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Steps to Digital Transformation

Better technology understanding and better digital leadership is the start of a Digital Transformation journey. Here are a few steps that could help us get there.
Steps to Start A Digital Transformation Journey
Wikipedia tells us that Digital Transformation is about the changes applied when applying digital technology to all parts of human society. It is also the third and final stage in embracing digital technologies, from digital competence/skills (ability to use basic tech tools) to digital literacy (ability to use critical thinking and engage with multiple tools, including social media, and be able to find, capture and evaluate information) to digital transformation (ability to integrate digital with analogue and digitise existing analogue services).

This is big stuff for the everyday third sector and, of course, we should be ensuring digital competence and digital literacy are up to speed before delivering digital transformation - but that's covered in many areas, such as government supported Digital Inclusion schemes like Digital Communities Wales and Go On UK. There is far less support for the development of digital technology throughout the organisation to help us become more efficient, more effective and more sustainable. I also question if there is enough digital leadership within the sector as a whole.

For the private sector, digital transformation is no longer new. A Connected Futures article by Ade McCormack says being a Digital Leader isn't a role, it's a competency, and step 1 in the article is Transform the Head of Tech into someone who doesn't just manage the technology but who "understands how information and collaboration can be used to change the business". Step 2 is Transform the Tech Function from reactive management to being a "proactive change partner" and leave the reactive stuff to tech support companies.

I like this as it separates 'Functional Tech' from 'Fun Tech' - let someone else worry about the functional tech while you and your organisation look at new technical capabilities that allows the organisation to operate more smoothly and deliver a better service.

The only problem is that Digital Leadership barely exists as a funded function. After nearly 10 years of funded support, there is now zero independent funded technology support for the third sector in Wales. In the wider UK, it's very patchy. NCVO's IT Practical Support page is a list of suppliers (great suppliers, don't get me wrong) with no independent Digital Transformation companies to help with the thinking, the strategy and the vision.

Potential Ways Forward
There are a few potential ways forward to join up Digital Transformation for the third sector and I think the responsibility lies more with national infrastructure organisations to coordinate activity across the UK. So here are 4 steps to a digitally transformed sector:
  1. Increase leadership, drive and scope infrastructure Digital Strategies through NCVO and WCVA, borrowing from SCVO's innovative lead
  2. Build on statistical knowledge and information in the Lloyds Business Digital Report by commissioning ongoing qualitative and quantitative research into Third Sector Digital Literacy and Maturity issues to provide clear evidence of need to funders
  3. Deliver ongoing low level awareness raising workshops and webinars for the sector in the short term
  4. Embed Digital Development expertise within Local Infrastructure Development Teams at a regional level in the medium term to support voluntary groups directly
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