WIG CEO Blog April 2020 - Going Digital

Every collective undertaking knows it has to ‘go digital’ if only to interact in a way that is acceptable to those it serves. However, there’s  no easy way to describe what ‘digital’ means because it depends entirely on the context. Of course, we are all digital now. There are almost no examples of analogue processes and systems, so we are talking about ‘better digital’ in an age where technology is marching faster than our ability to adopt and use it to our best advantage; from social marketing to data science to administration. 

For some, it’s about technology to improve process. For others, it's about a new way of engaging, developing or doing business. The current pandemic has supercharged some of this spectrum. Processes and people have had to adapt to federated working. We are lucky that systems have generally matured to a point that has made this possible under our current circumstances. For instance, at WIG we quickly pivoted our briefings and round-table discussions to webinars and virtual meetings. We are similarly adapting some of our leadership development offerings in the same direction and thinking hard about the ‘new normal’ environment ahead.

However, this is a small slice of what digital can mean. It could fundamentally change how we measure and analyse data, make decisions and interact with customers and stakeholders. If looked at with a market positioning lens, it might mean the difference between consolidating around an existing market and developing completely new ones. Certainly, the public expectation is being driven hard through competition. Interaction needs to be slick, coherent, attractive, linked and effortless just to keep pace with what is considered normal. This is as applicable in terms of the ‘customer journey’ to Government departments as it is to consumer goods and services. It goes beyond a strong website and digital communication.

A traditional approach might be to define what one wants to achieve and then apply digital technology to achieve it better. The difficulty is that this could ignore the additional possibilities that this technology might offer. The two revolving questions become, ‘what can it do?’ followed by, ‘well, what do you want it to do?’ followed with ‘I don’t know yet, what can it do?’ again. There seems little doubt that this cycle needs to be broken with a strategic goal in mind.

Whatever ‘going digital’ ends up meaning for an enterprise, it will still be about people; skills, adoption and mindsets. Faster processes, more information and quicker and perhaps increasingly automated decision-making. We are getting a taster of this now during the current lockdown. The systems have held up, the people are willing but are processes out of step? Are teams the right size? Do they have the skills? Does the organisation’s taxonomy reflect the flow of information, the prospect of greater cooperation and the ability to migrate functions? Does the IT link devices, objects, and people? 

Of course just because things can be sped up and improved in several ways, must they be? A recent speaker for WIG pointed out that a significant number of problems directed at AI might easily be solved through good but conventional database retrieval. At WIG we use at least six or seven ways of communicating between team members, with a similar number for our members. However, I still find a notebook and a phone-call best for some things.