female professional using computer

What do we mean by digital skills?

A great many organisations face an acute shortage of digital skills.  But it is hard to know what skills are needed.  For some, the most relevant might be relatively basic e.g. to navigate around a CRM system.  For others, they may be more advanced (e.g. the development of an e-commerce platform).

It’s made more complicated by contradictory definitions for the term ‘digital skill’(1) and the lack of any framework for describing digital skills in a way that helps organisations to plan for what they need.

An e-commerce business, for example, trades and manages its supply chain on-line, and will probably perform administrative tasks using automated on-line services. 

Everyone will have to be proficient with the digital tools involved, with the level of competence increasing the more senior the role.  Many will also want to be at ease performing high value adding tasks such as data analytics to track customer behaviour.

For the business to operate sustainably it should bear all the hallmarks of a ‘learning organisation’.  This means recognising that skills and knowledge are organisational resources to be managed and invested in rather than being the responsibility of the individual member of staff to attain.

In order to lay the foundations, the first task is to define and catalogue what we mean by a digital skill – given the many contexts that an on-line business will present.  A task that might be second nature for some, e.g. using a browser to open the e-commerce portal, might be a learned skill for others – one that we would wish to recognise in a learning and development programme.

The second step in becoming a learning organisation is to audit the organisation against the lexicon of skills catalogued.  This helps to define the skills and levels of attainment that the organisation already possesses, and to clarify those that it will need.

The third step is to develop learning and development programmes that will equip as many people as possible with the skills that the organisation requires.

However, speed, relevance and value are the watchwords here.  Some tasks such as order fulfilment should be quick to learn.  Others such as e-commerce platform content management or data analytics, less so.

Ideally, everyone should be sent on long, in-depth educational programmes to learn each subject from top to bottom.

A more practical, less costly and speedier approach involves blended learning events e.g. role focused, practical hands-on training to quickly establish a strong foundation of essential skills followed by longer term periods of learning.

This means that, when the e-commerce platform is ready to go, the staff are ready also.  There isn’t a period of risky under-performance whilst staff get up to speed.

At FiguringOutData.com we are developing learning programmes that are designed to quickly get teams going in subjects that will take time to master.

We do this by making them wholly role and task specific.  For example, a team wanting to develop stronger data analytics skills will start by using a core set of skills to solve a particular problem facing the business.  The skills they will acquire are wholly relevant to their role, likely to be suited for other tasks, and will also provide a solid foundation for further skills development over time.

If you would like to know more please contact us using the details below.  And for an example of a specific training course that follows these principles (Data Visualisation for Difficult Decisions) please click here.


Paul Clarke



Tel: 0333 301 0302

Email:  paul@figuringoutdata.com


(1) FutureLearn describes advanced digital skills as those involved in Digital Marketing, Social Media, User Experience, Web Analytics and AI.  Whereas digitalskillsglobal.com include all forms of programming and data science within their definition of digital skills.