Digital transformation? Look to your people

By Andy Bell: Head of Public Sector Sales, Telefónica UK

Last year, the words ‘digital’ and ‘transformation’ came together more often than ever before.  Virtually every organisation we met, across both Enterprise and the Public Sector, spoke of an ambition for digital transformation.  Being in the tech sector, for us it isn’t a huge surprise that there’s such a focus on it.  The ubiquity of mobiles, social media, big data, Cloud, cloud based apps – everything is coming together to change the way people behave, at home or in the office, and it’s demanding that organisations respond.

What I think we need to recognise, is that to create the right environment for digital transformation you must start with what really matters: your people.  I believe that your people are the foundation of any successful change.  There’s absolutely no value in digital for digital’s sake; it’s only valuable if it’s enabling your people to do their jobs better.

The need to start with your people is very apparent in the public sector, from housing associations such as Halton Housing Trust, whom we worked with to enable their customers to get digitally active, through to the push across the NHS to drive their paperless agenda.  At the InterSystems connected healthcare conference in 2015, Inderjit Singh, head of enterprise architecture at NHS England, talked about the NHS ‘Paperless’ project and how every local area needed to create an annual digital roadmap outlining how they plan to achieve paper-free status.  He also confirmed that it’s not enough to focus on the technology: “We talk about technology as an enabler, but we need to move beyond that and really translate what this means for key clinical pathways and key focus areas the healthcare service is looking at”.

Experience with customers who are in the midst of their digital transformation projects is showing us exactly this.  But it’s not as straightforward as it seems.  If I describe 2015 as the year of ‘digital transformation’, I’d say 2016 needs to be the year of ‘cultural transformation’.  “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” a quote attributed to the late business management guru Peter Drucker, is something we’d all be wise to remember.  The digital transformation agenda cannot be driven by a focus on technology alone.  Actual transformation will only be achieved by looking at your people, how they work and, more importantly, how they need, want and actually can work within the parameters of their role and the technology options available.  Once you’ve done this, you can identify any potential hurdles and realise the true value of the tech you’re introducing.

As the Nuffield Trust points out, while in sectors such as manufacturing new technology often replaces human staff, in healthcare it tends to augment them.  I think that’s true across the Public Sector as a whole.  We’re seeing it in healthcare, in housing as with Halton and it’s true in the emergency services, when you see how managed mobility is enabling our police forces to increase their effectiveness.  At the heart of all these examples is cultural change. So if you want digital transformation, put your people first.

If your transformation is underway or still in development, O2 and NextGen want to recognise you and the members of your organisation for the work you’re doing.  So I must just take this chance to encourage you to enter the O2 NextGen Digital Challenge awards.