Digital disruption: New ways to tackle talent

As I said in my last post, no matter what digital transformation model, strategy or plan an organisation embarks on, it needs people. There are some very new approaches to talent worth exploring. These approaches are described in an article by DXC Technology’s Leading Edge Forum (LEF) that focuses on four “breakthrough techniques” to access digital talent:

  • Talent as a service — Crowdsourcing platforms such as Topcoder or Kaggle are for accessing talent that may not be available in the enterprise — commonly for projects, but conceivably for operations too. Compensation may often be prize-based, so the winner gets the payment, and everyone else gets an explanation of why they didn’t win.
  • Bring your own team — Also known as lift-outs, bring your own team (BYOT) is the practice of hiring whole teams at once. They are ideally teams that have been through the forming-storming-norming-performing cycle a few times, have learned to work together well doing something similar, and have a balance of skills and styles. There is lots of evidence that teams like this take a very short time to deliver value, but of course the us-and-them cultural issues must be managed carefully.
  • Incubators/accelerators/catapults —  Incubators, accelerators and catapults are fashionable in financial, technology and other industries, and refer to creating or sponsoring an organisation/space that supports startups, often in a particular area such as blockchain. This offers privileged access to fresh talent for learning through osmosis, and maybe even hiring or “acquihiring.”
  • Acquihires — This is the practice of buying companies — often startups — with the primary goal of acquiring their talent. This has to be handled smartly because the assets have legs and can walk out the door at any time.

Alongside these four techniques are four practices (also described in the article) that are not yet commonly used, so certainly there is not significant experience with them yet, but they are disruptors in terms of existing processes:

  • Reverse mentoring — This is the discipline of getting junior/less-tenured people to mentor senior/more-tenured people, on digital tools and 21st century work practices and other matters.
  • Internal talent marketplaces — Rather than assigning people to work, people get to choose what work they do, and who they work for after some interviewing. Managers lose the automatic right to “own” staff. Staff can change the work they do, but there may be a limit to the frequency they do that.
  • Self-managed teams — This is about managing teams as atomic units, rather than managing the individuals in the team, and letting teams control how they work, choose their tools and allocate work to individuals. It involves keeping teams together for long periods. In extreme versions, it means allowing teams to hire and fire their members and develop themselves, paying teams as one unit and letting them allocate rewards to individuals.
  • People science — This is about applying artificial intelligence (AI) to one or more aspects of the talent lifecycle — for example, finding candidates for the initial screening process. This is very much an emerging area, but those who have started using this technique state they are seeing positive results already.

For more on the eight approaches, see the full LEF report, Unleashing Digital Talent for Fun and Profit.

In this blog series, I have covered the very broad base of digital disruption and techniques an organisation should look to apply to create a digital transformation strategy and plan.  There are tools and techniques to try and predict the future, but the best method by far is to embrace new business models (value chain mapping), a new digital customer experience and a business process transformation. Whilst a focus on the technology is critical, of equal if not greater importance is the focus on people and how to attract, develop and retain the right workforce for the digitally transformed organisation that now exists. On this latter point there are more posts to come.

This post is part 3 of a 3-part series. See part 1 and part 2.

Neil Fagan is CTO of the UK Government Security and Intelligence Account in Global Infrastructure Services. He is an enterprise architecture expert, leading teams of architects who work on solutions from initial concept through delivery and support. @neilfagan



Transforming to a digital enterprise

Digital transformation: Unlocking the back office, too




  1. […] However, this misses one very significant element: people.  No matter what model, strategy or plan an organisation is going to embark on, it will need people, and here there are some equally disruptive and interesting areas that are worthy of analysis. I’ll explore them in my final post. […]

  2. […] Digital disruption: New ways to tackle talent […]

  3. […] Digital disruption: New ways to tackle talent […]

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