There is no denying the many positives of the move to digital business, but an abundance of talent is not one of them. In fact, Gartner's Talent on the Digital Frontier survey found that almost 90 per cent of digital business leaders found the competition for talent to be one of the biggest inhibitors to success. So how can you go about putting together your digital business 'dream team'?

For many CIOs, digital business is a daunting new frontier fraught with as many risks and challenges as opportunities. Chief among those challenges is finding suitably talented people to help navigate the frontier. Selecting the right people for the right purpose at the right time is crucial, but also where most businesses fall short. Concerned about falling behind, CIOs might be tempted to lasso knowledge, expertise and skills indiscriminately without truly understanding when and how to apply them.

Staffing the digital business is more than just identifying technical skills. To be successful, CIOs need to design and build dream teams -- talented and qualified multifunctional experts inside and outside the business -- who can supply the necessary skills, knowledge, and expertise. But how do you find them?

Four stages of activity

Digital business leaders and CIOs need to analyse talent across four stages of activity: discover, design, pilot and build out.

The early stages (discover and design) encourage experimentation and exploration, focusing on the 'what' and the 'when'. Variability is expected to be high, while levels of control are low. Businesses need their best innovators, imagineers and brainstormers in domains such as marketing, digital anthropology, emerging technologies and customer experiences. At this stage, ideas fly, architectural trade-offs become understood and possibilities abound.

Read more:Gartner on surviving -- and thriving -- in the digital world

In the later stages (pilot and build out), the level of control begins to rise and the variability declines. Too much variability at this stage wastes time and erodes scalability. Businesses need their best program managers, change leaders, and information integrators as structure, scale, and complexity rise, and architectural guidelines define what's practical.

Manoeuvring these stages is a balancing act, with variability and control acting as counterforces. Race too quickly to institute control and ill-formed ideas may solidify before they are ready. Wait too long to reduce variability and people may become indecisive.

There are no hard and fast rules for staffing a digital business. A combination of the stages of activity and areas of expertise comes as close as possible to sourcing a digital dream team.

Aggressive competitors go even further, combining internal staff, external ecosystems of expertise, microsourcing, small company acquisitions, contests and competitions to quickly find and orchestrate expertise. But then, trailblazers have been pioneering frontiers for thousands of years. Unfortunately, that leaves conservative businesses daunted and paralysed as they continue to rely on outdated talent practices that have no place on the digital frontier.

Linda Price ([email protected]) is group vice-president, Gartner Executive Programs, Asia Pacific.

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