The value of measuring the IQ and EQ of leaders, regardless of their profession, is widely understood. But forward-thinking organizations are now turning their attention to quantifying a less talked about set of abilities, known as digital quotient (DQ). Just like IQ and EQ, developing strong DQ can help organizations and individuals collaborate more effectively, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and make better strategic decisions.
What does this mean for CIOs and the wider business? And what can they do to develop digital skills within their organizations? On a recent episode of the Cloudreach Cloudbusting podcast, I discussed all this and more with Cloudreach Head of Strategy and Professional Services, Dave Chapman, and Phil Le-Brun, former CIO and Enterprise Strategist at AWS.
What exactly is DQ?
Digital quotient is often defined as “the awareness and application of existing and emerging digital technologies, capabilities, practices and strategies.” However, for many organizations it can also help to frame DQ as “thinking cloud-natively.” The term DQ has been around for a while and is often presented as a maturity model used to measure organizations’ digital preparedness and awareness. However, in recent years there’s been a push to coordinate a global set of standards for DQ. Since 2019, International DQ Day has occurred on October 10th (organized by the DQ Institute and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association).
But why is DQ important? As organizations of all sizes prioritize digital transformation and cloud migration initiatives, it naturally follows that digital skills should also be considered a priority.
As Le Brun puts it, “Those that are more mature in how they use technology and how they think about their people are geared towards getting products into the hands of their customers faster – and figuring out whether those products are right or not.”
However, he adds that, too often, “the lack of leadership knowledge around technology definitely holds companies back.”
Chapman goes one step further, arguing that, “If you’re a leader in an organization, part and parcel of your job is to understand how to manage budgets and financing. And you may or may not love engaging with that. But it’s a fundamental part of your job as a leader. In my mind, digital should be considered just as important.”
Thinking about DQ on an individual level
Although it can be helpful to think about DQ on an organizational level – which is where much of the research on this subject focuses – it’s equally important to measure and develop DQ on an individual level.
As Chapman puts it, “Where we think DQ is particularly interesting, is when it’s applied to individual people and individual leaders – as you do with IQ and EQ […] We think this is important because digital transformations are run by human beings, the decisions are made by human beings. And if all those people aren’t at a point where they understand the possibility of technology and the nature of the transformation then these things really do struggle, they become tech or cost saving centric.”
Many organizations are already prioritizing developing individual DQ. Chapman says, “Five years ago, when embarking on a cloud driven transformation, you might start by building a landing zone. You might do a lighthouse application migration and get some application assessments underway. Generally, later down the road, you’d think ‘maybe we should do a cloud education program’. But it’s now getting to the point where the educational element is almost getting primacy over starting the build process.”
But both Chapman and De Brun admit there’s still a significant way to go. De Brun gives the following example, “We looked at the top 20 executive MBAs around the world. Guess how many teach technology or data as a mandatory component? Zero or one! We are still training leaders to run factories in the 18th century.”
Forward-thinking CIOs can take several steps to foster a culture where digital skills are valued. Firstly, it’s important to prioritize developing the DQ of all staff, regardless of seniority level or function. This helps to create an organizational culture where digital transformation is seen as a strategic business initiative – rather than an IT project.
Chapman shares the following example: “We worked with one financial services organization. It was the usual pattern of IT trying to empty a data center and save some money, and product teams experimenting around the edge. But where they excelled, was by engaging at the chief executive level, informally sitting round with a whiteboard and trying to understand what was possible [with cloud]. They then did a cloud fluency program for all their product leaders. As a result, they managed to generate a far more innovative conversation about the future of their business.”
Le Brun agrees, adding: “Make [building DQ] a team sport across your entire leadership team. In fact, treat the leadership team as an agile team.” He also cautions CIOs against trying to walk before they can run, saying “those organizations that do it well do it in lot of little steps, not one big transformation project.”
So, what have we learned? Firstly, that if DQ isn’t already on your agenda, it should be. And secondly, that developing DQ is crucial to creating a culture where digital transformation programs succeed. In the medium and long term, organizations that fail to prioritize digital skills will struggle to keep up with those that do.
To hear more of this conversation, check out the Cloudbusting podcast, available on your favorite podcast app.
Jez Ward is head of advisory and an executive cloud advisor at Cloudreach, and co-host of the Cloudbusting podcast. He is an experienced COO, CIO and strategist who excels in implementing, managing and supporting global IT projects, with a special focus on public cloud adoption and digital transformation.