According to Srini Alagarsamy, organizations that win in the digital era embrace uncertainty, agile learning, and data-driven decision making.

"Digital dexterity is the ability to harness technology to create new value and drive growth."

-McKinsey & Company

The ability to navigate the rapidly evolving business landscape is crucial for success in the digital era. Firms that can adapt quickly and effectively are more likely to thrive, while those that are slow to change are certain to face challenges.

Digital dexterity refers to a firm’s ability to leverage digital technologies to accomplish its business objectives. It encompasses a variety of skills and capabilities, including the capacity to innovate and create new products, business models, and solutions; the agility to adapt to changing circumstances and scale up operations quickly and efficiently; effective collaboration across teams and stakeholders; the application of data analytics to generate insights and inform decision-making; and the implementation of robust security measures to protect and ensure customer trust.

Embed Digital into Your Culture

To leverage the benefits of digital transformation, it is essential to establish a digital culture centered on openness, collaboration, learning, and experimentation. This enhances a company's competitiveness and increases its chances of success. Firms must foster an environment that encourages innovation creative problem solving. Such an approach allows companies to remain agile and adapt rapidly to emerging trends and technologies.

Many firms seek to augment traditional business models with elements of digital. However, to harness the true benefits, they need to think and act like digital natives, get comfortable with new ways of getting work done, and become open to the tools and technologies that make this possible.

Promoting open communication and collaboration across departments is vital. It ensures that all teams collaborate to identify new opportunities and develop innovative solutions, sharing ideas and best practices. In addition, businesses can enhance their overall performance by drawing on the expertise of their broader team, creating accountability, and channeling them toward a shared vision.

Embrace Uncertainty

Business and technology continue to grow complex, making it increasingly challenging for executives to prioritize investments and predict outcomes. Therefore, it is crucial to be comfortable with the unknown. One way of achieving this is by rapidly releasing a minimum viable product (MVP) to customers, gathering feedback, and continually improving the product or service. This iterative approach helps businesses move toward the center of the cone of uncertainty, enabling them to stay competitive in the market.

At the same time, firms must transition from monolithic to polylithic thinking, breaking problems into smaller independent, but easily orchestrated solutions. This requires careful analysis of the immediate and long-term needs and designing a business and technology architecture that allows easy reconfiguration. Furthermore, adopting a continuous improvement mindset will enable firms to adapt to changes in consumer needs and market trends, ultimately leading to increased success and competitiveness.

Align on the Vision

Connecting strategy to execution is critical to a firm’s success. Aligning the vision provides a shared understanding and a clear direction for everyone involved in an organization. People with a shared understanding of the vision are more likely to work towards the same goals, collaborate effectively, and make decisions aligned with the overall direction. This leads to more efficient and effective use of resources and, ultimately, better outcomes.

Without alignment on a vision, people may interpret goals and objectives differently, leading to confusion, conflict, and wasted effort. Different teams may work on their priorities without realizing how they fit into the bigger picture, resulting in inefficiencies, and missed opportunities. Misalignment can also create resistance to change and hinder progress toward critical strategic objectives.

Several frameworks are available to facilitate the process of connecting strategy to execution. Regardless of which framework is chosen, firms must devote the time that is required to ensure clarity of vision for every individual in the organization. Combining this with a solid organizational change management (OCM) strategy becomes even more critical when implementing large-scale changes.


Related article:

How to Build Strong I.T. – Business Partnerships

By Tim Reed


Develop Learning Agility

To leverage digital dexterity, firms must cultivate learning agility, stay updated with the latest technologies and trends, stay informed of new developments, and gain a deep understanding of the customer. This allows them to connect the dots and develop the best solutions for their customers’ needs. In addition, to respond efficiently to changes in the market, businesses must also master the ability to spot opportunities and adapt to new trends rapidly. Learning agility is critical to staying competitive in today's marketplace. Developing learning agility can help individuals think creatively, generate new ideas, and develop innovative solutions to problems.

To develop learning agility, firms should invest in training programs that target specific skills; however, training should be paired with opportunities for employees to apply new skills and knowledge in real-world scenarios. This might involve giving team members a chance to work on new projects or initiatives that require them to use their newly acquired skills or encouraging them to experiment with new approaches and ideas. Perhaps the best example of a company that has successfully embraced a culture of learning agility is Microsoft, which transformed from a "know-it-all" culture to a "learn-it-all" culture to regain its lost glory and leadership. By embracing a mindset of continuous learning and growth, Microsoft has stayed relevant and innovative in the face of rapid technological change.

Make Data-Oriented Decisions

By leveraging objective data and analysis, firms can minimize the risks associated with assumptions, biases, or incomplete information and make informed decisions that drive growth and innovation. In addition, data and analytics can help organizations identify new growth opportunities and optimize their processes.

Despite the abundance of data, the real challenge for most firms is making sense of it and translating insights into actions. Investing in technology that enables practical data analysis and interpretation is crucial. Firms can extract valuable insights and act objectively by identifying patterns, trends, and hidden relationships in their data.

Data-oriented decision making has another significant advantage: it compellingly communicates your vision and strategy to stakeholders and teams. By using factual evidence and aligning it with your goals and objectives, you tell a clear, credible story that inspires action and drives results.

Measuring Success

Firms must use metrics to ensure that their investments create the desired value. The following leading and lagging indicators can be used to measure digital dexterity:

  • Innovation velocity: Speed of conceiving, developing, testing, and deploying digital products and services.
  • Revenue growth: Increase in revenue generated by digital channels, products, and services.
  • Market share: Percentage of digital market share compared to competitors.
  • Customer experience: Satisfaction with digital channels, products and services, and personalized journey.
  • Customer retention: Percentage of customers continuing to use digital products and services.
  • Agility: Ability to respond quickly to market changes and pivot strategies.
  • Operational efficiency: Cost reduction and increased efficiency through digitalization.
  • Data-driven decision making: Use of data for strategic decisions and actionable insights.
  • Digital skills: Employee proficiency in digital skills and adaptability to new technologies.
  • Employee engagement: Employee satisfaction and impact on productivity in a digital environment.

Digital dexterity is an all-encompassing concept that brings together people, processes, and technology. Companies that nurture a digital culture built on openness, collaboration, and experimentation can master digital dexterity. This requires the courage to embrace uncertainty and the dedication to continuously refine processes and products to stay ahead of the curve. Shared vision, learning agility, and data-driven decision-making are paramount to digital dexterity.

Roles We Recruit


Read our weekly e-newsletter packed with career advice and resources for the strategic technology leader, and information about active searches.

The Heller Report

Add a Comment

My CIO Career: With Sastry Durvasula of TIAA

Feb 22, 2023

How to Build Strong I.T. – Business Partnerships

Feb 15, 2023