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11 December 2017

Catherine Howe

Beware the promise of a digital silver bullet

By understanding your digital maturity and the digital mindset of employees, your organisation can transform into a digitally networked business.

An effective and focused digital transformation will be at the heart of ensuring your business achieves its full potential and, with such a prize at stake, it’s easy for leaders to be seduced by the idea of a digital silver bullet that solves every problem.

But digital is different for everybody, and sadly no such bullet exists.

After helping many businesses achieve their own successful transformations, at Capita we’ve learned to spot the eight digital tribes that live within organisations. Each will try to tell you they have ‘the one’ solution and bend the agenda to their view, potentially setting you on the wrong path, and making it harder to develop the strong, coherent transformation strategies you need.

As a leader you have the opportunity to take control of all the competing digital factions and unite them in a direction that matches your strategic intent, and one of the first steps in doing that is to identify the obsessives at your door.

It could be the Architecture Tribe where everything is about infrastructure. Or the Automation Tribe who declare that robots are the only way forward. Or the Radical Redesign Tribe who will tell you it’s pointless doing anything unless you completely rethink the company from the ground up. Meanwhile, all you may want to do is row the boat a bit faster.

Don’t expect a rational discussion

And we chose the word ‘tribes’ with good reason. This isn’t a cohort of people rationally discussing the rights and wrongs of all their diverse approaches; these are frequently groups with fervent and invested beliefs in their own technical specialisms, who may be fiercely competitive, yet still need to be knitted together with a common purpose to create an environment of change.

So how can a leader do all that? We’ve been developing a series of tools to help, one of which is the Digital Change Curve. It’s a useful way of expressing your digital strategy in a manner that all the tribes can come around.

If you can use the curve to focus on what your priority is – building a better boat, or just getting the boat you have to go faster – it’s much easier to unlock the activities that each of those tribes needs to be doing at every stage of your transformation. It also helps to make sure you get the maximum value from all technology you introduce – you don’t have a tribe rushing off implementing something new before you’ve squeezed the full benefit from what you’ve already done.

How to tell if you’ve got the right digital mindset

Leaders can start by asking themselves three questions.

  1. Do you understand all the different definitions of digital within your organisation, and do you feel they are aligned with your strategic intent?
  2. Do they share your focus and purpose? Is this actually where your business needs to go, or is it just the tribes showing off the tools they have at their disposal?
  3. Can you articulate what you want in a way everyone can come around, creating an organisational narrative that people with many different perspectives can share?

And to become a truly ‘digital’ leader that can do all that, you may need help yourself; to understand all the different perspectives within your organisation, to refine that key strategic intent that will drive your growth, even to realise if you yourself belong to a tribe and never even noticed.

This article was first published by Information Age.

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Catherine Howe

Digital innovation director, Capita

Catherine is an expert in how communities embrace digital innovation, be it in smart cities, digital democracy or social change. She has over 15 years’ experience, throughout the UK and Europe, looking at how new technologies can best benefit individuals and communities and how the Networked Society can prosper from the coming innovations that will impact where and how we live and work. Working across the public sector she is currently helping deliver projects such as the ground breaking NHS Citizen initiative as well as digital leadership programmes within local government.

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