Technology talent is in short supply, especially talent is emerging areas. AI, machine learning, algorithms, privacy, surveillance, misinformation, disinformation, diversity, inclusion, equality and people management talent are some of the areas that require broad and deep talent. Do you have it?
Here are the five simple questions about your technology team:
- Do I have the right people?
- How many of the wrong ones do I have?
- How do I plug the gaps as quickly as possible?
- How do I keep them?
- How do I reward them?
Let’s talk about the skills and competencies that don’t make every list, the skills and competencies that nevertheless should make every strategic technology talent list.
Again, the focus here is on strategic technology talent – not operational technology talent: laptop upgraders need not apply.
This is Part II of the 3-part talent series.
Here’s the list of extended talent you need.
AI & Machine Learning
I’ve already described the “basic” strategic technology talent you need.
But beyond this talent, there are some areas that require special attention. Today – and for the foreseeable future – one of those areas is AI and machine learning, including the algorithms that make them smart. Why these two? Because AI and machine learning are game-changers and because algorithms power some of the most important plays of the game. AI will fundamentally change transaction processing through the automation of many routine tasks individuals and companies perform all the time. It’s also poised to graduate to much more complex tasks.
It’s important your team understand the potential of AI/ML, but there’s likely a gap in your team’s understanding of the relationship between digital business models – which are pervasive – and the quasi- and fully-automated algorithmic-based solutions available to you. It’s likely that relatively few members of your team understand the full range of algorithms or how they work, which means they cannot match the right algorithm to the right business process that needs to be improved, modified, automated or replaced. Nor can your team easily discuss the strengths and weaknesses of classes of algorithms or specific algorithms which are mysterious to most of the technology professionals even today.
You should find AI/ML/algorithm talent that can identify and explain existing and emerging digital business models, identify and explain the range of business algorithms that enable digital business models and processes and identify and explain the relationships across digital business models and algorithmic solutions.
As new methods, tools and techniques make their way onto the business stage, as business processes become increasingly automated, and as competitive advantage is defined around algorithmic competency, you need to know how this important business problem-solving toolbox works, and which tools are the most powerful and best suited to their business models and processes. As machine learning and automation explode, you need to understand as much as you can about digital business models and the business algorithms that enable, improve and replace them.
Privacy & Surveillance Talent
While the US needs to pass the equivalent of the general data privacy regulation (GDPR), you also need to think carefully about the tension between your business models and the monetization of customer data. This will likely lead nowhere for companies (perhaps yours) who make their money from the data they collect from customers and monetize in a variety of ways, but many companies can still rethink their commitment to privacy.
You also need to address the growing surveillance culture. Are you collecting in-formation about your employees, vendors, suppliers and customers in ways that should worry them – and you? While data privacy is about data monetization, surveillance is about the collection of data. Where are the cameras, the digital eavesdroppers and systems monitors? Should you, for example, deploy facial recognition technology? These are complex questions that should not be passed through just a single filter called “profitability.” You need talent that understands these and related issues.
The need for regulation in misinformation is screaming from every broadcast tower in the world. The problem, of course – again – are business models that depend upon misinformation (or worse), such as media that win by attracting as many participants as possible. You should be aware that your words, policies and actions may contribute to misinformation and disinformation. You should be extremely careful about the “sides” you choose. You should be acutely aware that the words and actions have consequences. While this should seem obvious, you should never engage in behavior that threatens your revenue streams, brand and, ultimately, your profitability.
Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Talent
Awareness here is crucial to success in several ways. Frist, there is the power of diversity, inclusion and equality (DEI) simply because it enables perspective and creativity – commodities always in short supply. DEI is also a good business practice for internal harmony and external brand management. Worse, ignoring DEI can have serious consequences that you must respect. Said differently, DEI provides opportunities for you to compete.
People Management Talent
There is no more important step you can take to improve the positioning of your company than recruiting and retaining the most talented professionals in their industry. But are you even aware of their talent requirements and gaps? Have you developed talent requirements matrices to measure your capabilities and gaps going forward? Are you objective about your teams? Research suggests that companies have an extremely difficult time assessing their people objectively or consistently. You should serve as an example here and stop rewarding friends over high performers – which the research describes as an unfortunate, repeatable practice across industries. Ongoing investments in talent are also essential, especially those designed to keep the talent pool fresh and incentivized. If you fail to replenish and revitalize talent you will lose market share. Awareness here is as important as it’s ever been. You need help managing all this since man (most?) HR teams are not as skilled as they might be in strategic technology.
Part III of this series will focus on recruiting, retaining and rewarding strategic talent.