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Digital success isn’t all about technology…

Posted: 30th August 2016 at 9:04 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Article by: John Forrester, Ancitel Spa Napoli

Digital success isn’t all about technology. The 2015 Digital Business Global Executive Study and Research Project by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte points to strategy as a key driver in the digital sector [1]. The global study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte found that “maturing digital businesses” tend to be focused on integrating the various digital technologies, whether social, mobile, analytics, and cloud, to transform the way they work while less-mature digital businesses are more focused on meeting separate discrete business issues with individual digital technologies.

The wave of change in recent years has also impacted local governments in a similar fashion. Those further along, more oriented to digital technologies are usually focused on integrating the various offers to deliver more efficient and more effective services to their communities. Those local government who have had difficulty transforming their services tend to focus on using digital technologies for specific problems and issues.

The capacity to transform local government is greatly dependent on the support and commitment of leaders who choose to foster change and create new responses. While this is consistent with past developments, what is different in recent years is that “risk taking” has become a cultural norm as technologies have multiplied and demands for more services have increased on local governments.

As the Sloan study suggests digital strategy is what drives digital transformation. Few local governments that are in the early stages of digital transformation have in our experience a clear and coherent digital strategy. A criticial point made in the study and we have seen borne out in our experience is that “digital transformation isn’t really about technology”. The significance of digital technology comes from how local governments integrate them to transform their organizations and their work.

The power of a “digital transformation strategy” lies, the authors suggest, in a clear definition of the scope and the range of objectives. Those local governments less experienced digitally usually focus on individual technologies and develop activities, we have found, that are more operational in orientation – to solve issues. Strategies in more digitally oriented local governments are driven by the idea of achieving transformation.

Our experience with those local authorities with more developed digital approaches are much more likely to provide employees the necessary skills than those with less developed digitally oriented activities. Developing a successful digital strategy and understanding the potential impact of digital technology on organisations are skills that are lacking in local governments only just facing the impact of digital changes.

As in many areas taking risks even in some areas of government has become a cultural norm. Those local government actively searching for new solutions and services are by and large more confortable taking risks than those less digitally evolved. These local authorities with less developed policies and experience with digital transformation need to be helped to “embrace failure as prerequisite for success”. Being confortable and being digitally fluent doesn’t require a mastery of technologies. As the Sloan study puts it “it requires the ability to articulate the value of digital technologies to the organizations’s future”. The MIT study also cites Nicholas Carr in his article “IT Doesn’t Matter” that technology should not be seen as an end in itself but rather as a means to achieving long range strategic goals for the community [2].

What separates digitally aware local governments from the others tends to be a clear digital strategy with both the community and leadership actively involved in driving the transformation. Our research has also shown that hasty implementation of technologies has often failed in local governments as in other areas because little attention was paid to changing cultural mindsets and work flows; in addition, little attention typically was paid to building cultures that help foster change. Generally speaking a clear, well developed digital strategy will help drive digital transformation and the critical factor often is communicating this strategy not just inside the organization but also to the community at large.

We have repeatedly found in various projects over the years that local governments in the early stages of technological change tend to be overly focused on technology over strategy. Their activities tend to take on a distinctly operational focus concentrating on improving efficiency and the end-user experience. Far too few local authorities concern themselves early on with the broader issues of transformation to achieve strategic goals. Those governments with more of a sense of the power of digital transformation have sought early on to use technology to improve innovation and decision-making in their organizations.

Creating strategies capable of transforming their organisations might be best done, as the study suggests for businesses, positing a vision of where local government should be in the near future and then working backwards. Where our Project can be helpful is in those local governments still in the early stages of digital maturation that lack the skills and experience to recognize how digital tools may help transform their organization and its service delivery to the community at large.

John Forrester
Ancitel Spa Napoli

[1] Information at

[2] Nicholas G. Carr, “IT Doesn’t Matter,” Harvard Business Review 5 (May 2003).



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