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Digital Skills Mobilization within Incumbent Organizations: The Agentic Role of Digital Champions

Incumbent organisations need to develop their own employees’ digital skills to be able to undergo and offer new products and services. The paper analyses this process in one anonymous Italian multinational company and highlights some key points.

The three main mechanisms that enable the digital skills mobilisation process are:

(i) Unearthing dormant digital skills(search phase): this phase involves discovering employees who have digital skills unrelated to the job they have thanks to personal interests or hobbies;

(ii) awakening digital skills holders (access phase): this phase involves the formal appointment of individuals to the role of digital champions;

(iii) disseminating digital skills (transfer phase): this phase involves nurturing, developing and diffusing digital skills within the organisation.

The most fundamental ingredient for digital transformation in a company is the so-called ‘digital champions’, deemed necessary to act as intermediaries between the employees and digital technologies. These digital champions are formally recognised by their company as individuals with advanced digital skills and the motivation to help them undergo digital transformation. In the specific case analysed by the paper, the champions were found through a survey and a series of interviews. They were used to create a digital company culture, leverage digital opportunities for the company’s benefit, and rejuvenate the organisation.

The study is structured as follows:

  • In the first part, there is an analysis of the relevant literature about digitalisation, digital skills and resource mobilisation

  • The second part explains the methods utilised for data collection and analysis

  • The third part explores in-depth the digital transformation process in the case study