Associate Director, SOCITM
Digital transformation usually means access, automation and new technologies such as AI — but what about the user? Where do people fit in this evolution?
Say digital transformation, and you might think ‘self-service access,’ ‘automation’ or using new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) or the Internet of Things (IoT). Whether it’s the public or private sector, there’s often a focus on driving internal productivity and increasing digital inclusion by improving customer access using smartphones.
All this is important, but it is too narrow a concept and missing the real point of digital transformation. It also creates ‘blind spots’ and uncontrolled business risks.
‘Digital’ is fundamentally about people, not ‘IT’
We are beginning to see changes in the way digital planning is being undertaken, but it is often too hard in practice because it requires cross-boundary integration. This challenges budget holders, traditional lines of responsibility, ‘vertical’ policy development and a desire for centralisation.
Today, we can use digital data analytics to demonstrate the interconnectedness of many environmental, social and economic challenges that cause major headaches for politicians in decision-making — but only with a new construct in power bases.
For example, how investment in environmental improvements can benefit health and wellbeing and business opportunities. It can show where investment in social care would deliver much greater value in hospital services and the UK workforce. It can also support moving from our traditional Victorian hospital models to ‘virtual’ hospitals that interconnect with a whole variety of social, employment and educational support services.
We can use digital data analytics to demonstrate
the interconnectedness of many environmental,
social and economic challenges.
Focusing on the human aspects of digitalisation
In most organisations, business cases for digital investment tend to be constructed on a narrow vertical hierarchy of measurable benefits — such as the cost/benefits that a new system could bring.
A limiting focus on short-term and narrow benefits disguises both risk and opportunity, underestimating value or missing cross-service cost benefits. We need to be better at constructing proposals with tangible and intangible benefits that cross traditional boundaries.
A joined-up government is not a new concept but remains elusive. Even within central government, it is hard to join basic things such as corporate services across departmental boundaries — let alone unite resources, policies and digital investments all focused on the special circumstances of regional populations. A stronger focus on the human aspects of digitalisation is where the real value can be found — and the risks contained.