambitions – with 50% of them considering their projects to be a failure.

The reasons for these failures vary, with the most common being corporate culture. This is why 67% of companies aim to change their culture and attain digital dexterity.

There is a myth when it comes to culture change. Leaders might believe that communication is sufficient – but it has an influence rate of just 1%, Sanchez Reina points out.

Leading by example, also considered a powerful tool, influences just 5% of change.

“But this doesn’t mean that are not important, Without these two things change won’t happen.”

The remaining 94% required is to make the new culture operational. “This is the responsibility to create an environment where people live, breathe and experience in their day-to-day work, the traits you want them to have.”

Gartner introduced the PRISM (purpose; rituals; identity; support and merit) framework to enable organisations to change cultural traits that prevented a culture change (for example, silo-minded organisations or risk-averse teams). “PRISM works because it allows organisations to raise employee’s awareness on the need for change,” Sanchez Reina says. “That is the one and only key to success.”