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Business

Digital transformation: Top 5 skills you need to succeed

Digital transformation isn't easy. Equipping yourself with a few key skills will give your company a much greater chance of success.
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Written by Pallavi Kenkare, Associate Editor on
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Digital transformation is the future of business. A 2020 study by Mordor Intelligence valued digital transformation at $263 billion, and it's projected to reach $767 billion by 2026. Digital transformation can involve many things, whether it's process automation, a new website, improved user experience or a migration to the cloud. But what skills do you need to achieve successful, company-wide change? 

1. Digital fluency

First and foremost, workers need to possess a basic level of digital fluency in order to successfully implement digital transformation. Depending on the industry, digital fluency can range from a basic knowledge of Microsoft Suite to an understanding of cloud computing.

This necessity of this skill is company-wide; Harvard Business School Professor Tsedel Neeley points out that digital fluency adheres to a basic tenet of linguistics. "I often reference the 30% rule; borrowed from the study of languages, when applied to digital fluency, it dictates that the entire company needs to be, at least, at a 30% fluency baseline in order to move in a new digital direction effectively."

Of course, the necessity of digital fluency only increases at executive levels. The impetus lies with company leaders to possess and encourage digital fluency. Leaders who are digitally literate will be better equipped to address the gap between executives and employees – be it regarding perception of digital changes or simply the reality of data architecture caliber – which so often contributes to the failure of digital transformation. 

2. Data analytics 

Often, companies fall prey to an abundance of data, and struggle to analyse and draw conclusions from data sets. Data analysis expertise – encompassing data visualization and cleaning, as well as technical skills such as MATLAB, Python and R – are of paramount importance to process data and use it in a way that's both permissible and productive. 

The utility of data analytic skills in today's economy is easy to track: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted heavy growth, projecting that the data science field will grow about 28% through 2026 – far above average. This growth is bolstered by past data: A report by Fortune reveals a global job market value of $231.43 billion for data analytics, marking a whopping 10.6% increase from 2020's figures. 

3. Digital marketing

There's no point in streamlining company processes and creating an improved product via digital transformation if the ultimate product is unable to effectively reach its consumer base. Marketing skills are essential in engaging your customer base and ensuring a product's financial success. Today, marketing is dominantly digital – so expertise in areas such as search engine optimization, email campaigns and social media will allow companies to successfully garner and utilize customer feedback, promote their product and, most importantly, take customers on the digital transformation journey with them. After all, following a digital transformation, users also need to be educated on how best to reap the benefits of the new product.

Worldwide, companies are well aware of the importance of marketing in the digital age. According to emarketer.com, digital marketing spending, especially within advertising, rose 17% to $333 billion globally in 2021. 

4. Cybersecurity 

An oft-neglected component of digital transformation is cybersecurity. According to research and marketing firm ThoughtLab, the average number of cyberattacks rose by 15.1% in 2021, as compared to 2022. The implications are sobering: Blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis reports that victims of ransomware spent almost $700 million paying off their attackers in 2020. 

As the digital transformation process accelerates, companies should cover potential risk areas by hiring those with cybersecurity skills. The potential in this investment is reflected in the discrepancy between cybersecurity supply and demand. Cybersecurity Ventures, a research firm covering the global cyber economy, predicts there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by mid-decade, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 33% increase in the need for security analysts by 2030. 

5. Leadership

It has been noted multiple times that the largest barrier to digital transformation is company culture. Company culture can heavily impact employees' perception of change, and an unresponsive culture can result in the expenditure of millions of dollars to achieve a transformation that will be circumvented. 

Company culture can be extremely difficult to change; however, the efficacy of a cultural revamp will largely be determined by company leaders. In order to create change as significant as the shift required for digital transformation, company leaders need to possess a multitude of 'soft' skills, such as expertise in communication, influence, empathy and strategic thinking. A good leader will be able to capitalize upon core company values to promote digital transformation.

Remember, digital transformation is a process that is extensive, expensive and all-encompassing – so, it will require strong leadership presence and investment to implement. 

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