Creating a Culture of Digital Dexterity

January 23, 2020


4 minutes

A culture of digital dexterity is essential to the future of your business — and it is the CIO’s role to lead the way.

In his book, The Third Wave, Steve Case describes the development of the internet in three phases: one, the formation of a physical infrastructure that enabled the internet’s birth; two, the establishment of businesses such as Google and Facebook atop the new internet landscape; and three — the phase in which we currently find ourselves — the global digitization of businesses and accompanying reconfiguration of business models. 

Just as the internet and its innovations are permanent fixtures of our world, the digitization of businesses and accompanying reconfiguration of business models are not mere trends, but a necessary change to stay competitive. Put simply, for businesses today, digital transformation is a matter of survival — but it also comes with distinct advantages. Companies that have successfully embraced digital change enjoy greater employee empowerment and collaboration, increased innovation, improved customer service, lean operations, and more. 

Those that delay or reject digital transformation put themselves at risk of falling off the map completely. But what about the companies that make the effort to implement digital transformation initiatives, only to see these initiatives falter? This is often due to a misunderstanding at the top of what digital transformation involves. But one often-overlooked factor in digital transformation failure is a cultural misalignment between digital transformation goals and employee values. Establishing the right tech mindset — otherwise known as digital dexterity — among team members makes all the difference. 


tech projects and tech-oriented processes


Defining Digital Dexterity 

Craig Roth, Vice President of the research and advisory firm Gartner, defines digital dexterity as “the ability and ambition to use technology for better business outcomes.” In other words, for Roth, developing digital dexterity is less about learning a set of technical skills — although this is undoubtedly important — than about embracing a tech-friendly mindset. Being digitally dexterous means anticipating the future of the workplace and positioning oneself accordingly. 

Of course, Gartner has been discussing digital transformation for some time now. But realizing this goal has taken longer than anticipated for many companies has forced Gartner and CIOs across industries to take a second look at the collective mindset common to so many workplaces. The key element of new tech projects and tech-oriented processes is a willingness among the entire workforce to fully engage with and adapt to them. 

This is especially true for operational and distributed teams, which are becoming increasingly common. Remote employees tend to be highly productive and satisfied with their work. However, it’s no secret that teams that work remotely without regular face-to-face contact often suffer from a lack of coordination and collaboration. For instance, according to research published in Harvard Business Review, remote employees or employees in the field are more likely to feel alienated or disconnected than on-site employees. Addressing this problem does not involve reverting to old and dated organizational models and methods. Rather, it means being open to integrating new tools that accommodate the needs of the whole team.


Leading the Way to Digital Dexterity

Achieving digital dexterity at the organizational level demands a full-scale culture shift. And as the executive who conceives and directs technology strategy in ways that align with a company’s business strategy, the CIO is best positioned to lead this shift.

CIOs can take the following actionable directives to support digital dexterity in their organization:

  • Get to know your company even better than you think you need to
  • Consult with other executives to prioritize business goals
  • Locate the technologies that meet the particular needs of your business and that can automate processes and workflow toward greater efficiency and outcomes
  • Stay on top of new and emerging technologies and don’t hesitate to integrate them when they can help
  • Identify key internal leaders from beyond IT who can support digital transformation at all levels of the organization.


digital dexterity


The Role of Workstream Collaboration

Along these lines, CIOs have begun to see the value of the New Work Nucleus (NWN) — what Gartner defines as “a collection of ever-changing multi-vendor, SaaS-based personal and team productivity applications.” Replacing on-premises productivity tools such as Microsoft Office, web conferencing platforms, and instant messaging services, these new applications (e.g., Microsoft 365 and Google G Suite) integrate previously siloed functionality into one package. The applications that make up the NWN deliver more transparency and accountability, accessibility of information, and opportunities for collaboration and autonomy. NWN tools dramatically improve the digital dexterity of the workplace, leading to better business outcomes.

Within the NWN sphere, workstream collaboration (WSC) is allowing teams to communicate in new ways — and, consequently, to optimize their operations and processes. Workstream collaboration products, unlike prior communications tools (e.g., instant messaging), provide a persistent conversational workspace for group collaboration. These tools allow for both public and private channels and can be used within one enterprise or among multiple parties, connecting organizations internally and with key stakeholders. Moreover, these tools can be integrated with a range of other applications, elevating their usefulness within a collective workflow. Some WSC platforms can even serve as a central workspace for NWN.  


Workstream Collaboration in Action

For companies looking to adopt a workstream collaboration tool, Coolfire provides an industry-tailored operational picture that is shared among the entire team. Using a shared frame of reference, team members can collaborate effectively, respond as developments unfold, and make informed decisions both individually and collectively. They can also share data, workflows, and communications from a range of sources. 

Perhaps best of all, Coolfire can provide a centralized workspace in which the CIO can continue to unite the team towards digital dexterity. By providing employees with an intuitive, user-friendly tool that makes operations more efficient and increases visibility across the organization, the job of presenting a unified mindset towards technology is made easier. Teams will thank you for allowing distributed workers to better communicate, and you’ll be better positioned to implement the sort of full-scale culture shift that is required to adapt to our digital age.


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