Putting People First in the Digital Evolution

Wendy Henry, head of business change and digital adoption at Embridge Consulting, explains why people matter in government digital transformation just as much as technology. By focusing on the changing needs of people from the start, enterprises can reach their future digital outcomes faster.

You’re there. Your digital transformation is complete. Citizen services have been digitized. People can comment online about local planning applications, click to report a broken park bench – even pay council tax securely through the web.

However, digital evolution is about far more than moving services online. It’s about reimagining end-to-end public services delivery. It’s about large-scale, complex transformation programmes that future-proof public services. It’s about innovative delivery models, leadership, and talent development. 

Only when you truly connect your entire public sector organization – unifying finance, HR, and procurement functions, for example – will you become more agile, more focused on citizens’ needs, and more efficient.

Many would argue that technology is the salvation for digital evolution. Implement a modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution or customer relationship management (CRM) system, for example, and you can create a single, shared view of data – not silos.

You can make more confident decisions because you trust the data. Transactions are entered once, not a multitude of times. Citizens are more satisfied with the service agility they receive. 

Power to your people

It’s certainly true that technology is an important element to meaningful digital change, but it’s the people that determine the difference between digital success and failure. Without the human element, you will quickly realize how technology is merely an enabler and not the core driver of digital success. 

You need to bring humanity to digital evolution.

That isn’t easy either. For starters, the digital divide continues to exist. Shiny new technology is being deployed, but too frequently your people aren’t receiving the training they need to use it. Microsoft Office 365, for example, is so rich with features it can be overwhelming for non-technical users. Likewise, many of your people may not have access to digital connections, such as remote working maintenance teams that need to enter time sheets on the digital HR system. 

COVID-19 has exacerbated this problem. Some argue that a positive outcome of the pandemic has been to telescope ten years of change into two. People have been forced to use Zoom or Teams, for instance, accelerating their productivity.

But remote working has made skills training more difficult – people can no longer ask questions of someone sitting beside them. How often, for example, have you been on a video call only to find the other participants don’t understand how to ‘share screen’? 

Without people being at the center of your digital evolution, failure beckons. Without people being educated about change or trained in how to use the systems, people don’t feel part of the transformation.

A negative culture soon begins to pervade the organization. People push against change. Errors occur as data is mis-input. The customer experience declines. The digital transformation opportunity is lost.

No-one left behind

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here at Embridge Consulting we put people at the center of change. It’s in our DNA. We look at the individual to ensure each and every person in the organization is part of the change. It’s the ‘no one left behind’ mantra.

The focus needs to be on behavior, on culture, and on skills. By understanding how people behave currently, how they would like to work differently, and how that change can be brought about, change becomes easier. 

The prospect of change can be daunting, and it is important to find alignment among the people that change will affect. All key stakeholders should be engaged and on board with the proposed changes.

Additionally, empowering the users of any new technology is crucial. Ensuring they are suitably trained in the tool or technology’s use supports success and can create a culture of innovation by allowing room for creative and flexible thinking. Without the right people in the right places to run and manage new technology, you risk not fully realizing the benefits of these tools.

You need to reach all users. No one should be left behind.

Participate in research at London’s Digital Government event

We’d like to discover more about your own digital transformation experiences. During the upcoming Gov.net Digital Government conference on Wednesday 18 May in London, you can contribute to insightful new Embridge Consulting research to explore post-pandemic progress on public sector digital change. 

Where are you on your digital journey? What are your priorities? What are the cultural challenges you face? Take part in our short survey, linked here, to answer these questions and a few more. Embridge will then share the exclusive insights from peer organizations so you can benchmark your own progress.

You’ll find Embridge Consulting on Stand 14 at the Digital Government event. We look forward to seeing you there.