People and processesChange ManagementRethinking digital transformation: It starts with people

Rethinking digital transformation: It starts with people

Agilisys has launched the first in a series of insight papers that will set public sector organisations up for transformation success when embarking on digital journeys. GovTech Leaders caught up with Steve Johnson, its Strategic Advisory partner to discuss the first insight piece in this series

Digitally transforming can have profound effects on workplace culture. How does the new Rethinking digital transformation insight offer practical guidance to ensure the transformation process is more seamless than it is disruptive?

There’s loads of research on transformation that highlights how the cultural element is really difficult and, if it doesn’t happen effectively, how it undermines a lot of the systems and process transformation that takes place.

What this new practical guide does is focus on what really drives transformation, what are the unsaid rules, stories and ways of working within an organisation that must be fully understood, but which are often overlooked. It’s very complex, but it’s what drives organisations day-in-day-out. This insight promotes a multi-layered approach that leads to a deeper understanding of an organisation’s culture so that you begin from a place where you know what you’re working with. That key message that every organisation is a community of people is something we focus on in the first part of our Rethinking digital transformation insight.

Secondly it also highlights how you must invest in culture earlier in the transformation phase in order to reap the rewards further downstream. I liken it to decorating – you’ll achieve the best results by doing the preparation and understanding what’s underneath the surface, rather than just slapping paint on a wall!

Finally, it’s about understanding the positives that are already happening in the workplace and what matters to your people. What drives people, at different levels, to work for you? What really matters to them? Armed with such insight you can then work out what needs to change and what needs to be amplified so you can shift to a more effective, sustainable way of operating in a digital world.  Key to making such changes is getting people to do different things earlier. The more recent research into human behaviour suggests we more ‘act our way into new ways of thinking’ than the other way round.

The insight references a piece of research that found 80% of  government efforts to transform are unsuccessful in meeting objectives. How can this insight help improve the success rate?

The failure figure shifts dependent on the research but in each case is too high. There are a number of reasons for such failures but a prevalent issue is the lack of upfront investment in gaining a detailed knowledge about the organisation and the people in it. This then gets exacerbated by failing to communicate and engage effectively. This links to the need to have a compelling change story based on where you moving from. It takes time. We’re so frequently in a hurry to get from A to B that we often overlook these essential foundations.

The most successful organisations, from our experience, deeply understand their cultures and what drives people in the organisation – they can then intelligently plan how they can help their people transition to news way of working with the necessary support along the way. This is still complex, because you’re working within communities of people and to be successful you do need to understand what drives human behaviour. But done well you can create change that becomes a viral infection across the organisation influencing all levels and amplifying and reinforcing itself.

Digital can help here with the more effective use of social media platforms which many staff engage with on a day to day basis in their private lives. It allows real time responses and feedback provided its used wisely and well within a structured engagement process.

Much has been written about digital transformation and as a result it’s fair to say there is general fatigue with the phrase ‘digital transformation’. What’s different about this particular series of insights?

As we walk through the four Ds Framework (discover, design, deliver, deepen) of the transformation approach in this series, our aim is to normalise the digital element in transformation. Digital should be viewed as another element in the toolkit public sector organisations have at their disposal, rather than being anxious about finding a way to incorporate it. Digital is a great enabler that allows the delivery of positive and successful change and through this insight we want to dispel some of the myths, fears and confusion that comes with undertaking such transformations.

The insight also highlights how working with external partners can be useful in developing ongoing support that helps to create internal capacity and capability. Clearly, there’s a need for support in the development of skills and capabilities, which can be diffused across the organisation. I think the best transformation partners build the foundations and capabilities that enable clients to move forward successfully and effectively and don’t remain in place any longer than they need to.

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