Over the last fortnight, I read several news articles that were published in different media websites. If you piece them together, there are patterns to explore and lessons to learn.

The Globe and Mail carried The Canadian Press article, “Banks face recruitment challenges as fintech startups snag talent”. The article noted, “While upstarts allow employees to work flexible hours, wear jeans to the office and play beer pong during lunch breaks, those who work for such companies say the differences in corporate culture go beyond such superficialities.” It spoke about digital talent being in search of “learning opportunities, less red tape, and the chance to work on problems they feel genuinely passionate”.

The Wall Street Journal ran a news story on The New Republic, a century-old magazine being put up for sale by Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes. The story quotes Mr Hughes in a staff memo published on Medium, that he “underestimated the difficulty of transitioning an old and traditional institution into a digital media company in today’s quickly evolving climate.”

The third news article was from digiday.com: “‘There’s been a mindset change’: Legacy publishers are catching up”. It carried details of how traditional publishers like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and many others have made significant gains in traffic while their relatively new digital counterparts like Buzzfeed and Gawker Media saw traffic stay flat or dip.

To me, these articles capture the great change we are currently in the midst of. How traditional businesses are reinventing themselves as digital enterprises; the struggles of finding the right talent to work, and to lead; the challenges of the digital onslaught being overcome by many traditional institutions.

As these stories demonstrate, embracing the right talent and the right technologies are two key levers to enable this change, and if done well, are the routes to continued success.

What interests me the most is how companies the world over are handling the talent part of this route. The most obvious answer is of course poaching. And that is the key reason some of the traditional publishers have caught up with, and are now beating, the digital upstarts in their own game.

However, just getting digital talent and hoping that they would be absorbed into the organisation culture is likely to backfire. And it would work even less if they are dispersed across the organisation thus causing their digital edge to be blunted considerably. The news story on fintech start-ups I spoke about earlier mentions how Scotia Bank set up a ‘digital factory’ of 350 tech people including UX designers and data scientists, in one place. That is reminiscent of Wal-Mart’s @WalmartLabs, an “idea incubator”. It was set up as part of its e-commerce division in Silicon Valley in 2011, away from the company headquarters in Arkansas. This group helped the company outpace Amazon’s growth in 2013.

Will such an approach work for all enterprises aspiring to go digital? Maybe not, but it is a definite start. Especially given that a lot of people are opting for far more meaningful jobs where they can make a difference, instead of being mired in monolithic organisations that have worked the same way for decades.

The second route is to acquire digital companies that make strategic business sense to traditional companies. According to McKinsey, Tesco, the UK grocery retailer, went the ‘aqcui-hire’ way. It made three digital acquisitions over two years, which helped in quickly building up the skills needed to move into digital media. Verizon did the same in the US, says McKinsey, with its strategic acquisitions in telematics and cloud services.

In both routes, the key transformation challenge is integration into the existing culture, because for the customer, the enterprise brand has to provide a seamless experience, no matter which channel she chooses to engage with the brand. Should the companies operate as separate entities? When should they begin to integrate? And how?

In 2016 and beyond, these are some of the questions we are tackling at Arrows Group Global.

The Biggest Challenge in 2016

A few years just before the turn of the century, the Internet started to level the playing field for enterprises big and small, old and new. In the last few years, the big four forces of social media, mobile, analytics and cloud (otherwise known as ‘SMAC’) have unleashed a complex game of re-invention and innovation for enterprises. And now, the Internet of Things is poised to change life and business as we know it. By 2025, it is expected to have a global economic impact of about $11 trillion per year, according to a recent report by McKinsey Global Institute. About 70% of this value will come from B2B users.

Consider these changes: The growth of e-commerce across the world, in double digits in the US and Europe and positively exploding in Asia, has put traditional retailers’ business in re-think mode. There are growing demands from patients to have online access to medical services and health records as we move towards a culture of ‘e-health’ through wearable technology. And there is a need for innovation within the public sector as governments embrace agile methodologies and move more of their services online. The Internet of Things will unleash a lot of value for end customers, which enterprises in any domain need to be also ready to deliver. And the sheer amount of data generated has to be put to great use through big data and analytics.

These sweeping changes have forced enterprises in all domains to rethink their businesses and transform themselves into digital enterprises to stay relevant and differentiated, and continue to retain loyal customers. Enterprises now not only have to rethink their business from the ground up, but also find the talent that can make it happen. Today they need talent that is not merely digitally savvy, but digitally ‘smart’. Consider some desirable characteristics of such talent:

DigiTalent Graphic2

Digitally smart talent…
… knows technology, but they also know the intricacies of your business.
… can pore over a working setup, and detect spaces that can yield new revenues, greater margins and new customers.
…can see the widely disparate parts of the business and weave a thread of analytics through them to unearth actionable insights.
… can spot opportunities, create pilots to prove feasibility, and build internal and external teams to make them scale.
… understands lean and agile, and how to combine them to maximum effect.
… understands products and gets the importance of customer engagement.

And so on.

In short, enterprises can’t afford to look purely for experience any more. The focus will be on the right mix of business and technical skills, the right attitude, and fanatical customer focus.

The challenge is that most enterprises, while setting an ‘unreasonably aspirational*’ vision for digital transformation, do not have access to this kind of new talent. In McKinsey’s Global Survey on digitization, the top challenge identified in meeting priorities for digital transformation was ‘difficulty in finding talent (both functional and technical)’. And hence prioritizing talent has been recommended as key to the growth ahead.

How can traditional enterprises accustomed to hiring in a specific way for a certain type of talent, switch their hiring game to now identify the digital talent that their business needs today, and tomorrow? Should digital transformation or IT innovation drive the hiring strategy? Should HR be re-trained to spot, attract and nurture digital talent? Should an expert outsourced team hold your hands through this?

At Arrows Group Global we believe that organizations that are serious about attracting top digital talent need to be brave and change the way they go about attracting them. Digital technology skills have recently been rated as the highest demand skills globally and it is up to the organizations to ensure their employee value propositions are the most attractive they can be. We work with organizations to ensure that their hiring proposition is as appealing as possible to the digital market, and then advise that this be combined with an agile, engaging recruitment process. Gone are the days of traditional 2-3 stage interviews and formal presentations. To really compete, you need to reinvent out how your organization engages with the digital market on their terms – such as the thought leadership events, hackathons, social gatherings and other channels we use to help organizations integrate talent with digital enterprise. Whilst the digital space is all about the technology, it is underpinned by the relationships and engagement of the people and their skills, and that’s the key to building a digital enterprise.

Arrows Group is keen to unearth more of such challenges so that we can create the right talent acquisition solution. I would be happy to hear from you regarding the challenges your enterprise is facing with digital talent today.

*From The seven traits of effective digital enterprises, www.mckinsey.com

Arrows Group hosts regular Agile Evangelist forums across Europe dedicated to thought leaders with inspirational speakers and interactive discussions, tackling challenges in organisational redesign and business transformation.

This event is no different and we take great pleasure in welcoming Jeff Sutherland, one of Scrum’s original co-creators.  Jeff will be joined by Maarten, a certified Scrum Professional with vast experience of Agile and Lean methodologies.

Part of the key to Scrum’s success is that it allows for context-driven solutions and processes – which is why no two Scrum implementations are identical.  So why does conversation about scaling Scrum focus on finding a proscriptive, one-size fits all solution?  The conversation should instead be about how to scale the underlying principles of the Scrum framework that have enabled it to be so adaptable.

The Scrum at Scale framework is the first move in that direction.  It is a minimal extension of the core Scrum framework that keeps the modular structure at the core of the Scrum framework, and allows you to scale a Scrum implementation tailored to the unique needs of your company.

About our speakers

Jeff Sutherland, Inventor and Co-Creator of Scrum

Maarten Hoppen, Professional Scrum Master/Trainer, VX Company

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Arrows Group hosts quarterly Agile Evangelist forums across Europe dedicated to thought leaders with inspirational speakers and interactive discussions, tackling challenges in organisational redesign and business transformation.

Roy Lines (Consultant Architect and Developer, McKinsey Digital Labs)

“Peppers’ Ghost and the Proteus Cabinet: How magician’s protect their secrets”
Roy, well known in the Magic Circle, will talk through examples where patent law fell foul, and discuss a better way with the Magician’s Code – a bond based on trust and trade secrets rather than patents, and how that applies to working with teams and software in the clients we see today.

Colin Houlihan (Digital Consultant at McKinsey & Company)

“Turbocharging your Scrum with DevOps and Continuous Development”
Colin will share his considerable experience in the use of DevOps and continuous delivery practices and culture to rapidly increase team productivity.

Ben Hughes (Advisor for McKinsey & Company)

“The difference between efficiency and effectiveness, is the same as the diffference between Knowledge and Wisdom – A tour of the seemingly harmless”
Many leaders fail to recognise the difference between being efficient and being effective. This often results in the implementation of policies in the name of efficiency that can seriously hamper teams’ abilities to be effective. Ben, in his humorous style, will talk through some experiences of where this has and can happen, and what to do about it.

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Arrows Group hosts quarterly Agile Evangelist forums across Europe dedicated to thought leaders with inspirational speakers and interactive discussions, tackling challenges in organisational redesign and business transformation.

Drawing on 15 years Agile and Lean experience, our expert speakers will share the theory of scaling Agile, including case studies of practical experiences and opportunities for interactive discussions.

Whether your organisation is already on the journey of Agile at Scale, or still contemplating it, this talk will equip you with important considerations, an introduction to common approaches and frameworks, and case studies for scaling Agile.

About our speakers

Ben Maynard, Agile Coach & Trainer, RBS

Georg Fasching, Lean & Agile Coach & Trainer, geofas.com

Karim Harbott, Enterprise Agile/Kanban Coach and Trainer, Guiding Agile


Ben has coached product delivery agility since 2002, and is currently working on regulatory deliveries with distributed and co-located teams to drive the growth of RBS’s Agile community.

Georg’s diverse experience over the past 15 years incorporates working as a product manager, product portfolio manager, Agile coach/trainer, and mentoring early stage startups.

Karim is a certified Scrum Coach, Certified LeSS Trainer, SAFe Program Consultant, and Accredited Kanban Trainer. He has guided several large organisations through Agile transformations, specialising in enterprise level and organisational redesign.

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MB Christie – Financial Times

“The Challenge of Digital Transition for established companies – my lessons learned”

MB’s presentation will cover:

Every organisation has a rhythm – a series of recurring events built up over time that define the pace and culture of the place. After two decades of working at both brand-name corporates and digital start-ups, I think the challenge to inject a sustainable digital rhythm into a brand born from physical goods can’t be underestimated. It isn’t impossible, but you need to change the core rhythm of the place to make it really work. It is a bit like taking an orchestra that has always played Bach and asking them to switch to hip-hop – it can’t be done overnight and it needs to build on the core identity of the place. I’ll talk about some of the lessons I’ve learned about how to make the transition to digital.

About MB

Mary Beth (a.k.a. MB) is a digital leader who has spent the past 20 years mastering the art of growing digital businesses in start-ups and corporates alike across the media, e-commerce and property sectors. After one entrepreneurial venture in Prague, two IPOs in London (QXL and Rightmove), and one corporate transition to digital (Financial Times), MB has learned how to build successful digital companies.

Nitesh Thadani – Treniq and Connected Homes

“Agile & Start-ups: Facts, failures and fundamentals”

Nitesh’s presentation will cover:

Nitesh will cover experiences and learning in a start-up when trying to incorporate successful delivery techniques used earlier in bigger enterprises. It will also touch upon some key (Agile) practices and how they have evolved over time.


About Nitesh

Founder, technical advisor and delivery manager, Nitesh has worked in a variety of roles. His most recent stint involves managing the delivery for the web & mobile platform within an “enterprise” start-up as well as providing advisory to an early stage start-up.


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Agile Evangelist is Arrows Group’s Quarterly Thought Leadership Forum dedicated to the Agile Community with inspirational speakers and interactive discussions.

At the 22nd Agile Evangelist event, experts from Wiley and Expedia shared their Agile experiences with around 120 other Agile practitioners.

First up Anna Gevorgyan from Expedia presented “Stop ‘Doing Agile’ and Do Something Useful With Your Company!”. Anna has been working in technology companies over the past 10 years and is currently helping product delivery teams within Expedia Inc group to improve and “be more awesome”. Her presentation covered common traps in an Agile transformation, and what makes or breaks your success with Agile.

Freddie Quek from Wiley followed in typically engaging fashion, presenting “How Not to Do Agile: A Practitioner’s View in Sharing Lessons Learnt”. A highly experienced technology leader with over 20 years in the publishing and information sectors, Freddie’s portfolio of digital products includes some of the most well-known brands in the scientific, medical, and technical world. Freddie posed questions to the audience such as how Agile should you be, how do you hire the right people, and can you really do Agile with remote teams?

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Quarterly Thought Leadership Forum dedicated to the Agile Community with inspirational speakers and interactive discussions.


Mark Durrand – Media Ingenuity

Jon Mullen – Rightmove

Mark Durrand “Agile Is No Longer Interesting”:

• Is a focus on process productive?
• Who’s not doing Agile?
• The essential elements of high-performing teams.
• Who owns process anyway?
• Do teams naturally evolve beyond Agile?

About Mark

Mark is a CTO with over 15 years of technology experience – more than that if you count programming on a ZX Spectrum at 10 – mainly in building consumer-facing websites. He was CTO at uSwitch.com for 3 years and is now helping to build the UK’s best credit card comparison site at totallymoney.com. Mark has advocated an Agile approach to delivering business value for many years, and has a strong desire to ensure the latest technologies are
harnessed in a productive manner wherever he has worked.

Jon Mullen “Rightmove, building for the future… The first 6 weeks”:

Taking a fresh Agile approach to delivering some of the components that constitute the Rightmove product suite.

About Jon

Jon joined Rightmove having previously spent 8 years at Sky, and is an advocate of Lean and XP principles. Jon’s grounding is in Agile-driven product delivery, whether onshore, offshore, or 3rd party. He has shown his ability to build and lead large technical teams and departments. He is driven by the desire to constantly improve both what he does, and what those he leads do. Jon takes great pride in delivering quality systems that meet the needs of the customer and the business.

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