The many definitions of digital dexterity and why we care about them all

In the world of technology, it is not unusual for interesting terms to be assigned to IT-specific behaviors. The term digital dexterity is one such term. It was originally used by Gartner to describe the application of technology to improve business outcomes. It is a term that can be construed as rather subjective, and there is a good argument that it is capturing the essence of what technology has always been about. But if we break it down, we can better understand why the term is important and how we can leverage digital dexterity as a business improvement best practice. To truly leverage digital dexterity, it is first important to understand and identify the awareness level of emerging trends, the intended audience, the desired behaviors, and the target rate of digital adoption.

digital dexterity

Digital dexterity and the awareness level of emerging trends

Technology leaders understand that there is a requirement for them to live on the cusp of thought leadership. The challenge is that with the rate of technology change, it can be overwhelming to keep up with the latest developments. Not only that, but it is also important to understand the issues that have evolved from existing technologies. Lessons learned through the acquisition of technical debt have taught us that we have to continually research the issues encountered from our historical implementations. If you exist in the world as an early adopter, understand that new technology is often released without an understanding of the longer-term implications. Keeping up with emerging trends means more than attending conferences in trendy locations (remember when we could do that?) to learn of the latest technology developments. It means keeping up with changes and challenges from technology that was trendsetting in previous years. Regardless of which it is, technology leadership needs to continually raise their level of awareness with regard to emerging trends. It is only once a high level of awareness is achieved that it can be understood if those trends may apply to the business challenges faced by a specific business.

Intended audience

Improvements to business processes are undertaken for various reasons that impact different stakeholder audiences. Let us not forget that, as digital dexterity tells us, technology is a conduit to improve business outcomes. It is important to understand the business process that a specific technology is intended to improve. Part of that is the identification and engagement of the target audience. This should line up with the organizational strategic plan. If the strategic plan identifies a reduction in employee turnover as a target metric, the key stakeholders for any resulting initiative will be employees and how we can better retain the stars that help to drive the business plan. If the target metric is about increasing sales, the key stakeholders will be customers and how to drive more revenue from existing customers, and how to find and engage new customers. If it is a publicly-traded company, the intended audience becomes the shareholders and the board of directors. Key in this knowledge is knowing and understanding the intended audience as the desired benefits are quite different for each. For every technology initiative that is undertaken, we need to understand the goal that is the most important to the stakeholders. If we invest in technology to help retain employees while shareholders expect an increase in shareholder value in the short-term, we will not satisfy the needs of our intended audience. That could be a problem.

Desired behaviors

customer relationship management

Like digital dexterity, change management is an interesting practice that is in its infancy in terms of acceptance. While we see change managers engaging media and hanging posters to promote new implementations, the reality is that change management is about driving the desired behaviors from the intended audience. Behavioral change requires a certain amount of rewiring, and it is not an easy task. To start, it is necessary to identify the desired behavioral change. Branding is often given credit for driving out certain behaviors. Think of the many product names that have become the go-to brand. While we label it clever branding, there was a substantial amount of work that happened before adoption. Clever branding does not a behavior make. Simply throwing out a product with a cool name will not result in a long-term behavior change that includes our target audience buying our product. But if we can instigate a behavior change that creates a need or a desire for a product, that will result in a definite increase to the bottom line. Once the behavior is changed, there is also a need to support the change. Remember that there will always be other employers, competing products, and new places to invest capital. Too many companies focus all of their energy and resources to find new customers while their existing customers are left to their own devices. Always support the change once it is achieved. An achievement by itself is only one point in time.

Digital dexterity and the desired rate of digital adoption

This is really about setting goals. Digital dexterity cannot be embraced if it is not measured. If that were the case, we would only be guessing about the results, and guesses are not always accurate. They are subjective, cannot be substantiated, and emotions can cloud our interpretation of the results. Set goals and benchmarks against which the results can be measured. If the results do not meet stakeholder expectations, do not label the initiative as a failure. It only means that adjustments need to be made.

Digital dexterity: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

Digital dexterity is many things. Unfortunately, when we read about digital dexterity, it is often only one element of the whole picture that is presented. The trick is to understand that in this case, the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. If we only embrace one element and do not consider the others, the result will not return the rewards that digital dexterity is intended to achieve.

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