Emerge Stronger

If you’ve been involved in any sort of digital transformation project this year, you’re probably feeling pretty frazzled. 2020 was one long sprint to digitise. Whether your business was grappling with remote-working, building new digital services or ensuring your security controls were adequate for constantly emerging threats, speed was of the essence.

As a result, there wasn’t a huge amount of room for businesses to conduct skills capabilities assessments or plan out development programmes. And although this was to be expected (unprecedented times and all that), it definitely shouldn’t mean that businesses again abandon all forms of workforce evaluation or capability analysis in 2021.

Because here’s the thing: constant assessment is critical to the long-term success of any digital transformation project.

I speak from experience. I’m a digital transformation consultant with over 16 years’ experience and dozens of projects under my belt. I’ve seen what happens when businesses plough ahead without stopping to take stock. Goals get forgotten, projects deviate and timelines slip. It’s only a matter of time before the whole initiative runs off its tracks and people start asking questions about what went wrong.

And of all the forms of critical analysis applied to digital transformation initiatives, technical capability assessments are forgotten more than any other. Such activities are often seen as a function of personal development or an HR concern and end up being pushed off any sort of strategic to-do list.

But this is a huge mistake. Because the right type of assessment can ensure every project gets off to the best possible start. And it can even accelerate progress.

What is a technical capability assessment?

This insight can help you and your colleagues make the right decisions on who to hire, who to train (or borrow – in the case of positions only needed for the transformation process itself such as legacy migrations), what sort of training to invest in, and which technology to purchase.

It can also guide thinking across the duration of a program. The goal of digital transformation is to build agility into a business and create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

A regular organisation-wide capability assessment may feel like a step too far right now. Instead, try taking a targeted, granular approach focused on areas of the business that are critical to delivery or where you have the greatest gaps in your knowledge. This approach can act as an invaluable bellwether that tells you where you are and what you’ll need next from a skills perspective. 

Once you have completed this exercise, whether for a team or for the whole organisation, it’s important that skills assessments become an ongoing, continuous process, part of the culture of your organisation ideally.

The good news is that once the benchmark is created for each individual, it is easy to maintain with a tool like QA’s Cloud Academy.

Clever algorithms allow you to identify baseline tech skill levels and then proactively suggest customisable learning plans to help individuals progress quickly – and drive the skill development your organisation needs.

If you want to take it one step further, then managers or the L&D team can confidently measure success by testing learners in lab scenarios that, for example, use actual AWS, Azure and Google Cloud accounts. All this while measuring learning and development progress in real-time through the Cloud Academy dashboards.

This is great for your existing tech talent, but the very best assessments go beyond mapping the status quo to reveal new potential. And this is where things get interesting.

Identify non-technical individuals with skills (both technical and soft) that can be applied in a tech role, and you can build out your digital capabilities without going to market for new talent.

This is less about identifying hidden skills (although this is important) and more about understanding the raw potential of your people. Aptitude defined by qualities like curiosity or problem-solving needs to be taken into account here.

For example, many business analysts and economists have the ability to become coders but they lack the IT training that allows software developers to maintain source code, perform version control, build for support and reusability, and so on.

But if you can identify this talent, and the individual has the ambition to reskill, then you can teach the rest.

Potential exists, as yet untapped, throughout your business – find a way to tap into it, and you can dramatically upskill your people and turbocharge your technical capabilities.

Again, start small, demonstrate how this approach works and prove the value. This will be far more successful than describing the great success you want to have and then failing to achieve it.

A shortcut to digital transformation

Digital transformation is all about acceleration. You’re trying to help your business do more in a shorter timeframe – typically delivering customer value – and you want to generate results as quickly as possible.

This year, with the pandemic and lockdown, the need for speed has become even more acute. But as we frantically surge forwards, we all need to make time to look back, learn lessons and correct our direction of travel.

And here’s the important thing to remember. By pausing for a moment, you can actually end up accelerating your progress. Taking a moment to stop, lift your head up and look at the bigger picture, doesn’t mean taking your eye off the ball. It’s about developing the situational awareness you need to make the right next move. 

Technical capability assessments are a good example of the productive pause. Take the time to identify talent and nurture it with training, and you can transform your business's technical capabilities overnight.

As I've already said, start small if necessary. Focus on achieving clarity – what’s gone wrong and what do you want to fix? – and make sure the people involved benefit from your interventions. (So they don’t regard capability assessments as just another box-ticking exercise.) Remember, even a small step can represent strategic transformation – if it’s in the right direction. And a process that starts small can deliver big wins.

Here are three potential wins that you can get out of performing regular technical capability assessments:

Win #1: Get L&D the respect it deserves

For L&D, there’s a big opportunity here to deliver actionable insight to decision-makers, helping them to unlock potential and understand where the barriers to progress might be. This will help establish L&D as crucial strategic partners in the business’s digital transformation – as they should be.

You can learn more about the role L&D should be playing in digital transformation (and how to play it) in a previous article in this series written by QA’s Chief Client Officer, Srikanth Iyengar.

Win #2: Ensure you always have relevant digital skills on your payroll

By taking your people on a continual journey of tech talent assessment and ensuring they’re constantly learning and relearning digital skills, you’ll reduce the human equivalent of tech debt.

Win #3: Set yourself up for future success

But for now, let’s get back to the present. With the right blend of skills at your disposal, you can accelerate your entire digital transformation. Finding out exactly how well equipped you are through a technical capability assessment is the first step towards being able to deliver your strategy. It will give you a sense of how ready your organisation is to not only emerge stronger from this crisis but to also meet the challenges that 2021 holds head-on.

Technology moves fast, and nobody can predict what the future holds. But by building the capability to constantly assess for the skills your organisation has and lacks today, you’ll ensure you’re ready to deal with whatever tomorrow holds.

Planning or managing a digital transformation? Talk to us about capability assessments, our Cloud Academy platform or watch our Emerge Stronger webinar, which explains how to find and plug your digital skills gap.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts on digital transformation. In previous posts, we looked at how to emerge stronger from this crisis, how to lead an L&D revolution, how IT leaders can develop tech talent, and how to win the war for tech talent. Don’t miss them.

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