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What is Digital Work?

In the last article we tried to define Digital Transformation as leveraging technology to drive your business strategy.

This requires a fundamental change in the organization’s way of looking at technology and its ability to leverage technology to inform the strategy rather than just execute it! It is also imperative for the strategy to empower the technology to explore unknown possibilities.

The role of technology

This means that digital work is operating in the same space as business strategy does!

And to operate in the complex-chaotic domains requires the “digital” part of the organization to be as entrepreneurial as the business strategy part of the business. Several shifts in the operating model, talent and culture of the organization are required to empower technology to thrive is a fundamentally ambiguous, unpredictable space. In this series of articles, we aim to explore all these shifts.

To operate in the complex-chaotic domains requires the “digital” part of the organization to be as entrepreneurial as the business strategy part of the business

The nature of digital work

Now that we understand the environment in which technology needs to operate and the role it needs to play, let’s look at a few important shifts in the technology landscape itself. This will help clarify the kind of skills that might be needed for digital work.

From Projects to Products and Platforms

One of the fundamental shifts that enterprises need to make to embrace digital is moving from projects to products and platforms. This requires changes to the operating model including funding, prioritization, capabilities, team structures, etc.

This means structuring the technology organization in the form of long-lived teams with cross-functional capabilities. Long-lived teams need to be funded in a different way than time-bound project teams. Typically this means funding outcomes over output.

Data-driven intelligence in all digital assets

The proliferation of digital records through numerous disparate systems has resulted in humongous volumes of data that every business has about its customers, operations, suppliers, etc. Cleaning this data and making sense of it is non-trivial but not impossible. Doing this well can turn this data is a potential goldmine of insights that can inform improvements to operations, marketing strategies, customer experience, et al.

Every industry from retail to finance to hospitality to manufacturing will create tremendous competitive advantage by leveraging data and building intelligence into all digital assets they build

A new paradigm of interactions

Technical limitations had hitherto confined our interactions with computers to screens but screens are a pretty unnatural way to interact with the world. Initial technology was focused on incorporating sense of vision as the primary way to interact with machines. As technology evolves to incorporate more senses into the digital the interactions human-computer interactions can be based on voice / touch / smell / taste. Voice and Touch are the next frontier followed by taste and smell. This opens up millions of opportunities for businesses to improve their customers’ and employees’ experience

Blurred boundaries between physical and digital

As all devices start becoming “smart”, and interactions evolve to move from screens to a multitude of other inputs, software will need to interface with hardware a lot more. This has implications on the capabilities that companies will need to hire at the same time it will open up interesting new opportunities

For example : a traditional retailer might think of hiring web and mobile developers to cater their e-commerce website and mobile application. But they should also think about what kind of in-store experiences they can create which will require them to build embedded programming capabilities as well!

The need for fundamental shifts

To understand how fundamental this shift is, imagine “digital” to be the electricity of the 21st century. Imagine the kind of vision and change management required to move from coal-powered factories and devices to ones powered by electricity! This is the reason why digital transformation is difficult and risky. Thinking holistically about these shifts is one of the most effective way to mitigate that risk. Everybody thinks about the technology itself that needs to change but talent and culture are often ignored as aspects of digital transformation. So with this definition of the nature of digital work, we will explore the kind of talent and culture that an aspiring digital organization should aim for.

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