Perfect Storm: Digital Disruption, Devolution and Austerity

Written by James Fintain Lawler, CEO at Digital Alchemist Consulting Services

At our recent Digital Leaders South East Salon in Reading, Thames Valley we discussed the challenges faced by the public, third and private sector communities as they chart their way through what might be called The Perfect Storm of Digital Disruption, Devolution and Austerity. In fact you could also say that in these circumstances digital transformation is more like an Odyssey than a mere journey.

We chose to hold the Salon in Reading Thames Valley as part of the Thames Valley Festival of Digital Disruption Week which made the Salon and the week an exciting blur of creative and innovative insights.

Our lead discussants for the Salon were Sarah Burnett, Vice President, Everest Group and Deputy Chair, British Computer Society Women and a member of Tech UK WIT Council; and Richard Davies who is a Reading, Thames Valley, Lead Member & Councillor and Director for Holy Brook Ltd and Advanced Renewables Ltd. It is worthy of note also to mention that Computer Weekly classifies Sarah Burnett as one of The 50 most influential women in UK IT 2015.

Economic regional background

The recent Tech Nation report cited that Reading & Bracknell had achieved a Digital Gross Value Add of £6.4 billion, which is a 40% growth for the period 2011-2014. This same period showed a 23% growth in digital turnover with a 19%growth in digital employment.

However it should also be noted that the region also has two areas in South Reading (the far south of Whitley ward and to the south of Northumberland Avenue in Church ward) which fall into the 10% most deprived areas in England.

Salon discussion points

What is digital disruption?

Some described digital disruption as the digitisation of the end to end process with the ability to change the look, feel and access to the service to suit one’s needs.
Successful business transformation enabled by digital requires a complete shift in mindset from continuous to quantum improvement. The disruptive norm will be a 100 times improvement in innovation, at a tenth of the previous cost with a 100 fold improvement in value to the citizen or user. In summary it can be argued that the new value proposition dramatically displaces the value delivered by the incumbent or service.

Market perspective

Current priorities: The Salon discussed that recent market research emanating from large organisations highlighted that the top priority for these organisations centred on efficiency with the process, self-service, SAAS being some of the key aspects. The second priority for these organisations was investing for growth which includes new product development. These organisations focus on digital enablement, infrastructure redesign, cyber security and business process automation enabled by robotic process automation.

An interesting statistics from the research reveals that the lead European large scale organisations invest 12% to 14% of their IT budget into digital. The equivalent statistics for the public sector is 5.3% of their IT budget is digital.

Future priorities: These large scale and complex organisations saw their future priorities being as follows:

A. Managing integrated data and its’ analytics

B. Robotic process automation

C. Digitisation of customer processes

Council perspective

The Council has taken a three-step approach to digitisation:

1. Enhance and improve the Council website regarding accessibility and ease of interaction

2. Continue the channel shift to provide citizens and users key on-line services

3. Develop that support what people wish to do in their civic life: citizen centred digital services

The Future

Going forward the Council is focussing on:

  • Continued modernisation and digitisation.
  • Learning lessons from the private sector: what has worked and what has not.
  • Develop Councillor diversification to ensure that the Council fully reflects the regional diversity.

Salon thoughts

  • Continue the great progress made to date.
  • Provide services that are convenient, efficient, accurate and timely to suit the needs of the citizen.
  • Ensure that those in deprived areas are digitally inclusive.
  • Provide support to vulnerable citizens so that their needs inform the digitisation of services.
  • Focus on digitisation to contribute to budget target.
  • Simplify the delivery of services so that the front line can focus on complex cases.  Improve best in class collaborative practices across local authorities
  • Ensure continued oversight of the digital transition programme.

My thoughts

While the recent Tech Nation report cited the significant Digital GVA growth in the Thames Valley, I believe that to sustain this growth the Thames Valley needs to have a clear and concise strategy to ensure that;

  • the digital strategy delivers a quantum improvement in greater efficiency and a better citizen experience, at a lower cost.
  • services respond with integrated life event platforms.
  • supports inter-regional collaboration to deliver end to end value based digital services.
  • funded training initiatives are available for children, young adults, parents, elders, teachers and leaders.
  • funding support is provided to stimulate innovation and unicorn growth.
  • develop best in class knowledge hub for each practice and service area across local authorities
  • the region leverages “open data” across the region to enhance the speed of evidence- based decision making?

“We need a fundamental change in mindset to deliver a quantum improvement in efficiency and services both in the public and private sectors”.

We had a great Salon with excellent representation from the public, private and third sectors. The

Salon revealed some true “digital diamonds”.
I look forward to seeing you all the next Digital Leaders South East Salon.
Thank you to all who attended and especially to Sarah and Richard for their excellent insight.


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