Let’s talk tech: Making the business case for tech fluency

Curious about technology? You should be. It’s the key to meeting customer needs and attracting talent. Here’s how to become tech fluent.

Chances are you wouldn’t plan to live and work in a new country without learning and understanding the local language. The same is true in today’s business world. Whether you work in a back office function or on the frontline dealing with customers, you can’t hope to fully prosper in your career without speaking the new language of business: technology.

While technology was once the exclusive domain of IT, those days are done. Today, technology is the heart of the solution to the most endemic challenges organizations face—from disruption, to enabling growth, to mounting competition to talent shortages - and businesses can no longer expect IT to resolve them all. To remain at the competitive forefront and attract the talent of tomorrow, you must instead take steps to make your entire workforce tech fluent.

Forging depth and breadth
The aim here is to ensure employees at all levels of the organizations have a baseline understanding of technology fundamentals so they can confidently uncover customer needs and recognize the business implications of disruptive technologies.

In practical terms, this means you need to equip non-technologists (e.g., business leaders, HR, marketing, analysts) with technical knowledge so they have the confidence and competence to understand and discuss a broad range of technologies and solutions internally across the organization. At the same time, your company’s pure technologists will need to continue learning and honing deeper knowledgeable about new technology domains—outside of their usual expertise. The trick is to ensure your people have not only specialized skills, but are also capable of looking beyond narrow domains of knowledge to identify adjacent opportunities (i.e., recognizing business/industry disruptors, identifying internal synergies, and uncovering market opportunities).

Ultimately, tech fluency cannot permeate an organization unless your entire workforce adopts a mindset that this is an open-ended journey of continuous learning and curiosity about technology.

From how to why
Although the shift towards tech fluency is not without its challenges, the real danger lies in inertia. The world today is greased by technological innovation and organizations that fail to keep pace will miss the mark in their attempts to craft solutions that meet their customers’ evolving needs.

On the flip side, those that embrace tech fluency gain the capacity to develop better solutions, enhance their level of customer service, and build a digitally-relevant organization.

As an added benefit, becoming tech fluent positions you to attract the future generation of talent. By disseminating technological knowledge across the organization, you can begin to break down internal silos and tap unconventional sources of talent both within and outside the organization. With everyone speaking the same language, it also becomes possible to configure more effective cross-functional teams—a practice that gives your people greater mobility and opportunities, while making way for unprecedented innovation that speeds time to market, accelerates the delivery of initiatives, and successfully mitigates new and evolving risks. And those cross-functional teams will understand each other because they have a common foundation of tech fluency.

From the top down
Like most organizational restructurings, a shift toward tech fluency must start at the top and be expected of everyone. Leaders must be willing to address their own technological shortcomings and take steps to mitigate them. Beyond simply talking the talk by using tech language to communicate with their teams, leaders must also walk the walk—applying the learnings of tech fluency to themselves.

To operationalize this, you will likely need to update your talent development programs. Ultimately, tech fluency should be integrated into how your people set their career plans, as well as how they’re coached, measured, and rewarded. You will also need to implement a comprehensive and ever-evolving learning curriculum.

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Erick Vandeweghe

Erick has over 20 years of Consulting experience with a dual focus on Financial Services and Information Technology. He presently leads Deloitte Canada’s Technology Consulting practice. In that capacity, Erick engages with senior Technology executives across Canada to help them utilize leading technology to address their most pressing business issues. He is also the executive sponsor for Deloitte’s CIO program which focuses on helping technology executives stay abreast of technology trends, develop their talent and thrive professionally. Building a diverse team of technologists with the breadth and depth to be effective in today’s market is a priority for Erick in his business leadership role at Deloitte and a common discussion topic with his clients.

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