Culture, Change and Collaboration

Written by Andy Burke, Project Manager at Sopra Steria

The third Digital Leaders Northern Ireland salon took place in Belfast on Friday 12th June with approximately 30 delegates gathering for the captivating subject of Culture Change and Collaboration.

As companies are being challenged to leverage increased agility in more innovative ways to maximise their use of digital, they increasingly need to adopt new organisational behaviours.

Jackie Henry (Senior Partner, Deloitte, and CBI Council member ) was the first lead discussant. She provided a fascinating insight into Deloitte’s digital transformation.

Starting from scratch two years ago, huge change has been undertaken and this is especially true for Belfast, now a Digital Centre of Excellence driving the company digital strategy and providing 500 much needed jobs to the economy. The Belfast Technology Studio is one of only 15 Greenhouse sites in the world, a place where the business ideas of major clients are nurtured using the latest techniques and technologies.

Jackie gave an insight into the ingredients of success for such a massive cultural shift: strong leadership, buy in from Deloitte, a small core team with a “Can Do” attitude, pioneering ideas, a willingness to push boundaries and execution.

As skills had been a major limiting factor, networks were built with local educational establishments and graduates are now being offered different entry points into the company. 22 school leavers will be recruited for the first time in August, a model which is now being rolled out nationally.

Persistence, a pioneering attitude and excellent IT delivery were all essential for removing internal company barriers.

 Trisha Ward (Assistant Director, Libraries NI) was the second lead discussant. Libraries NI was setup in 2009 from 5 different Education and Library Boards and employs over 800 staff, with an older age profile, delivering services from 98 locations.

Trisha described the introduction of a new self-service model in more than a fifth of libraries, wifi in all libraries  and online systems and how their associated impact on staff and the public was managed. Change implementation was led by a small team comprised of trainers and champions supported by a small IT team. The multi-disciplinary teams made use of  tools likeMS Lync  to offer a hands-on experience and shared knowledge using Dropbox ,shared network drives and Instant messaging . “Face to face” communication delivered the best results. Blogs and Instant Messaging also worked with Wikis proving less successful.

In developing services, Libraries NI collaborates with a number of stakeholders, including partnership with departments like the Department of Finance and Personnel. Innovation teams from the key service priorities consider how to best meet customer needs.

Over 5000 people were involved in online learning programmes last year and more and more online services are being rolled out for example customers accessed 50,000 magazines online in the last six months. Using social media tools like Flickr and Facebook has been successful in ‘crowdsourcing’ information on heritage resources like photographs for example. The Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) is the sponsoring body of Libraries NI and has been very supportive of this period of transformation.

Trisha emphasized the importance of having a “serve the community” focus with the goal of being valued by your customers.

Chairman Robin Knowles opened discussions by asking if the profile of an employee had changed as a consequence of more digital transformation.

Trisha confirmed there had been a shift from managers with Library qualifications towards a structure which valued other qualifications like IT and teaching., Libraries NI is moving out of a period when they had to recruit all posts internally initially to being able to recruit externally.  There is an emphasis on libraries’ role in making the technologies easy to use and available to everyone, including the elderly. This is especially important at a time when some other services in the community are being scaled back e.g. bank branches.

Jackie concurred by saying Deloitte was growing and recruiting; they were managing careers and moving away from more traditional career paths.

Adding a digital element to the skills of existing staff had worked extremely well for Libraries NI and Deloitte had created a Graduate Programme with a 9 week immersion course.

The discussion moved on to whether change had been evolutionary or the result of a change framework.

Deloitte had been evolutionary at first, starting small in Belfast with a little structure and a focus on delivering well. Successes were highlighted to the company and backed up by performance data. After a year this switched to a framework as more rigour and governance was introduced alongside clear objectives.

Libraries NI followed a more structured planned change approach as  they had a budget and needed to procure and implement within two years. The vision was clear, deployment was iterative and momentum built up.

Agile was viewed as the optimum method for transformational change projects however some organisational processes aren’t always a good fit. Agile must be implemented correctly and the need for strong project governance remains undiminished. Organisations must deliver what the customer needs, not what they think it should provide.

Fit for purpose teams need to be picked carefully and they should not over engineer. Change ambassadors and social networking tools can help to overcome the traditional obstacles to change. A book by Euan Semple “Organisations don’t tweet, People do” was recommended.

Approaches to change will vary, as will the technologies deployed, however motivated and involved individuals remain central to driving any successful transformation project.

  • At a time when the N.I. Executive is fully committed to digital we all must embrace change, especially middle management.
  • There is a need for clear leadership, evolving and getting buy-in from staff with the right mix of skills (champions, risk takers, finishers and others).
  • There has to be a willingness to change with a clear focus on the customer.
  • A collaborative approach needs to be embraced to resolve issues.

Andy Burke is Project Manager at Sopra Steria.


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