The war for digital talent

New research conducted by Forrester and Odgers Berndtson reveals that a company’s future revenue will depend on it harnessing technology – and having the talent to manage it, says NIGEL FENWICK

The digital industrial revolution is accelerating, forever changing industries and the relationship between consumers and producers. But beyond the hype, real changes in some companies are already paying dividends for progressive CEOs and digital-savvy executive teams. That’s the conclusion from the latest joint research study between Forrester and Odgers Berndtson on digital transformation. The research highlights the key differences between companies just beginning their digital journey and more advanced digital leaders, drawing important conclusions for how you can shape your company’s digital future.

To highlight differences between the more advanced companies and those following behind, Forrester created three levels of digital business maturity – beginner, intermediate and advanced  – by analysing five competencies of business leadership:

1. Strategy: The ways executives accelerate revenue and optimise operations.
2. Structure: The ways business leaders organise teams.
3. Culture: The cultures that work best in a digitally enabled world.
4. Talent: The skills and capabilities companies need to bring on to their teams.
5. Technology: The technologies companies need to master.

Crucially, advanced companies report significantly higher revenue growth rates on average than their less mature counterparts. The simple reality for many companies is that customer value, and therefore revenue, is now intrinsically bound up with the digital experiences a firm creates alongside physical products and services. Whether it’s companies like Schindler creating new ‘Port’ technology to optimise the flow of people in buildings, or LG creating a range of smart appliances connected to a consumer’s mobile phone, leading companies understand their future success lies in harnessing the power of digital to deliver new sources of customer value.

In examining the differences between digital beginners, intermediates and the more advanced firms, the research identifies how leaders in these companies vary their approach to the five core competencies of business.

Across the advanced digital companies, 90 per cent report having the right people to define their digital strategy compared to just 19 per cent or companies beginning their digital journey. And when it comes to having the necessary people and skills to execute the strategy, just seven per cent of beginners say they have what it takes, compared to 91 per cent of the advanced companies.

The stark contrast between these numbers highlights the enormous lead advanced companies have in the war for digital talent. A firm’s ability to drive new revenue from digital investments will be intrinsically bound to their ability to attract and retain the top talent. To help succeed, Forrester recommends you:

Fix your culture. Even if you attract great talent, without a culture that nurtures their creativity, you’ll quickly lose them. Yet better culture remains the number-one barrier to successful digital transformation. To help fix your culture, change employee metrics and rewards to focus more on customer outcomes and innovation. 

Shift the focus of digital customer experience from bolt-on to transformation To win in the future, where great experiences are now table-stakes, you must refocus your customer experience strategy on transforming the relationship with the customer through digital.

Embed design thinking and journey mapping Design thinking teaches your employees to have greater empathy for the customer and to design new ways to create customer value.

Nurture your most creative employees While your company needs to retain creative innovators, these individuals are not necessarily your best employees at managing tasks. If your company’s success metrics reward task completion, you may be unintentionally managing your most creative employees out of the organisation. Make sure your culture and performance metrics support and even reward creative experimentation.

Nigel Fenwick is Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester. To read the full report go to:


1. Communicate a clear vision and strategy. Help employees understand how the company will be different as a digital business.
2. Design the right organisation and governance. Prioritise agility and customer outcomes over operational efficiency.
3. Nurture an outside-in culture. Digital transformation demands a customer-obsessed culture that supports continuous innovation.
4. Attract and retain top talent. Embed new digital skills, such as design thinking and journey mapping, into your organisation.
5. Invest in flexible and advanced technology architectures designed to continuously evolve. Learn to rapidly adapt the business to use emerging technology in the service of customers.