Digital is the second industrial revolution. Digital capabilities are rapidly changing the face of every single sector and business around the world and into outer space. If it sounds like hyperbole, it’s not. It is impossible to understate the importance of this massive evolution.
It’s a subject that’s fascinating for me, and two of my fellow students at our MBA program here in Paris, especially when it’s framed in terms of the strategy of digital transformation, a buzzword that means applying digital solutions to real business needs.
Those digital solutions require project management and technical implementation by people with specific sets of competencies. Quite often businesses that wish to integrate digital solutions do not have the necessary profiles internally. This is natural: businesses don’t hire people for no reason.
As the allure of digital solutions becomes stronger and stronger thanks to positive case studies and best practices across industries, a business will try a pilot program to implement a digital solution along one of three major axes: internal solutions like HR platforms or expense report software; external like CRM or e-commerce sites; and data, focusing on optimization through analytics and big data.
Because of the nature of a pilot project is temporary, the business will outsource the technical role to freelancers or consultants, which we have grouped together under the term independents. If the pilot works, a roll out will become necessary. If it doesn’t work the pilot is ditched and the independents go on their way.
But once a project is successful, it becomes more advantageous for a business to internalize certain technical competencies because the amount of work justifies a long term contract and a deeper understanding of the business ecosystem is necessary to execute and to work in Agile.
However, the same solutions that businesses wish to integrate also allow freelancers to work remotely. The nature of projects creates a demand for independent work that is attractive in itself to those wishing to work for themselves, choose their own projects, and choose how much they get paid, often with a premium compared to what companies are willing to pay in salary charges.
So when a company reaches the tipping point and tries to internalize certain technical competencies, it faces difficulties. The demand is much stronger than the offer since 10% of people working in digital are independents. What’s more, the HR protocols in large international companies are often way behind the rapidly changing work place of digital, meaning that those companies have a hard time rendering a job position competitive with regards to the job market.
This is exactly the case with Disney who is recruiting a web analyst to replace a part of their contract with a consultancy that it has used for the past three years to guarantee the technical part of their mission. The HR policies make it very difficult to recruit competitively because the web analyst role is not considered a data role but a marketing role, with a correspondingly low salary.
Along with Simon Berthomieu and Merwan Guerrib, we took this problem and came up with four recommendations for what Disney can do to internalize these specific technical competencies with the current constraints in place. To do this, we studied the motivations of freelancers and consultants, interviewed a dozen experts ranging from independent developers to the heads of major consultancies to HR reps to digital directors.
Our recommendations are actionable points that we hope can be applied to many different types of major businesses who are facing similar challenges to succeeding at transforming their businesses with digital.
Our work would not have been possible without the help of many people mentioned here. A huge thank you for sharing your time, expertise, and insights.