Maria Benbow: What the heck does “digital transformation” mean?

Well the truth is, there is no defined answer, many have attempted it but it really does boil down to the person who is trying to articulate the vision, at best or literally, at its worse.

I commenced my career in local government at Westminster City Council in 2014.  Prior to that I had lead and delivered some major change programmes and innovative commercial solutions across the Aerospace and Defence sector, closing down sites; redesigning solutions for medics in war zones to transforming end to end processes from bids through to logistics.

So why, is this relevant?  Well, because irrespective of industry we all migrate to using the same language, thinking that it truly envelops what we are trying to achieve, by using consistent language surely it shows that we are keeping pace or dare I say it that we are ahead of the curve (everyone wants an award, right) but that importantly, we are trying to get people to buy into a concept which we can say others are doing so it’s ok, trust us.

Whist, I agree that familiarity with language can assist in breaking down the barriers, equally I think that it is of critical importance to bring people along with you, how you communicate will ultimate lead to success or not.  Human Factors research shows long term success has been achieved by creating emotional connections resulting in personal investment by all stakeholders, the most successful are those who have actively engaged their communities from the beginning.

So, how are we embracing this challenge and “what does success look like”.  The truth is that we are still on this path (I resisted the word ‘journey’), early indications are positive.  Let me share with you some of our thinking and the progress we have made.

Firstly, to get buy in from the organisation, we had the issue of the perception of a corporate programme trying to lead from the centre and at worst “take the savings” from the services, so we agreed some principles, the essence of these are:

  • The vision was connected directly to our Leader’s ‘City for All’ agenda;
  • The service area would receive savings attributed to their services;
  • The service would provide 2 secondees, access to their services, systems and knowledge;
  • The programme would develop both the secondees and broader staff;
  • The programme would ensure holistic review and design in support of the wider organisation’s goals and objectives;
  • The programme would include customers as part of the solution development;
  • Digital Transformation was defined as – redesign of the customer and user experience using technology as an enabler.

What has been achieved, we have the fantastic support from the Leader down, we are creating a range of solutions supporting positive customer outcomes.  We continue to look under the lid of the organisation to understand how and why our customers contact us, whilst reviewing a multitude of processes and data sets to ensure that we truly understand how we operate, we are working on ‘keeping it simple’ with our communications, but this is not as ‘simple’ as it seems (e.g. who knew how many definitions exist for the word ‘vulnerable’).

So what does Digital Transformation mean for me, it means that we are embracing and utilising technology, to enable our organisation and customers to re-imagine how we deliver our services making it easier for people to interact with us, whilst enabling a more proactive and preventative environment to support and protect the citizens we serve.

By Maria Benbow, Commercial & Digital Transformation Director, Westminster City Council 

If you would like to know more about driving digital transformation, you can hear Maria and a host of other digital experts speak at the Public Sector Show on 26th June, at Excel London.