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You can’t ‘do’ digital; you have to ‘be’ it

Bridging the implementation gap – getting from the ‘as is’ to the ‘to be’ state.

The annual Solace Summit brings together the leaders and future leaders of local government in the UK. This year it reflected on the shifting roles between central and local government, the role of local government in developing a new macroeconomics and dug deeper into best practice for essential services such as children and adult social care. Digital was again a theme of the event but this time the conversation had palpably moved from asking ‘what is it?’ to ‘how do we make it work?’.

A few themes emerged:

  • Data and analytics continue to offer promise but councils are struggling to make it part of business as usual.
  • Design thinking is developing in scale and pace within the sector and continues to offer really exciting ways to rethink services.
  • Inspiring presentations from Helen Bevan, chief transformation officer, NHS England and Nicola Millard, head of customer insight & futures, BT Global Services showed the scale of change which is possible and necessary - but also showed some of the challenges faced for traditional ways of working.

But the backdrop of these themes was that local government needs to see tangible outcomes from digital programmes.

This was the central point of my presentation which talked about the implementation gap - the big leap you need to get from the ‘as is’ to the ‘to be’ state. I talked about three things you need to build to cross this:

  • A reason to change
  • Tangible and iterative change
  • Development of a digital mindset

Solace is a leadership conference and the new challenge for leaders - not already encompassed in the challenge of change - is the development of a digital mindset. I used the conference to test and share work we’ve been doing to develop a diagnostic tool that will help leaders, and their teams, understand their own digital mindset. It’s based on the 8 tribes work which unpacks all the different definitions of digital that you have in your organisation.

It’s in its early stages but the response was positive and it uncovered some of the gaps between senior leaders and the organisations that they lead. The sample size is too small to draw industry conclusions yet but for a single organisation it will provide a useful way to develop your own digital mindset and that of your organisation.

I’m now looking for 2-3 organisations who are interested in testing the diagnostic. If you are interested in joining this programme then please get in touch on

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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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