Digital Leaders Blog

Digital Transformation (15)

The concept of Digital Operating Advantage is one of the key issues discussed during our ‘Leading Digital’ Masterclasses.

It refers to the way in which organisations can leverage the full potential of emerging technologies to streamline internal processes and systems, improve efficiency, reduce costs, building a more collaborative, cost efficient, agile, responsive, data driven organisation, ‘fit-for-purpose’ in a digital age.

The successful deployment of an Enterprise Social Media (ESM) platform is critical in this respect as highlighted in the video below.


The key term above is ‘successful deployment’. While ESM platforms have been adopted by many organisations as the cornerstone of their internal digital transformation, new research published in the MITSloan Management Review suggests that expected benefits in terms of knowledge sharing, collaboration and efficiency are seldom realised. The main reason for this is poor ESM implementation.

Key conclusions of the research are as follows:

  • Employees often ‘get lost’ during the implementation of ESM platforms because of the disconnect between technology and the cultural change required to leverage the full potential of these platforms.
  • ESM is too often introduced into workplaces as a siloed system. A more strategic approach is required with ESM becoming a core component of an organisation’s digital portfolio, fully integrated with and supportive of employees’ daily work.
  • Too often, ESM is added to an already tangled web of technologies meant to support communication and collaboration. The net outcome is that fewer than 30% of employees and only 8% of executives contribute to ESM on a regular basis.
  • As more organisations become attracted to the benefits of digital workplaces, IT departments are asked to equip employees with a rich and integrated digital portfolio including team collaboration software, project management tools, chat-based software, internal knowledge management systems, intranets and so on. However, in most cases, there is a failure to articulate and communicate to employees how they are expected to use these tools in their day-to-day, job-related tasks.
  • The failure to articulate and communicate runs the risk of employees becoming lost in the transition to a more social, collaborative way of working. Connecting to ESM platforms often requires employees to disconnect from existing patterns of communication and collaboration such as email. This is not easy to achieve and can create resistance to change unless managed properly. Weaning people away from their email comfort blanket is no easy task.
  • To increase adoption and improve efficiency, ESM should be established as the hub connecting multiple IT systems, business applications, collaborative tools and other digital platforms. With proper integration, using APIs, employees should be able to access all digital platforms such as the corporate intranet, email, directories, document-sharing tools, forums, blogs, wikis and third-party web applications seamlessly from the ESM platform. Most ESM platforms such as Salesforce Chatter, Microsoft Yammer and Teams, Facebook Workplace etc offer open APIs that enable interoperability between ESM and other information technologies.

In conclusion, the MITSloan research supports our own contention that successful digital transformation is not just about technology – it requires the effective integration of strategy, people, processes, systems, organisation, culture AND technology.

The failure to recognise these mutual dependencies is one of the main reasons why many attempted transformations will fail. The successful implementation of Enterprise Social Media within your own organisation is a cultural as well as a technology challenge.

Read the full article here.

As always, comment and feedback are very welcome.

Take care.

Jim H

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According to Anthony Abbatiello, principal, Deloitte Consulting and global leader of Deloitte Leadership, $400 billion is wasted every year in failed digital transformations. Even though many companies profess to have digital strategies, they don’t fully understand what it’s actually going to take or haven’t pinpointed what they want the business to look like.

There’s also an element of “executive tourism” as senior managers see things they like in Silicon Valley and seek to cut-and-paste them into their own organizations.

So, they embark on “random acts of digital” rather than create a cohesive strategy. They invest in digital technology and are disappointed when the expected massive change (and returns) don’t appear.

Despite such failure rates, digital transformation can be successful. But, it’s going to take a mind-set metamorphosis to put digital DNA at the organization’s core. HR has a critical role to play.

Read the full article here.

Jim H

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According to a recent survey by McKinsey, the way companies engage with customers and the tools supporting customer interaction will change dramatically over the next few years.

An omnichannel world will emerge with customers having access to a wide range of digital contact options for interacting with companies, not just the traditional call centre. Fully 75 percent of customers will use multiple service channels. This will include web sites, apps, social media, chat and voice.

Frontline robotics will also play an important gatekeeper role, helping to determine customer requests and handle simple issues. The report estimates that robots will be able to fully resolve 30 to 50 percent of all customer requests.

The emergence of omnichannel digital options will not mark the end of human contact centre agents. However, their role will change significantly, handling only the most complex requests, supported by robotics and artificial intelligence analysing large amounts of data and voice recognition patterns to communicate insights and recommendations to agents.

Manual work will be widely automated, allowing agents to focus fully on advising customers, delivering enhanced customer experiences, pursuing cross-selling and upselling opportunities. To achieve performance excellence in this future state, the report concludes that talent management and coaching will be crucial in empowering agents to seamlessly handle complex requests.

Five key dynamics transforming the customer care industry are identified:

  • Inbound calls will decline in number or be eliminated
  • Digital-care channels are already the starting point for most customer-care interactions
  • Large investments will be required to improve the skills of customer-care workers
  • High-end customised experiences will require companies to rethink customer engagement
  • New technology providers will flood the customer-care space, so companies must choose wisely

You can access the full article here.

Well worth a read.

Jim H

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Digital native companies have captured value from established businesses because of their innovative use and development of technologies, business models and customer experiences.

According to a recent study by McKinsey, however, an overlooked element in the success of these companies has been their use of next-generation operating models defined as:

"The continual effort to improve end-to-end customer journeys and business processes by applying advanced technologies and sophisticated operational methods in an integrated manner. The combination typically results in, or is built around, a business model that is new to the industry and allows the company to move, adapt, and scale quickly."

By applying next-generation operating models, traditional companies can develop the agility and customer focus needed to fend off challenges from digital natives.

As shown in the Infographic below, there are three main components to a next-gen operating model:

  • Continually improving the end-to-end customer journey with a clean sheet approach.
  • Establishing agile ways of working through journey-focused teams.
  • Integrating technology with operations by testing and learning.

Accelerating the shift to a next-generation operating model involves taking three mutually reinforcing actions at once.

The full article can be found here.

Take care.

Jim H

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The third annual State of Digital Transformation Report (2017), by Brian Solis, provides an interesting overview of the extent to which organisations are investing in digital strategies, initiatives and operational models.

While a growing number of businesses are currently investing in innovation strategies to uncover new growth opportunities, most companies are not responding fast enough to keep pace with the pervasive changes taking place in consumer buying behaviour.

In many of the companies surveyed, there is a lack of digital leadership and purpose with most struggling with the technological and human challenges of Digital Transformation (DT).

The pace of innovation, in response to the rising expectations of constantly connected customers, is being held back by poor digital literacy, together with a short-term focus on costs rather than the long-term investment required to remain competitive.

Risk-averse company cultures, lack of urgency, politics, egos and fear have also emerged as major barriers to successful digital transformation.

Please see The 2017 State of Digital Transformation Report for a more detailed summary of key findings, with the full report being available as a pdf download.

Take care.

Jim H

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A useful reading list addition for the Digital Leadership workshops we run.

The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age (Columbia Business School Publishing) 5 Apr 2016 by David L. Rogers.

The book is structure around 'Five Domains of Digital Transformation' as summarised in the extracts below: 

Customers - Digital technologies change how we connect and create value with our customers. We may have grown up in a world in which companies broadcast messages and shipped products to customers. But today the relationship is much more two-way. Buying behaviour, whether B2C or B2B, is now heavily influenced by customer-to-customer communication and reviews. Dynamic participation by and engagement with customers have become a critical driver of business success.

Competition - Digital technologies transform how we think about competition. Increasingly, we are competing with companies from outside as well as inside our industry, stealing our customers with new digital offerings. Competitive collaboration through a strong network of partners is becoming critical to sustained growth and profitability.

Data - In traditional businesses, data was expensive to obtain, difficult to store, and utilised in organisational silos. Today, data is being generated at an unprecedented rate with cloud-based systems for data storing becoming cheaper, readily available and easy to use. The biggest challenge today is turning the enormous amount of data we have into actionable insight.

Innovation - Digital technologies are transforming the way businesses innovate. Traditionally, innovation was expensive, high stakes and insular. Testing new ideas was difficult and costly, so businesses relied on their managers to guess what to build into a product before launching it in the market. Today, digital technologies enable continuous testing and experimentation, processes that were inconceivable in the past. Prototypes can be built for pennies and ideas tested quickly with user communities. Constant learning and the rapid iteration of products, before and after their launch date, are becoming the norm.

Value - Digital technologies force us to think differently about how we understand and create value for the customer. What customers value can change very quickly. Our competitors may be uncovering new opportunities that our customers value more. All too often, when a business hits upon success in the marketplace, a dangerous complacency sets in. As Andy Grove warned years ago, in the digital age, “only the paranoid survive.” Constantly pushing the envelope to find our next source of customer value is now an imperative.

Figure 1: Five Key Domains of Digital Transformation

 Take care

Jim H

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Does your Board of Directors grasp how disruptive technologies are reshaping your industry?

Are they driving and supporting your CEO in achieving digital transformation, leveraging the full potential of emerging technologies for building an efficient, agile, fast moving and responsive organisation fit-for-purpose in a digital era?  

Alternatively, is your Board sitting back watching as born-digital companies reinvent your industry? Are they playing safe, watching your organisation's slow decline into obsolescence?

A recent Harvard Business Review article argues that Boards must recognise the unstoppable digital forces at play in your industry, driving your CEO to reinvent the business while you still have the resources to do so.

To avoid becoming the Kodak of your industry, five key actions your Board should be taking now are identified.

Is you Board showing digital leadership in the following areas? I would guess NOT.

  • Get into high gear in understanding how digitisation affects the business.
  • Be sure you have the right CEO in place, someone with the knowledge and personal empathy to be a digital change leader.
  • Encourage the CEO to enlist whatever expertise he or she needs to re-imagine how the company could be rebuilt around a digital platform.
  • Prepare to defend the CEO against backlash from inside, outside and the investment community.
  • Beware of cold feet when implementing radical change to 'the way things have always been done around here'.

You can access the full article here.

Take care.

Jim H

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An interesting article, by Don Hinchcliffe, summarises the radical changes taking place in the 'learning' industry as a consequence of the digital and social media revolutions.

Digital, according to the author, can take learning in powerful, new and unexpected directions, fundamentally changing how we find knowledge and share information.  

The traditional approach to learning is still the norm in many cases, including the world of corporate education, with passive learners sitting in a classroom consuming pre-packaged content in bulk presented formally by an educator.

However, with the typical person today being far more likely to reach for their mobile phone to learn something, the digital and social media revolutions open up exciting new opportunities for learning to become more social, informal, self-service and enjoyable.

"Perhaps the single most valuable asset an organization has is its workforce. New forms of digital learning are making it possible to invest continuously in those workers to help them stay relevant, build skills, and be retained by their organizations."

The core theme of the article is summarised in the Infographic below.

The Digital Transformation of Learning: Community, Microlearning, Situated, On-Demand, Self-Service

The full article, well worth reading, can be found here.

Take care

Jim H

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Yesterday, i read an article which appeared to leak a preview of the long-awaited National Digital Strategy for Scotland (updated).

I really do hope that i am 'jumping the gun' here but the article did raise alarm bells for me.

Based on comments from a Government spokesperson, it appears that the updated strategy will focus on four main areas - a commitment to data sharing; collaboration across the public sector; the appointment of a Digital Leader; and industry, academia, government collaboration on the digital agenda.  

Is that it? Is that our National Digital Strategy? 

For the sake of the Scottish economy, employment and future competitveness, i really do hope that i am wrong here.

Developing story.......

Take care.

Jim H

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Our previous post in this series argued that Scotland’s updated Digital Strategy for 2017 and beyond should focus on measurable business outcomes, not box ticking. We should not be measuring the success of publicly funded digital support programmes by the number of companies attending digital workshops or receiving one-to-one support. These are not business outcomes.

There are only three main reasons why companies should transform digitally:

  • To increase sales.
  • To reduce costs.
  • To build a quality customer base. (It is the quality of a company’s customer base, the strength of the relationship it has with high value customers and its ability to leverage those relationships (‘up’ and ‘cross’ sell) that provides the foundation for sustained growth and competitiveness).

From a business perspective, these are the only three KPIs that matter in measuring the performance and impact of a new national digital strategy.

Given the small size of the Scottish domestic market, there needs to be a global dimension to this. The updated national digital strategy for business should be driven by three core objectives.

  • The use of digital to support the global market expansion of Scottish companies; to increase sales in international markets.
  • Improving the international competitiveness of Scottish companies by applying digital technologies internally to reduce costs and improve productivity.
  • Building a quality customer base in overseas markets, providing a strong foundation for sustained growth in export earnings.

With this in mind, we urgently require an Export Support Programme ‘fit for purpose’ in a digital era.

Export Support in Scotland: Stuck in a 30 Year Pre-Digital Time Warp

The promotion of SME internationalisation has been a major policy objective in Scotland for at least three decades. The underlying rationale has been based on the following propositions:

  • Having a strong base of SMEs competing in international markets is critical to national economic prosperity and job creation, especially in an increasingly global and inter-connected world.
  • SMEs face a range of internal and external obstacles when trying to expand abroad (e.g. lack of resources, time, knowledge; fear of the unknown; product/service suitability for foreign markets; export paperwork and documentation; risks; tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade; export finance etc).
  • Public sector support is required to help overcome these barriers.

Over the years, a very wide range of Export Support Programmes have been introduced aimed specifically at SMEs. These have included online guides to exporting; assess your company’s readiness to export; one-to-one export surgeries; export training and skills development; access to overseas market research reports; export finance and paperwork; export awards, events, workshops, conferences; trade missions; the Smart Exporter Programme and much more.

Having worked in this area for over three decades (see ‘International Market Entry and Development’ book published in 1989), I would contend that Export Support Programmes in Scotland are stuck in a 30 year pre-digital, pre-social media time warp. At best, lip service is being paid to the global marketing threats and opportunities presented by digital disruption and the need for Scottish SMEs to transform digitally to succeed abroad. Most of the advice and support currently available is not much different from our 1989 book.

It is time for a major rethink of our approach to SME export support.

Digital Supported Globalisation

Used effectively, digital technology and social media can help to overcome many of the traditional barriers to SME exporting leading to the more rapid internationalisation of the sector. Unfortunately, and despite decades of support, SMEs in Scotland are nowhere close to leveraging the full potential of digital for ‘going global’.

As the Government deliberates on its new national digital strategy, there is an urgent need to digitise Export Support Programmes; to equip SMEs with the digital knowledge, skills and confidence for using emerging technologies to support globalisation.

This HAS to be core to the updated digital strategy for business.

There is an urgent need for action in three main areas:

  • To increase sales: It is imperative that our SMEs utilise the full potential of digital and social media marketing tools for supporting sales growth in overseas markets. A wide range of issues are important here including: the use of digital and social media tools for keeping 'an ear to the ground', for export market research; building overseas brand awareness and reputation through content marketing; active participation in international marketing ‘hub’ sites and communities; building online relationships and partnerships; use of social selling techniques e.g. Linkedin Sales Navigator; e-marketplaces for direct online selling in international markets; use of digital and social media for supporting trade missions, making the right connections before you go; ensuring that your digital footprint projects the right brand image. In highly competitive global markets, you do not get a second chance to make the right first impression so why is your digital presence so poor?
  • To reduce costs: The application of digital technologies internally to improve efficiency, reduce costs and become more internationally competitive; to build a unique Digital Operating Advantage difficult for overseas competitors to copy, becoming a more flexible, agile, responsive business. Leveraging the full potential of opportunities being created by big data and predictive analytics, automation, additive manufacturing, Internet of Things and so on for improving global competitiveness.
  • Underlying business model: The opportunities presented by digital disruption for rethinking your underlying business model for overseas markets, whether an established company or disruptive start-up.

The 80/20 rule should apply here. We should be concentrating digital export support on companies with the ability and motivation to succeed in global markets. We need to move away from the comfort zone of ticking boxes in terms of the number of companies being supported, most of whom will never internationalise.

As always, comments and feedback are very welcome.

Ps a big thank you again to everyone who has liked, shared or commented on the previous two posts in this series. I really do appreciate that. Take care. Jim H

Scotland’s Digital Strategy (Part 1): Cut the Spin

Scotland’s Digital Strategy (Part 2): Focus on Business Outcomes NOT Box Ticking

Take care.

Jim H

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Following the Cut the Spin theme of Post 1, we need to ensure that the updated National Digital Strategy 2017 is built on measurable business objectives, KPIs and targets. The spin of ‘becoming a world class digital nation’ and/or ‘punching above our weight in global markets’ (whatever that means) are NOT business objectives.

Two Decades of Digital Business Support

The need for measurable business outcomes is particularly important in relation to the wide availability of digital support programmes aimed at Scottish SMEs. Without doubt, this will be a major component of the new updated national strategy. However, doing the same thing and repeating paste mistakes will not produce different results. As a starting point, an honest assessment needs to be undertaken of the economic and business impact of previous and current support programmes.

Publicly funded digital support for small businesses has been widely available throughout Scotland for almost two decades. I was instrumental in establishing the first ever programme in this area - ‘Net Exporter’ launched by Glasgow Development Agency in December 1997. Two decades later, we still do not have an SME export support policy ‘fit for purpose’ in a digital era.

Since ‘Net Exporter’, a very large number and diverse range of other digital support programmes have been launched and made available throughout Scotland. These fall into three main categories:

  • Digital education and training through workshops, conferences and events.
  • One-to-one support and advice.
  • Direct financial assistance.

In terms of the former, it would be hard to count the number of digital workshops and events that have been held in Scotland over the last two decades (probably in the thousands); with topics ranging from ‘get connected’, ‘get broadband’, ‘website best practice’ and ‘SEO’ to the current focus on social media and e-commerce. A 2013 tourism study listed no fewer than 188 different types of workshop available to Scottish tourism SMEs. Soon after publication of this report, Scottish Enterprise, with ScotlandIS, launched a major e-commerce initiative which further increased the number of digital workshops available.

Extensive one-to-one support has also been made available to small businesses in different parts of Scotland. Several local authorities have offered funded digital support on a one-to-one basis; Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise have provided early stage free digital advice; a number of innovative one-to-one support programmes have been launched over the years including Digital Accelerator Programmes, Scottish Enterprise e-Commerce Initiative, ‘Byte the Bullet’ Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Glasgow City Council’s Digital Exporter Graduate Internship programme. We have also had digital support programmes targeted at specific industries e.g. Digital Tourism and Skills Initiatives for training software developers.

More recently, the following programmes have been or still are in operation:

  • Interactive Scotland which provides support to the digital sector.
  • The Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership (we do love grandiose titles in Scotland) set up in 2013 to coordinate digital support. DSBEP claims to have invested £13.6 million in delivering initiatives designed to help Scottish businesses increase their digital awareness use and capabilities.
  • The Digital Boost programme (valued at £7m) delivered in partnership with Business Gateway and HIE.
  • A three year digital support programme aimed at helping Scottish tourism businesses to become more digital ready (valued at £1.2m).
  • An announcement in March of this year of a further £6.5 million to boost innovation and global competitiveness in tourism, with a strong emphasis on digital.
  • A Digital Voucher Scheme providing grants of £5,000 (no longer available).
  • Google’s Digital Garage Initiative.

Given the broad range and wide availability of the programmes mentioned above, it would be reasonable to conclude that few other areas of business have attracted as much public sector support, over the last two decades, as digital.

What Has Been Achieved?

It is a legitimate question to ask, what impact has all this support had on the digital maturity of Scottish companies, especially SMEs? What has been the economic and business impact?

In terms of the first question, the Scottish government’s own statistics would support the view that the vast majority of Scottish companies remain woefully unprepared for the coming digital tsunami. Despite the wide range of support available over the last two decades, only 3% of Scottish SMEs come anywhere close to the level of digital maturity required in an era of turbulent digital change and digital disruption (Source: Digital Economy Business Survey 2014, Scottish Government).

The short answer to the second question is that we don’t know. Despite two decades of publicly funded investment in digital support programmes, to the best of my knowledge, there are no published statistics evaluating the economic and business impact of such support.

We have a tendency in Scotland to tick boxes rather than measure outcomes.

A good example of this is the current Digital Boost flagship programme. At the time of writing, the programme’s web site reports the following KPIs: 423 Digital Boost workshops held across Scotland; eight digital topics in play; 95% of workshop attendees rated them as good or better than good; number of attendees - 1961; 1057 digital health checks completed; 57 local offices offer Digital Boost support; over 91% of entrepreneurs who received one-to-one support would recommend it.

Somehow I think this rather misses the point.

What have participants actually done with the advice delivered? How many are digitally transforming their business to remain relevant? To avoid being disrupted? How will the economic and business impact of this programme be measured? Will it be measured? Would better outcomes have been achieved by using programme resources to support 'Digital Leaders'?

In a follow-up post next week, we will discuss the business objectives, KPIs and targets that should underpin future digital support programmes in Scotland. To achieve these objectives, we need to apply the 80/20 rule. The days of ‘raising digital awareness’, 'undertaking digital health checks' or trying to convince SMEs to become more digitally mature are surely over. This is 2016. We should be focusing resources, time and effort on those businesses with the ability and motivation to become ‘digital leaders’.

We will also question whether the level and type of support available in Scotland is ‘fit for purpose’ in an era characterised by turbulent digital disruption. Having a better web site or making better use of social media will not, on their own, make Scottish SMEs immune from the threat of being disrupted. Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We need to up the ante. Urgently!

As always, comment and feedback are very welcome.

PS A big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read, like or comment on Post 1. We are currently sitting at 84 likes, 25 comments and 19 shares. I really do appreciate this very much. Its good to know that i am not alone in my thoughts. Thank you.

PS again - at the time of writing, it has just been announced that 500 jobs are at risk due the potential closure of Kwik Fit Insurance in Uddingston. My heart goes out to everyone involved in this. Unfortunately, it will not be the last announcement of this nature. What is our labour market strategy for dealing with a sustained period of structural unemployment as a consequence of digital disruption - in KF's case, the changing nature of how insurance is purchased.

Take care.

Jim H

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A fascinating new report has just been published looking at digital transformation at HMRC, the UK tax authority.

The report catalogues a series of errors which, it is claimed, have resulted in near meltdown of the UK tax system. There are very important lessons to be learned here for other public sector transformation projects; indeed for the private sector too.

Keynote Summary

  • HMRC launch a 'Building our Future (BoF)' programme to become the most ‘digitally advanced’ revenue service in the world. The core ‘vision’ is to replace phone and postal enquiries from members of the public and small businesses with automated online services. This will release staff from boring administrative tasks, processing forms or speaking with taxpayers. As a result staff will be freed up to work on more complex issues and retrained to tackle tax avoidance and evasion.
  • At least that was the 'spin'. The reality was thousands of redundancies and the closure of 170 HMRC offices located around the country.
  • Unfortunately the forecasts were wrong. The public kept calling and mail kept arriving. The reductions in staff numbers meant that the department became overwhelmed and standards of service to taxpayers collapsed.
  • To compensate for these failures management responded by heaping yet more pressure on staff, introducing a system of staff appraisals called performance management review. This and other management initiatives have simply led to more time lost to form filling and administration, further damaging the department's capacity to tackle tax evasion.
  • As a consequence of the above, the report argues that HMRC is at breaking point.
  • One of the main reasons for project failure is that improvements in service quality have never been at the heart of HMRC’s transformation programme. The primary driver of change has been to cut costs.
  • The report concludes that failure of 'Building our Future' poses a serious risk to tax collection in the UK, and with it, our public services.

A more detailed summary of the report can be found here.

You can download the full report entitled 'HMRC, Building an Uncertain Future' here.

As always, comment and feedback most welcome.

Take care.

Jim H

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The Scottish Government is looking for your thoughts and contributions as it prepares an update of the National Digital Strategy for 2017 and beyond. An innovative example of crowdsourcing/co-creation at its best or a deer caught in the headlights of a digital disruption express train, unsure how to respond? Is there a crisis of digital leadership in an area critical to the future competitiveness of the Scottish economy?

Ideas and contributions are being sought in six main areas: Connectivity, Economy, Skills, Public Services, Participation and Cyber Security. As someone who has worked at the coalface of digital developments in Scotland and internationally for over two decades, I will drip feed my own contribution in a series of blog posts over the next week or so. My interests are mainly the economy and skills themes.

We are not a world class digital nation – nowhere close

The current digital strategy for Scotland was published in 2011. It outlined the steps to be taken to “ensure that Scotland was well positioned to take full advantage of all the economic, social and environmental opportunities offered by the digital age”. The underlying vision was for Scotland to become a world-class digital nation by 2020.

The starting point in updating the national digital strategy should be an honest assessment of where we are, the progress made since 2011 benchmarked against leading digital nations – our digital strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

This is standard business strategy textbook stuff. I see no evidence of such foundation work being undertaken in the context of the updated digital strategy.

The ‘ideas’ web site calling for contributions to the debate states:

‘While the high-level aims of the (2011) strategy are still relevant today, the vast majority of the actions it describes have been delivered over the past five years’.

Where is the evidence to support this sweeping statement? I disagree that the vast majority of actions have been delivered.

Taking just one example, the 2011 strategy had a stated objective that:

‘Scotland’s enterprise agencies will play a critical role in helping us to deliver a world leading digital economy’.

In what way have we become a world leading digital economy? Are we really claiming that this key action has been successfully delivered when the Government’s own statistics show that only 3% of Scottish companies can be described as being ‘Digital Champions’? (Source: Digital Economy Business Survey 2014, Scottish Government).

Yes progress has been made over the last five years and there are exemplars of best digital practice in Scotland. However, we are nowhere close to being a world class digital economy. Despite two decades of digital business support being available to companies in Scotland through the enterprise network, only 3% are championing digital. Why? What are the barriers? What implications does this raise for future SME support policy in this area? More of the same?

An honest assessment of Scotland benchmarked against leading digital nations is also required.

For example, as Scotland procrastinates in developing a digital strategy ‘fit for purpose’ in an era of turbulent digital change, the UAE has just announced a target of becoming a world leader in Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, building on previous government initiatives promoting other disruptive technologies such as the blockchain, smart transportation, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence.

Dubai, in particular, is rapidly emerging as a world class digital nation. Key milestones over the last five years have included:

  • 2011 - introduction of e-payment cards for government services
  • 2011 - e-voting introduced
  • 2013 - all government services to be available through mobile devices and apps
  • 2013 - Smart Government launched – aim to become the world’s smartest city
  • 2014 - Happiness Index launched to measure the happiness and satisfaction of the public with digital public services – aim to be the world’s happiest city
  • Feb 2016 - 1,000 new digital initiatives launched to embrace the Internet of Things
  • May 2016 - world’s first 3D printed office block opened - vision of being a world leader in 3D printing technology
  • April 2016 - 25% of all transportation in Dubai to be smart and driverless by 2030
  • October 2016 - Dubai mandates Blockchain only Government documents by 2020
  • May 2016 - Dubai government services score 89% on the Happiness Index
  • Nov 2016 – become a world leader in Industry 4.0

Will our updated national digital strategy follow the lead set by Dubai? Will it have agreed KPIs and targets covering the latest technologies critical to the successful digital transformation of our eceonomy – IoT, automation, additive manufacturing, the Blockchain, Internet 4.0 and so on? While many 'talk the talk' in terms of being world class digital, Dubai and the UAE appear to be 'walking the walk'.

Other evidence exists to support the view that the UK/Scotland is falling behind in the global digital race.

As we plan Scotland’s digital strategy for 2017 and beyond, we really do need to cut the spin. Stop pretending that we are a leading digital nation. That does no-one any favours.

Research Urgently Required

In addition to the above, there needs to be a realistic assessment of where Scotland is positioned in relation to the rapid pace of digital change currently taking place. A realistic assessment based on sound research.

We live in an era of Digital Darwinism. Digital is NOT a sector. It will disrupt every industry in Scotland. The changes we have seen over the last twenty years are nothing compared to what is coming. No industry, no organisation, no individual will be immune from the threat of being disrupted.

As a nation, are we sleep walking into an on-coming digital tsunami?

While we see frequent forecasts and reports covering the potential economic impact of Scottish independence, the impact of Brexit, the impact of Trump’s election in the US, where is the research looking at the potential impact of digital disruption on the Scottish economy?

With some academic studies suggesting that 40 percent of jobs could be lost over the next decade or so as a result of automation, where is the research concerning the potential impact of digital disruption on Scottish labour markets, skills and employment?

How will the Scottish economy and Scottish jobs be affected by the following?

Broadband + Mobile Connectivity + Social Media + Enterprise Social + The Cloud + Big Data + Predictive Analytics + Algorithms + Internet of Things+ Artificial Intelligence + Robots + Automation + Cognitive Computing + 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing) + Wearables + Autonomous Vehicles + Drones + The Blockchain + Generation C = The End of Business as Usual

The short answer is we don’t know. Research is urgently required in this area to ensure that the updated digital strategy is built on a foundation of rock not sand.

As always, comments and feedback are very welcome.

More to follow……..

Jim H

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MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Digital have just published their 2016 Digital Business Global Executive Study and Research Report (July 2016).

Based on a survey of 3,700 executives across 131 countries and 27 industries, the main findings from the report, entitled Aligning the Organisation for Its Digital Future, are summarised below.

  • Almost 90% of managers and executives surveyed anticipate that their industries will be disrupted by digital trends to a ‘great or moderate’ extent.
  • Only 44% think they are adequately prepared for the disruptions to come.
  • The report argues that preparing for a digital future is no easy task. It requires developing digital capabilities which fully align activities, people, culture, and structure behind an agreed set of organisational goals. The biggest constraints on a unified approach to digital transformation are resource limitations, lack of talent, and the pull of other priorities. This leads to a piecemeal approach with executives managing digital initiatives as individual projects or limited to activities within a given division, function, or channel.
  • Some ‘leading digital’ companies, however, are overcoming these constraints, building digital capabilities that cut across the enterprise.
  • 90% of 'digitally maturing organisations' - companies in which digital technology has transformed processes, talent engagement, and business models - are integrating digital strategy with the company’s overall strategy.
  • A key finding of the report is the critical importance of organisational culture to successful digital transformation. Digitally maturing organisations have organisational cultures that share common features including: an expanded appetite for risk, rapid experimentation, heavy investment in talent, and recruiting and developing leaders who excel at “soft” skills.
  • From a digital leadership perspective, ‘leading a digital company does not require technologists at the helm.’

The report contains a very useful ‘Digital Business Interactive Tool’ allowing you to measure the progress being made by your own organisation benchmarked against the average for your industry.

As always, comment and feedback are very welcome.

Where does your organisation stand - digitally maturing or a laggard?

Jim H

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Building Buyer Personas

As a follow-up to our last post Content Marketing: Strategy and Planning, a second article on the CMI web site provides more specific advice on building buyer personas - Buyer Personas You Want To Use.

A persona can be defined as: 

'a composite sketch of a target market based on validated commonalities - not assumptions - that informs content strategy to drive productive buyer engagement (i.e., revenue)'.

To get value from your personas, you have to take the time to build them with enough depth and insight to enable your team to generate ideas and topics that resonate. A useful persona also informs you about tone of voice and style.

According to the article, there are nine essential parts to building detailed buyer personas that help you make good decisions about the content you create and manage for prospective buyers.

1. Create a day-in-the-life scenario

2. State the persona’s specific objectives

3. State the persona’s main problems

4. State the persona’s orientation toward their job

5. State the persona’s relevant obstacles

6. State the persona’s burning questions

7. State the persona’s content preferences

8. State some keywords and phrases the persona would use

9. Sketch out engagement scenarios for the persona

You can access the full article here.

Jim H

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