Stepping Behind The Rhetoric of Digital Transformation
Fundamentally the challenge for current leaders and public sector organisations is the legacy thinking and a business model which is rooted in serving a de facto purpose which is disconnected from the people and places the organisation or leaders serve – Carl Haggerty
Talk of a digital transformation in housing (he could also have been talking about care, health etc) is rubbish.
It hasn’t happened.
All the talk , all the conferences , all the clubs , the tweets, all the lists of digital leaders – it’s all rhetoric.
Nothing has changed.
We are delivering the same services as we did in 1965. Just with shiny websites and customer portals.
It’s a point that Carl Haggerty also refers to in his must read post. Too many people are claiming that there is digital transformation happening – when really it is just automating legacy processes.
It’s improvement for sure. Less time for customers , less money for providers – but it’s not ‘transformation’, a word possibly even more abused than innovation.
Here’s what transformation could be:
- Rebuilding your organisation as platform – enabling people to select the suppliers and services they themselves want – rather than the ones that made it through your procurement framework.
- Rewiring your organisation for the network era – stripping out hierarchy and management and making the, often painful, transition to decentralised decision making.
- Automating everything that can be automated. But not before stripping out legacy protocols and systems. Decommissioning old world services as you launch new ones, reserving your people for worthwhile jobs that add value to their lives and those of others.
Transformation is not about the illusion of radical change (better, faster services , less crap than they used to be) but rather a fundamental rethink of why you exist – and a reshaping of the ways you deliver upon it.
That said, a few events I’ve been to over the past week have reminded me that many of us are a long way from this.
For a lot of people closer to the frontline some minor changes could be truly transformative.
Over the past days I’ve heard the , sometimes sad, reality of people trying to change things whilst their organisation seems to fight against it.
- Of organisations where social media is still banned, or at least actively discouraged
- Of organisations where IT departments tell people resources like Yammer and Slack cost £35,000
- Of people stuck using digital tools that were last updated when Gordon Brown was in Number 10.
(As an aside I was told great stories of young people entering the workplace not knowing what Outlook is. Not even realising that Microsoft made anything other than Xbox!)
For all the talk of transformation we are in an era of digital haves and have nots. And Matt rightly questioned how seriously this agenda is taken strategically.
- How many social sector organisations have true digital leaders on their boards?
- How many Chief Information Officers (or their equivalent) are part of the executive function?
At the end of the conference I collected up some of the evaluation sheets.
The first one had scored my slot , presented in the slides above, 5 out of 10.
My talk of robots, 3D printing and self management was a world away from what they needed. They just wanted tips on how they could convince their organisation that social media had a business benefit.
Transformation, like innovation, is all relative. We need to support whatever makes a difference to people.