How to develop the digital skills your organization really needs

In recent months I have often been asked how digital competences can be developed. The question was not so much the didactic aspect, but rather how the organisational problem of „digital competences“ can be tackled and effectively solved.

I would therefore like to briefly summarise my experience on this issue.

With this approach, the development of digital competences is successful.

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This is how the design of the vision succeeds

  • The basis is the strategy of the organization. This should already take the digital transformation into account.
  • Other landmarks are: Strategic personnel requirements planning, existing competency model, function profiles, generic competency models for digital competencies, benchmark from other organizations
  • The target image should sharpen the understanding of what is meant by „digital competences“ throughout the organisation. It is not a question of developing a scientifically sound model.
  • It is therefore important to force decisions and to have the openness from the outset to revise or adapt the target image.
  • It is most efficient if the most important stakeholders work out this target picture in a 1-day workshop. This, however, requires preliminary work by specialists and stakeholder management, so that a decision can be made and supported at the end.

This is how the analysis succeeds

  • Before a prototype can be developed, hypotheses must be validated and the challenges better understood.
  • The analysis should follow the principle: As much as necessary, as little as possible. A thorough analysis will help you to find the right solution later. However, there is a danger that the analysis will paralyze you.
  • Validation of the designed target visionwith the other stakeholders
  • Creation of personas to the different target groups to make their needs more tangible (through interviews, observations etc.)
  • Analysis of the obstacles to reaching the target vision
  • Analysis of the benefits of achieving the target vision
  • Analysis of other aspects necessary for the development of digital competences

This is how the Design Sprint succeeds

  • In a Design Sprint, the Design Thinking phases are completed within 5 days. At the end of the week, a robust prototype is validated. Jake Knapp describes a guide to this procedure in his book „Sprint – How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days“.
  • If a promising prototype is available at the end of these five days, a minimum viable product can be developed (see below).
  • If the prototype test is negative at the end of these five days, the sprint should be repeated.
  • Central elements of the sprint are: (1) Sharpen the problem; (2) Collect many possible solutions; (3) Define the prototype with a storyboard; (4) Build the prototype; (5) Test the prototype with representatives of the target group.
  • It is important to decide on one problem and only tackle other important problems once the chosen problem has been solved.

How the development of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) succeeds

  • Even if the prototype test was successful, this does not guarantee that the best solution was found.
  • As the development of digital competences is a complex problem, the solution should be developed using the Lean Start up approach.
  • This means that the Build – Measure – Learn cycle is followed iteratively. The prototype is thus quickly implemented in the target group and then adapted on the basis of the observed application until the application meets the necessary requirements.
  • Regarding the implementation of the Minimum Viable Product, it makes sense to use the Scrum methodology. This sets a time and budget limit for the development of an MVP. At the same time, this ensures that the most important priorities and „features“ of the „solution approach“ are efficiently implemented.

This is how continuous improvement succeeds

  • After a MVP was successfully introduced, the focus shifts more and more from „Develop-the-Business“ to „Run-the-Business“.
  • The Lean Start up approach remains valid in continuous improvement, but the iteration cycle can be set a little longer.
  • As soon as the work has a stronger „run-the-business“ character, the Scrum methodology becomes increasingly inappropriate. Rather, the classical Kanban is used to efficiently prioritize the important tasks and to effectively utilize the team according to the pull principle.
  • While the developed solution for digital competencies is running successfully, the question now arises which further problems need to be solved. Depending on the initial situation, an analysis loop may be needed again. If sufficient knowledge is already available, a new design sprint can also be started directly.


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