Creating A Digital Identity And The Digital Skills Gap

Everyone talks about the digital skills gap. For me it’s a real problem that my team face every day. Trying to grow the workforce in a digital business when some people do not  know who you are and what you do adds an additional layer of difficulty. Competing with other companies to retain our current people and attract new talent is a very frustrating environment for a resourcing lead.

Establishing a relevant corporate and work identity is only one element of getting over the talent attraction minefield. It is becoming more and more relevant as digital leaders to establish a personal digital identity too and show that not only the company is somewhere people want to work, but you are someone people want to work with.

Post Merger Identity

After 18 months of being a new company formed from 2 of the IT service and infrastructure giants, a lot of the potential talent still don’t know our name and our true brand.

I’ve been to many recruitment events and people look at you behind your nice and shiny branded stand and don’t recognise us. People start the discussion with ”What do you do and who are you?”. Our responses are always ”We used to be…”. Then we see the spark of recognition in people’s faces when we mention our previous globally recognised brand – then you can start to have a conversation.

Corporately the CEOs and CIOs know who we are, however still think of us as we used to be.

News flash to the IT talent and the CEOs / CIOs…

We are very different today than we were 18 months ago, both in what we do and who we are.

We are an exciting, dynamic and amazing team of people learning and improving every day and taking our people and clients on an incredible transformation journey.

The digital world does not stay still and we are not only moving with it, but we are giving it a good push on it’s way.

Retaining Staff – Loyalty Is All About The Culture

All IT digital companies are in competition for IT talent…. FACT!

With the right skills like Dev Ops, Agile, Automation, Cloud, Robotics an engineer or agile delivery lead can be king or queen in the jobs market.

We sit in some amazing locations across the UK and the globe, but so do other similar companies.  We also have more varied competitors now…

  • Our historic competitors  – the large scale and mega IT companies
  • Small and Medium IT software houses – (let’s be friends and work together – call me!)
  • Public Sector – DWP, BPDTS, HMRC – pushing up the market salary rates (why is my tax pound being used to pay such over the top market rates?)
  • Internal IT – insourcing is real when development is less about lines of code and more about graphical interface tooling and ‘ready to go’ IT

Culture vs Cash

We have invested a lot of effort in creating a place where people want to work and most of that was done by listening to the team and what would make the difference to them including training, mentoring, learning from experienced people, freedom to innovate, health and wellbeing time, new and interesting assignments, recognition from their colleagues etc.  Interestingly the one condition that is usually mentioned last is salary.  This only becomes top of the agenda when people are attracted to a competitor for more money.  Even when they get offered highly salaries elsewhere they usually don’t want to leave us and we need to fix that.

Attracting Staff – Is All About Being Different and Surprising

My team have been working on creating an enviable workplace culture for the last couple of years and if we can get people through the door and into the building we know they will want to join us.

Our goal is to make people want to work with us or inspiring them to make their work culture and environment like ours.

The difficulty lies in getting people through the door to see how good it is here.

Attracting new talent is really difficult with so much competition… FACT!

The digital resourcing manager needs to be creative in today’s competitive environment. We cannot wait for people to knock on our door announcing they have arrived.  We need to find them, show them what we are about and guide them through their journey to their Career and Dream Job.  There are lots of different streams of workforce now to hire from  including …

  • Traditional experienced permanent hires
  • Early career apprentices, interns and graduates
  • Dedicated digital training/hiring companies
  • Tapping into the Autistic workforce – they can be amazing in an IT work environment with small adaptations to support them in their role
  • Ex armed forces looking for their next career
  • Part retired experienced hires – who are a little bored in their retirement and want to get back into work – they have so much to bring to the workforce especially upskilling and mentoring the early career hires
  • People with potential from non standard backgrounds who have passion and learnability – we have brought into our company people from many diverse backgrounds including a nursery nurse, chefs, carers, catering etc. who have been amazing

Without a good career brand reputation it is difficult to break people’s preconceived ideas.  I recently asked the team to consider sharing their reviews of working for us on Glassdoor – being honest and truthful and representing what we are today.  We did actually get some good reviews.  One of the team later saw a comment on an online article about our company saying “They had noticed we were getting some positive reviews and the management must have forced their staff to post or they were fake comments”.  We didn’t!  The reviews were positive, but truthful and constructive.

Creating Your Own Digital Identity

Everyone is surrounded by brands and we all have our favourites including Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks, Lego, Amazon, local business, regional brands etc.  In the digital world People are also brands and what they put out in the ether on their social media presence is increasingly important.

We have done some research with the on the 21st Century Human and having a Digital Mindset, Skillset and Identity.  Take a look at their site for more information on their fascinating work.

To be a credible digital leader you need to show your team and clients that you understand their problems and can help them.  Speaking the same digital language is the first step.  Understanding the terminology to be able to have a meaningful authentic conversation is so important.  As leaders we might not have all of the minute detail, but you do need to be able to ‘get it’ and enable the team so they ‘totally get it’.

In the digital world you can’t afford for your team to be in catch up mode, you need to keep reinventing to be relevant and rather than being told what to do, you need to decide what needs to be done ahead of time to hold onto any competitive advantage.

Final Thoughts …

The Digital world is so much part of our DNA now.  It is central to us all from the moment we wake up (I bet almost everyone uses their phone or digital assistant as their morning alarms), all through the day with, online banking, online shopping, booking a holiday, TV, entertainment, social contact and communication, relaxation, exercise tracking, digital assistants etc to our falling asleep reading a Kindle or listening to an Audible book at bedtime or using a mindfulness app to meditate and read you to sleep.

The largest part of our waking digital day we spend at work and we a have a responsibility to our teams to make that time as enjoyable, meaningful, full of learning and development and productive as possible so we can retain and attract the right people.

Pragmatic Agile

I was recently talking to an Agile Coach who was visiting the Digital Transformation Centre, about how we apply agile techniques to our projects.  I mentioned to him how we were far from being scrum purists, but instead we were quite pragmatic about what techniques and approaches we applied to the different types of deliveries using a common sense approach including …

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Mega Kanban
  • Uber Scrum
  • Safe
  • Nexus
  • Scrum of scrums

When I mentioned our Pragmatic approach, he said ”you do realise that Pragmatic Agile is an actual approach”.  Of course I didn’t, I just thought it was us applying common sense and trying to use the best techniques that fitted what we were trying to achieve.

Once back at my deks, the first thing I did was Google Pragmatic Agile and true enough it really was a thing!

There are many definitions of Pragmatic Agile all over the internet, there is even a Pragmatic Agile group – who knew?

Finding The Best Fit

We have such a wide variety of work within our portfolio. All for different clients doing a wide range of activities.

Some of our work is more dynamic where we receive ongoing requests – Kanban fits perfect for this. Using tools like Trello or Microsoft Planner and a good old fashioned white wall and post-it notes.

Our software development or dev ops platforms projects are often better suited to scrum, where we can effectively plan a sprint and manage the backlog at the start of the sprint and have a clear Definition of Ready and Definition of Done. We tend to use Jira or VSTS displayed on the TV screens in each delivery bay as our tool of choice – as well as complementing with the white wall.

Overall governance is covered by our Scrum of Scrums which allows us to have an overall view of what is going on in each stream of work across all of the Centre. We all meet every morning at 9.30 including myself, the Centre delivery lead, all scrum masters and the operations team. This is one of the most valuable half hours of the day. It allows for total transparency across all of the teams. We focus on blockers and try to resolve these by talking and collaborating to find the best solution. More often than not, someone has already experienced the problem before and we can share our knowledge and experience. With this approach we can make decisions on resourcing, technology, approach and often it’s a great opportunity for the scrum masters to bring things to the table that just need talking through. It’s also a good way for everyone to know what visitors we have in the Centre that day and any new work, training or events that are going on.

We have a squad of around 16 Bionix Robotics Process Automation engineers who have within their own teams around 12 projects ongoing at any one time. To handle this they have a Mega Kanban 3 times per week which is similar to the scrum of scrums, but focuses on the many different areas and clients that come to them with their specific RPA and automation problems.

Every 2 months we host an Uber Scrum where I basically cascade and share interesting and useful info to everyone. These sessions allow full openness of two way discussions across everyone in the team and gives anyone an opportunity to raise any questions, bring some ideas out on the table and feel part of something bigger than their own scrum teams or squads.

Industrialisation – sounds very serious!

One of our latest apps to cloud transformation projects is going to be large scale using 3 scrum teams in the UK over 2 locations and up to 10 teams offshore in India. We need to make this seamless and consistent and are currently looking at the best scalable agile fit with either Safe or Nexus. We have had a similar scale project previously where we took (again) a common sense approach and took elements from different methodologies that worked for us. It is going to be interesting how this works out!

I do have concerns over Safe Agile as this brings back some of the layers and processes that look to be more waterfall than our current pragmatic approach to agile, but I understand with work of a certain size we need some level of governance and oversight. Watch this space!


If we look back to the reason why Agile methods were first introduced, the Manifesto fir Agile deliveries (to me) is very much in keeping with a pragmatic and common sense approach…

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Whatever approach to Agile is being used you must always review the approach regularly, for example as part of the regular delivery retrospective ceremonies or a specific approach retrospective to learn from what you have been doing and ask yourselves …

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go very well?
  • What can you do better?
  • Any ideas for improvements?

Agile Guilding

Within the Centre our scrum masters have a self managing guild where they can share experiences, train each other, provide coaching and mentoring and most importantly give a safe place where they can collectively solve problems.

Anyone can take a problem to a guild and with the collective experience and ideas from the scrum masters they can help solve a multitude of problems including approach, agile tooling, metrics, resourcing, in fact anything that needs some attention and thought.

In summary, don’t get too bogged down by only being a scrum purist. Figure out what works based on your experience and knowledge for the different projects. Not everything fits into one box. That’s not to say you need to cherry pick or have a miss match for each piece of work, but don’t be afraid to make change and do things better. Constantly learn and improve !