The digital transformation journey (Part One): Leadership, skills and digital transformation

As the year draws towards its close, Digital by Default News takes a look at some of the trends and issues the sector is likely to come across in 2017. In this first instalment of five we take a look at how effective leadership and having the relevant skills is an essential element in delivering a successful digital transformation.

Some organisations have embraced the digital world that we live in more successfully than others, and that’s usually where we’ve seen shifts in how traditional leadership roles operate. Digital transformation has morphed from a trend to a central component of a modern organisational strategy.

In 2017, as the rate of change continues to accelerate, we predict that digital strategies will become more flexible and therefore more inclusive. New technology will need to be incorporated into an organisation’s culture and regular operations and, crucially, digital transformation needs to be about more than just technology. It needs to combine the power of technology with a culture that embraces the change that it can lead for the organisation.

A positive customer or user experience is the ultimate goal of any digital transformation, particularly in a climate where ‘customers’ are more cautious than ever; they’ll turn away from offerings that don’t align with their values and needs and which don’t protect their security. Every touch point matters.


Leadership must succeed

If this prediction is to become reality, leadership within the public sector needs to be strong enough to ensure all stakeholders at every level are fully on board the digital journey, know where they are going and what they need to do to help put the wheels in motion.

Many experts in this sector say that 2017 could be the year when leadership really takes digital transformation by the scruff of the neck. And it certainly needs to.

Earlier this year a research study by Civica and Solace in Business found that a staggering 34% of public sector employees at middle manager level and below believe leaders need to alter the entire organisational structure, with 30% claiming a lack of clear direction is holding the sector back from effective change.

Kim Ryley, former CEO and chair, Solace in Business, commented: “The biggest barriers are not technology or resource based, they are people’s attitudes. Public sector organisations need a style of leadership that creates a sense of purpose where they can sell hope to the people, and visibly walk the walk.”


Skills development

In order for effective digital transformation to take place, organisations need to ensure the right mindset, digital culture, leadership and skills are in place.

Speaking at the London leg of the popular Civil Service Live events, Andrew Cleminson and Leeanna Pitt from Agilisys, discussed how transformative the impact of digital is on operations, the workforce and on jobs. Discussions focused on key areas of impact, including the digital skills of the people within organisations, and how they can adapt and react to the pace of change.

“Building the digital literacy of an organisation across every role is vital to ensure an organisation can benefit from the productivity and efficiency gains digital offers,” commented Cleminson.

“It is not just about the future of the current workforce, but of our future workforce. We must ensure our talent pipeline is ready to meet the employment demands of the future. A 2013 O2 report stated that only 20% of the technology jobs required by 2017 could be filled by the current generation of 16-25 year-olds. It has never been more important to prioritise and promote things like Code Camps, online coding courses, STEM training and digital apprenticeships.”

Leaders need to see digitisation as an opportunity and not a threat, if the benefits of the digital transformation are to be realised, the pair added. “The digital workforce is a spectrum of operational transformation – where organisations are enabled by digital technology to be more effective and productive, to deliver a better service to customers and citizens,” said Pitt.

Those responsible for driving change must cultivate the right mindset to effectively adopt technology and create the digital transformation that puts the need of consumers first. Leaders must also cultivate the right digital culture and learn how to drive and adapt to the changes within the workplace and embed ‘digital jobs’.

In 2017, more than ever before, digital will be everybody’s responsibility, starting with effective leadership.


Tell us about your digital journey

As the year begins to draw to a close, we’re thinking about what 2017 will hold for digital transformation in the public sector, and wonder how organisations are adjusting their vision, but we need your help.

Working in partnership with Agilisys, we’re inviting organisations across the country to take part in a short survey to tell us about their vision for digital, the opportunities they see, the challenges they’ve faced, and crucially, how far they’ve come on their journey.

Complete the survey, and as a thank you, we’ll send you an advance copy of the resulting report to be published in the new year. There’s also an opportunity to enter into a prize draw to win an iPad mini in time for Christmas. Don’t delay – the survey closes on Friday 16 December.

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