Digital by default: Transforming a nation [interview]

Tom Bryant introducing the ADBL Executive Diploma in Digital Business

The ADBL has a number of digital business leaders that contribute to our courses, informing, developing and training enroled executives. As a new feature on the ADBL blog, we’re going to regularly introduce our digital business leaders, offering a brief overview of their expertise, career history, and what it is that makes them leaders in their field.

This week, Tom Bryant explains some of his experiences and views on digital transformation: inward facing change being as essential as outward; the key challenges involved in transforming a government; and digital transformation as a holistic requirement across sectors.

As well as one of our session leaders on the ADBL’s (Academy of Digital Business Leaders) Diploma in Digital Business, Tom has previously worked as Senior Advisor on Digital and Technology Skill at the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS).

Tom knows first-hand that digital transformation holds cross-sector relevancy. Prior to his role in the public sector, Tom gained a great deal of experience working within the private sector, advising firms such as Barclays, 20th Century Fox and Centrica on business transformation programmes.

“One of the first things a company needs to realise about digital transformation is that it’s about much, much more than just digital marketing. Their strategy needs to consider the outward facing transformation, but also the inward facing change.

“This is relevant for almost any sector, almost any industry,” Tom explains. “Any commercial organisation needs to first understand how digital is impacting their business. Then they need to build the right digital skills in order to transform their business.”

Inward facing change: People and processes

It’s this inward facing change, the skills and ability held by people and processes within an organisation that is all too often overlooked when digital transformation is not thoroughly considered.

“Initially, a lot of companies focus on digitising their product range. They often forget about the process and the people.

“You need to consider how digital is inwardly affecting your organisation, how it’s altering skills transformation. Consider how you need to become more innovative, more agile, and more flexible in your culture. And then, of course, you need to think about your digital talent.

“How are you attracting, retaining, and building that digital talent in-house? That’s why I say digital transformation is about much more than just the artificial intelligence, the technology in digital. It’s also about that emotional intelligence – the skills, the culture, and the talent.”

Working at GDS, Tom ensured that the government’s digital transformation held its employees and their skill-set at the very centre.

“Less and less are we [the public] willing to stand in a queue to renew a passport, or to apply for a visa, or register to vote. We needed to understand the change in behaviour across the population and make an imperative for that digital transformation.

“Once we understood that and were able to look at the population, their preferences, and their change in behaviour, then that made it easier for us to get behind this digital transformation.

“Secondly, once we understood the needs of the customer and making that decision to go digital by default, then we needed to understand the digital skills required to meet that demand.

“We needed to know what digital skills requirements were required immediately today, skill requirements coming very quickly for tomorrow, and where our current skills capability sat.

The skills matrix: Highlighting existing and required skills

“To do that we needed to produce a skills matrix. That gave us around 350 key digital skills, broken out into 18 skill groups, connecting about 150 learning resources.Tom Bryant discussing the ADBL digital transformation framework

“We then carried out departmental skills assessments based on that matrix, to understand the skill gaps and start to put in place proactive development plans.”

The skills matrix Tom and his team created enabled government departments to quickly assess the skills they had available to them within their existing departments, giving clarity to which skills they could train existing staff in, or hire new staff to cover.

As Tom explains, creating such a wide-ranging skills matrix was no simple task, and required learning from commercially oriented organisations that had already successfully transitioned into digital-first mentalities.

“Because the digital transformation is happening, and was happening at the time, government departments needed an answer yesterday on what digital skills they needed in place. The way to go about creating a matrix like this was involving as many of those ministerial departments and agencies as possible, even in the creation of it.

“We also had about 26 subject matter experts across all fields of digital, contributing to skill definitions. We looked outside of government too, with external benchmarking from large corporate organisations like Thomson-Reuters, and start-ups like Cloudreach to really understand where they were in terms of skill gap understanding and skill requirements. We then applied that inwardly to government.

“We were able to isolate transferable skills: basic digital awareness, digital leadership, and agile ways of working. There are certain skills that all departments and roles need and we isolated those into skill groups, before communicating them across all departments.”

This matrix became a key contributing factor to the GDS’ inward facing priorities, highlighted in their digital transformation framework – an essential document for any organisation seeking to transform digitally.

The digital transformation framework

“Let’s look at the ADBL’s transformation framework, the seven priorities of digital transformation.

“In the framework there are outward facing priorities: adopt your customer’s perspective, and embrace new ways of working for example. But we made sure at least three priorities are inward facing: drive the digital mindset; innovate and iterate products and services; and build future talent.

“That’s a big part of a digital transformation. The ADBL’s digital transformation framework is about how digital is changing your people and processes, alongside product. Key priorities are embracing new ways of working, building digital talent, and driving digital mindsets.

“Those are three key priorities in our digital transformation framework that make sure an organisation is considering and contextualising all aspects of digital transformation.”

The ADBL’s digital transformation framework is a key element of the Executive Diploma in Digital Business, of which Tom is one of our session leaders.

Alongside the ADBL’s CEO, Michael Curry, and Ben Rowland, Co-Founder of Arch Apprentices, Tom discussed how to create a digitally capable organisation in our free webinar recently. You can watch the recording of the useful event for free.




Stephanie Khan

Posted July 20, 2015