The Secret to Digital Success: Talent

October 02, 2017

Contributor: Chris Pemberton

With a critical IT talent shortage, AI, diversity and digital dexterity will be the keys to scale digital business.

The key to delivering digital value at scale is all about the people and talent at the heart of digital businesses said Tina Nunno, vice president and research Fellow at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2017 in Orlando, Florida.

It’s about people who have the ability and desire to exploit existing and emerging technologies.

It’s about people who are customer “empaths”, skilled mentors and process hackers.

It’s about people who are collaborative, agile, analytical and creative.

“ To scale, we need people with digital dexterity.”

“Augment the people you already have to create digital dexterity,” said Nunno. Leigh McMullen, research vice president at Gartner, joined Nunno onstage and together they spotlighted the critical role of talent as a key pillar, and enabler of success in the age of digital disruption.  

Pre-empt the looming IT-talent cliff

Based on data from over 200 million active job postings in the marketplace pulled from research by Gartner Talent Neuron, there are widening gaps that need to be filled for high demand IT roles. Cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) are already in high demand, and extremely short supply. To deploy AI successfully, CIO’s will need to hire AI leaders with proven experience. Yet for a CIO trying to hire an AI leader in New York, Talent Neuron data showed only 32 AI experts based in New York of which only 16 are potential candidates and only 8 of those 16 are actively looking for a new role. Those 8 candidates are already being courted by at least a dozen other companies.

To scale their businesses, CIOs will need to develop digital dexterity in the talent they already have.

Capital One’s “Tech College” is an upskilling program designed to develop next generation digital talent. The program focuses on 13 key technology disciplines including data, machine learning and AI and spans diverse talent pools from non-technical college graduates to existing technology professionals and executive business leaders. Training is delivered via online courses, partner training and mentoring.

CIO’s and HR leaders need a multi year talent strategy. The job market will likely not be able to meet demand for key talent areas such as cybersecurity and AI. Another way to effectively scale human talent is through the use of AI.

Leigh McMullen, research vice president at Gartner, discusses the critical role talent plays in digital success. Leigh McMullen, research vice president at Gartner, discusses the critical role talent plays in digital success.

AI has a role in digital talent development

Conventional wisdom says that AI will be used to automate humans out of relevance. “Conventional wisdom is wrong,” said Nunno. “AI is here to help us, not replace us.”

While AI will replace certain tasks that are ripe for automation, it will be a net job creator given it’s unique ability to learn from massive data sets. Gartner predicts that starting in 2020, AI will  create 2.3 million new jobs while eliminating 1.8 million jobs. Many IT leaders are still in the dark about how to scale AI. The ROI potential lies in the augmentation of people.

Bionic company Pixium uses AI to mimic the signals a human retina sends to the brain. The AI and patient work together to create better vision because the AI improves by learning with every patient interaction. However, while AI will be a major battleground for technology leadership through 2022, it is susceptible to bias just like humans. CIOs need to focus on diversity to minimize bias.

Focus on diversity in all its forms

Research shows that the more diverse a company is the more profitable it is. “Diversity needs to be exploited in all its forms including diverse data, diverse talents, diverse suppliers, diverse teams and diverse cultures,” said McMullen. Without these types of diversity, bias will blind us to innovation and opportunities. “From automatic soap dispensers that don’t detect all skin colors to voice recognition systems that don’t recognize a range of dialects and accents, there’s a dark side to bias that we must avoid introducing into our tools,” added McMullen.

Just as diversity of people helps us avoid creating enterprise blindspots, diversity of data viewpoints will help us avoid creating algorithmic blind spots.

Nunno and McMullen offered CIOs clear guidance on how to scale their businesses for value delivery: “First, focus on talent. To scale we need people with digital dexterity.”

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