How to build a Digital Dream Team

Many organisations are pivoting to new digital business models, requiring large parts of the employee base to adopt a digital business value chain. At the same time, digital experiments such as innovation labs and new digital products have delivered notable successes such that digital skills are now in high demand and short supply.

A question I am frequently asked is how do you build a digital dream team for your new digital enterprise?

What is a Digital Business?
The first question we need to tackle is what do we mean by a digital business?

Gartner defines a digital business as:

the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds … via an unprecedented convergence of people, business and things”.

I believe that this can be further refined by defining a digital business as:

creating new business models based on new customer experiences and products that exploit information and technology at speed.

Delivering business value from a digital workplace requires a new form of “Digital Dexterity”, the ability to master and execute a pragmatic set of techniques to quickly exploit emerging technology. This new form of agility will be a significant source of competitive advantage as organisations pivot to new digital business models.

Digital Dexterity will need to be supported by a strategy that is focused on building a dynamic digital team of people and culture:

Building a Dynamic Digital Team
Establishing a dynamic digital team to improve processes and drive new profitable business models is at the crux of a digital strategy.

By design, the digital team is small and specialised, staffed by multi disciplinary subject matter experts from across the businesses, including marketing, sales, technology and related lines of business. This team will often consist of both a permanent and temporary team.

The permanent team is designed to maintain focus on the enterprise’s digital vision and goals. The team consists of a digital programme team, responsible for creating and communicating the digital storyline, in addition to a technology team who are responsible for developing the technical platform to deliver the digital vision.

The temporary team supports the permanent team and is responsible for initiating and incubating the ultimate digital deliverable. The temporary team members will come from business departments and external suppliers, proving deep subject matter expertise on new products and customer insights.

Both permanent and temporary teams will have an entrepreneurial attitude for experimenting, innovating and creating new customer value. The combined team will have a disciplined ‘test and learn’ approach, supported by a risk-taking mind-set and technical creativity to break with the status quo, accept failure, gain new customer insight and learn.

The digital team will need to iterate the digital solution until they get it right—not only delivering what the customer wants but also understanding why they want it so that issues can be addressed and emerging needs factored in with speed.

Challenger Board
A recent market development is that a number of companies have set up a separate “challenger” or advisory boards for their digital portfolio. The board will include domain experts who know the business inside out and digital natives hired from start-ups or tech companies. With their deep digital experience and outsider perspective, the in-house advisory experts can ask tough questions, uncover problems quickly, and spot opportunities for disrupting the business with sleek customer solutions and enhanced commercial value.

A successful digital team will need to possess a number of key capabilities and competencies. These individuals will bring varied perspectives, earned from working in a customer focused environment where the user experience and customer intimacy reigns supreme. The team will need to have a high degree of digital literacy – intensely focused on the customer, constantly evolving and improving the customer experience.

These individuals will be a jack of multiple competencies, such as smart data analytics and hyper scale cloud computing, as opposed to a mastery of a single skill. They will recognise that user experience (UX) design is a differentiator and will be comfortable with uncertainty and act with agility.

Organisations are ruthlessly competing for people with digital skills so turning a digital vision into reality requires attracting, motivating and retaining talented people.

To succeed in digital business, leaders must build a culture that is unrestricted by traditional beliefs and practices, by investing in simple processes and support structures.

Team members must be liberated from counterproductive beliefs and practices. The team should feel that there is a risk-taking culture ready to challenge with the status quo, accept failure and learn. The team will need to feel they can safely change from what has made them successful in the past to something that will make them successful in the digitalized future.

Only by investing in a learning culture that is ready to break with the status quo and accept failure will the organisation be able to gain new insight and learnings on driving organisational change.

In summary, building a highly effective digital team require as new form of Digital Dexterity and the ability to master a new set of techniques focused on building a dynamic digital team that is obsessed with improving the customer experience and a culture that can challenge the status quo.

Only then can the organisation be confident that is has the digital team in place to engage talented employees across the company and drive new, profitable business models.

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