Systems or People: Retaining Your Digital Knowledge

In the battle to remain competitive, your employees, the knowledge and skills they hold, are the secret to success. But finding a way to keep that knowledge doesn’t need to be so difficult, argues Carl Uminski, the CEO of Somo. Find out more about what he had to say here…

Can you show me a more vibrant, more exciting, more pivotal discipline than digital right now?

It’s OK, I’ll wait…

Digital is the engine of growth behind everything in society. I cannot name an industry, sector or company that is not in some way dependent on digital to get stuff done. It’s a discipline that attracts the best and brightest looking to be stimulated and challenged daily.

Real talent is in high demand. Companies, like Somo, are continuously investing in how to attract and retain the best digital talent. People that match the rapid pace of change, and stay ahead of the competition.

But it isn’t a level playing field. The current make-up of the digital talent market is heavily weighted in favour of start-ups and agencies.

This is an uncomfortable position for many corporate businesses to be in – particularly those in traditional institutions where the in-house digital provision is often lower than average. These companies seek control. And control often means building that talent in-house.

To be the master of your own digital journey, you need to invest in a reliable, owned, digitally-led people structure. However, for the most part, these companies aren’t putting in the ‘human frameworks’ and indeed realising the budget they need to succeed.

There is an assumption that having in-house people means all knowledge can be retained. But what happens when these roles become less interesting? Does your human framework allow people to try their skills elsewhere in your organisation? If not, then the perception of knowledge retention is lost immediately.

Therefore, control and knowledge of the company’s digital experiences cannot be sat in the mind of anyone. Expertise must be communal and easily transferable to be aligned to the modern digital world.

And this is as much about culture as skill set. How people work is as important as what they actually do. Today’s digital worker needs flexibility, autonomy – and excitement.

Rotating on Digital Projects Is Good for Everyone

How long should today’s digital ninja stay in their role? Five years? Three? How about 18 months? At what point does the desire to find new challenges emerge?

Don’t assume your people will want to work for your in-house team for more than 18 months. Changing digital projects is a good thing for everyone, especially the customer. So, given how hard it is to attract digital talent in the first place, you need to be thinking about how to retain that talent in the long-term, otherwise are you modelling the cost of rehiring into the budget for a year and a half down the line?

This doesn’t need to happen.

At Somo, we look closely at enabling flexibility alongside client stability. We can have people working on automotive clients who can then pivot to the finance or energy sector, offering change and a new challenge. The bonus is they’re bringing the knowledge they’ve already acquired, giving us the benefit of new perspectives and a different take. A customer journey is not sector-driven.

This brings a huge benefit to our clients as the talent is still retained within our business and shared with theirs no matter where the individual is. By refreshing the people working with our clients, they get new perspectives which keeps the momentum on the digital journey. Therefore, working with an agency partner is not a knowledge drain, it should be seen as a knowledge gain.

Attracting and working with today’s digital talent means setting them free. Free to work in the way that gets the best from their skills, and free to explore new avenues when the time comes for change.

Carl Uminski
CEO & Co-Founder, Somo

You don’t need a portfolio agency set-up to find new and engaging challenges for your talent. It’s just about thinking creatively, finding avenues for your people to learn broader skills and new places to apply that learning.

Attracting and working with today’s digital talent means setting them free. Free to work in the way that gets the best from their skills, and free to explore new avenues when the time comes for change.

With the right anchors in place – salary, benefits, culture (and interesting work!) – you have the foundations to attract and retain talent. All you need is the framework that lets them explore and expand, for the benefit of themselves and the business.

That doesn’t mean you can afford to be cavalier about redeploying digital talent. Whether you find space for talent to move around internally, or they do end up leaving you for pastures new, it’s vital you find a way to extract that stored knowledge. All that institutional knowledge needs to be out of people’s heads and there for everyone to access. How you do that – communication tools, shared repos, lightning talks – is up to you, but you’ve invested in that knowledge, don’t let it just walk out of the door.


Carl Uminski
CEO & Co-Founder, Somo

Carl Uminski is CEO and Co-Founder of Somo, part of the CI&T (NYSE: CINT) family—a leading global digital product agency delivering digital ambitions at pace and scale. Over 20 years he’s pioneered state-of-the-art platforms and led countless scalable growth strategies for titans such as Audi, Vanguard, and Centrica. Carl is also an active investor, board member and advisor to a range of successful technology start-ups including Swiftkey (sold to Microsoft), Careology (health tech), Aventus (insurance tech), Airspace (drone security), and others. A lifelong achiever, Carl has been named the Most Influential Person in Mobile in The Drum’s Mobile Top 50, one of the 20 Most Influential People in Mobile by Business Insider, and holds the Sunday Times’ Tech Track 100 Best Management Team Award.