Employees need — and companies should be providing — avenues to gain new skills in things like artificial intelligence, blockchain, design thinking and analytics. Skills can't be siloed, and we have to think about more than technology. The ideas that are shaping the next wave of businesses are born out of curiosity.
- David Clarke, PwC
Since technology skill sets are in such high demand everywhere, it’s not sustainable to expect that we can poach from other markets. We need to invest and commit to training, developing and hiring talent locally.
- Johanna Mikkola, Wyncode Academy
I believe we won’t work from an office anymore. We won’t work for just one company. We will work per project, we will be more entrepreneurial, we will feel we will own our careers and our dreams again. I think the future will be fascinating.
- Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, TheVentureCity
By Romina Ruiz-Goiriena
Miami is booming with startup activity. Over the past decade, South Florida tech companies are booking tens of millions in revenue and employing hundreds of employees. It’s happening across other industries too. But, cultivating a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem is a process--one that can’t be done without digital transformation.
In business, digital transformation has become the buzzword of the hour. So much so that companies are now not only tasked with advancing their technological innovations, but also the personnel to support those innovations. So how can companies develop the digitally savvy workforce needed to make Miami a hub for the future of business?
This month, business festival NewCo Miami (March 25-26), showcases the companies that are shaping the future of business, and among them a few addressing the digital workforce transformation head on. We asked NewCo Miami presenters David Clarke, Global Chief Experience Officer of PwC, Johanna Mikkola, Co-Founder of Wyncode Academy, and Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, CEO of TheVentureCity, about the realities of digital transformation and how South Florida companies must prepare.
Let’s start with the biggest misconception of all: Many organizations define digital transformation as synonymous with IT. What does digital transformation mean?
David Clarke, Global Chief Experience Officer, PwC [DC]: Digital transformation is NOT migrating your enterprise systems or managing systems integration — that’s an IT function.
Digital transformation is making your organization fit for the digital age. An age of disruption, innovation, and heightened competition. Successful digital transformations change businesses inside and out while harnessing the power of technology to create new experiences. Digital transformations reimagine business models and products with a digital-first mindset while also improving experiences for the people in the business, including employees, suppliers and partners. To succeed, we must change the way we work, that includes the technology we use, and the behaviors we engage in.
Johanna Mikkola, Co-Founder Wyncode Academy [JM]: Digital transformation is usually synonymous with technology because every industry is a technology industry. There is literally no company that can build, design, and market products without the use of technology.
Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, CEO, TheVentureCity [LGE]: What is digital transformation for me? It’s a mindset, a leadership type of thinking. It’s being able to take decisions based on data and not based in intuition and being able to operate fully through technology. To do that, you have to prepare your business to give you its "vital signs" in real time in a way that allows you to predict challenges and opportunities. Deep diving into all things business — team, processes, financials, expansion plans, legal, customer support — and being able to apply the required tech so that your business runs faster, smarter and more efficiently. It’s not just about transforming the way your IT (tech infrastructure), marketing or customer relationship processes are built. It’s about a new way of thinking and executing as leaders with technology at your core.
How does digital transformation and readiness directly correlate to the future of the workforce?
[DC] People are integral in shaping, deploying and powering digital transformations. We can invest in emerging technology, but without skilled workers to guide it, it will have little to no success. I believe that the power is in the people — not the technology. And right now, to successfully complete digital transformations that grow business, we need to dramatically change how we’re approaching development for our workforce. Employees need — and companies should be providing — avenues to gain new skills in things like artificial intelligence, blockchain, design thinking and analytics. Skills can't be siloed, and we have to think about more than technology. The ideas that are shaping the next wave of businesses are born out of curiosity. The problems and improvements that we can make for our customers and talent have to come from everywhere, not just a special incubator within the business. With those needs in mind, PwC's Digital Workforce Transformation helps businesses achieve successful digital transformation, starting with the workforce. Our workforce upskilling solution is powered through a mobile application called the Digital Fitness App, which provides personalized corporate training that’s currently being used by thousands of PwC employees, and we're developing customized versions for other companies too.
[JM]: Workforce preparation comes down to quality training and education. Ensuring high quality and access to this type of training is what will help build a solid ecosystem in South Florida. Since technology skill sets are in such high demand everywhere, it’s not sustainable to expect that we can poach from other markets. We need to invest and commit to training, developing and hiring talent locally. We have seen first hand through 500+ developer graduates working at over 230 companies that this is not only possible but already happening.
[LGE]: The sooner you learn and embrace the opportunity it brings to your business, the sooner your business is going to run smarter. There are so many different things your business is doing already relying on tech. Rather than adapting one piece at a time, think it through once, roadmap and start to execute. Artificial intelligence will make certain jobs disappear and others be created. Education needs to change so that new generations get ready for what’s coming. It’s impossible to compete with AI when we still study like we did 50 years ago. There is a huge gap there that we need to solve or the workforce won’t be ready. I believe we won’t work from an office anymore. We won’t work for just one company. We will work per project, we will be more entrepreneurial, we will feel we will own our careers and our dreams again. I think the future will be fascinating.
How does a company continue to work toward integrating what we now consider foundational technology (i.e. cloud, analytics, mobile, UX) while also keeping up with new technologies (i.e. IoT, AI, robotics)?
[DC]: Companies should invest in technologies that align with their overarching business strategy and goals not just adopt the latest technology for the sake of being ‘cutting edge.’ Businesses need to be laser focused on customer needs and only implement technologies that smooth processes. Human experience is the strategy, and technology enables it. I’ve never seen a company solve its problem through a technology strategy.
[JM]: Companies need to invest in technologies that improve the customer experience. Foundational technology is now expected, and companies need to be at the forefront of that field. Those who are can focus on testing new technologies and how they apply best to their industry.
[LGE]: You need to execute the upcoming opportunities in a smart way, thinking long-term and ambitiously. Transforming a business in terms of tech means exponential growth if done well. You need to transform and educate your talent first, insert that mindset and operate towards it.
What are the biggest challenges the entrepreneurial ecosystem faces when it comes to tackling digital transformation?
[DC]: I think the toughest challenge is preserving some of the "start up" mentality after a company has matured. Growing while being able to stay nimble, continuously improve and build new things is the biggest challenge, and entrepreneurs, like CEOs of legacy companies are under tremendous pressure to stay competitive. This factor, and the challenge of preserving talent and keeping them motivated are the two biggest challenges I see.
Every year we take the pulse on the Digital IQ of business and IT executives around the world. In our 2017 Digital IQ Survey, we found that just 52% of companies rate their Digital IQ as strong. The most common obstacles companies face when tackling digital transformation include lack of properly skilled teams, outdated technologies, lack of integration of new and existing data and tech, and inflexible or slow processes. Often, executives don’t even have the skills needed to guide an organization’s digital strategy. People have to be at the center of transformation projects, which often up-end years of processes, habits and cultural baggage.
[JM]: The biggest challenge is getting over the thinking that technology is only for developers. Understanding the language of technology (coding) is already as important as executing on things like marketing, finances and hiring. In the same manner in which we all learned to read and write but didn’t necessarily go on to be published authors, having a baseline understanding of coding will empower you to be a better entrepreneur.
[LGE]: I don’t think it’s that different from other places around the world. Maybe, this city is even in a better position because we are used to facing challenges constantly. It’s in our DNA. We are always ready to fight whatever comes our way. So, this is more of a call to action to start thinking about the opportunity we have to become the fastest digitized state of the U.S.
What are the biggest opportunities for businesses?
[DC]: The biggest opportunity for businesses is creating a great culture, one that’s centered on experience for both customers and employees and powering growth. Among all this new technology, the focus needs be on real people — and a lot of times this is a huge missed opportunities. Businesses that create a strong culture, maintain a good employee experience, and move quickly are the ones that are set up for success.
[JM]: Diversity. Unlike established technology ecosystems that have a deeply rooted diversity problem, Miami has an opportunity to show that a diverse ecosystem is not only possible but will produce the best talent and the best products. For example, given that women make up 47% of the workforce and account for 85% of household buying decisions it makes sense that a product’s creators and builders be more reflective of their end user, meaning attracting more women makes business sense. In turn, it leads to stronger products and services and thus better businesses.
[LGE]: Let’s keep our talent home. Let’s create meaningful jobs here for the brains of the future that normally leave. Let’s be more open and inclusive to the crazy ideas the younger generations have and they want to test; from drone-based shipping to self-driven car circuits. Let’s have South Florida running on clean energy and transform the educational system completely, teaching kids coding and entrepreneurship from the very beginning of their school years.
Romina Ruiz-Goiriena is a seasoned journalist and digital media entrepreneur who has worked in Paris, Cuba, and Israel for France24, El Mundo, and Haaretz. Most recently, she co-founded Prowell Media in 2016, a digital media news company that produces content for 14 million people across Mexico and the U.S. Previously to returning to Miami in 2015, she worked for CNN out of Guatemala and The Associated Press, where she reported on key regional issues such as migration and drug trafficking. She consults for media projects including Newco Miami, by M + D. You can follow her on Twitter @RominaAdi.