Innovation, transformation and people

Three words come to mind as I reflect on this year's Socitm Spring conference: innovation, transformation and people. What you'll notice from those three words is that they don't include technology. That's because a key theme was the technology as the enabler, not the solution. 

If you've ever read any previous blogs of mine, you'll realise that this is a theme that's dear to my heart. Mainly because that's what we always say about Knowledge Hub. At the end of the day the techie part is really there to help you get a job done, achieve an outcome.

To pick up on my three key words again, here are some highlights that go along with them...

What an inspiring story we heard from Anna Piperal of Enterprise Estonia. Imagine for a moment, a world where 99% of state services are online (with the exception of marriage, divorce and property deals), you only have to provide the government your details once (as opposed to several times for different departments), a tax declaration takes 3 minutes (and a tax refund takes 5 days), you can vote online using your digital identity and setting up a business takes 18 minutes. Sound fanciful? No, this is the reality in Estonia.

Yes, it's a much smaller country, but there are hugely valuable lessons to learn from what has taken place in Estonia, not least its approach to sharing data to make all of the above (and more) possible. Through the e-identity a citizen can easily and simply access and conduct all his or her business with the state. Anna herself mentioned an example where she renewed her driving licence via mobile app in 2 minutes flat when she arrived at Gatwick airport and it will be waiting for her when she gets home in 5 days time.

What a thrill that the whole day had a transformation focus, not a technical one. There was a great interactive poll session with Socitm's Andy Rogers and Adapt2Digital's Mel Ross, which highlighted that while almost all organisations said they are running some kind of "transformation" programme, almost all organisations also said that their people don't understand the difference between incremental change and genuine wholesale transformation.

I heard mention of the dreaded "legacy systems" on several occasions throughout the day, but alongside that was a genuine will to transform things. We should stop seeing those legacy systems as a barrier we hide behind, more as something that needs (gradually) sorting out. This was a determining factor with all councils who spoke. Wherever they are on the transformation journey, they're not allowing the old systems to stop them from doing something new. Good on them.

Most exciting of all was that it seemed a unanimous point of agreement that people are really at the heart of everything. Whether we're talking about staff in terms of bringing people with you on the transformation journey; encouraging space for innovative thinking and ideas; or developing everyone's digital skills. Or if we're talking about the customer in terms of putting them and their needs at the centre of everything we do. 

The final session of the day was about the women in IT project led by outgoing Socitm President Nadira Hussain. She was joined on the platform by Joanna Smith of the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust and MP Chi Onwurah. It was an interesting session that highlighted the need to continue to promote technical careers to women and girls and to encourage them into roles within local government and the public sector.

Great strides have been made over the last couple of years in terms of raising the profile of women in IT and I'm pleased to hear that Geoff Connell, the new Socitm President intends to continue the focus on diversity in IT and developing and promoting roles for young people in technology.

It was great to see that the focus of the day was firmly on the people side of things rather than too many techie discussions. This is always the case in Knowledge Hub, as you, our members, are, as I often say, our lifeblood.

Find out more about the Socitm Network on Knowledge Hub and its groups here.

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Former Member 5 Years Ago
Hi Liz - the story of Enterprise Estonia does make me wonder what the sticking point is that prevents similar approaches in the UK. It would be interesting as part of the Estonia experience to know if a) detailed data sharing agreements were required and b) was the software used built or off the shelf. Years ago I was involved in looking at data sharing for 'protected children' - the culture at that time was not 'yes, lets do it' but for valid (?) reasons there was a bit of resistance. Re the second point, for a current project we did an options appraisal and whilst building our own software would have given the best outcomes for customers and staff, again for valid (?) reasons this was turned down. So the point I would make is that when considering the POT (People/Organisation/Technology) implications of any project, Technology and People are rarely the main problem with delivering innovation - often it is the culture of the organisation (including risk averse, not challenging the established policies etc.) that is the problem. Changing cultures is often the key to enabling transformation
Liz Copeland 5 Years ago in reply to Former Member . - Edited
Hi Nick, I've just had a look through my notes, but don't think I wrote down whether it was off the shelf tech or not. I have a feeling they built it, but other KHub members who were there and remember might be able to advise. Re. data sharing, I think the key is the strong e-ID that everyone has. It's now simply part of the culture (as you point out, this is often the issue). I'm not sure what kind of agreements were required in the beginning, but the point was made that after they came out of the Soviet Union they were building a country from scratch, so didn't have all the potential trappings of legacy systems that we have here. Their general attitude to data sharing seemed very healthy and not risk averse, but perhaps this is partly to do with the fact that everyone sees the benefit of how well it all works. I imagine Socitm will be making the slides available soon, so they will provide a bit more info for you hopefully. Liz
Former Member 5 Years ago in reply to Liz Copeland .
Hi Nick, interesting article here from the day; From what I can gather they formulated an entirely new legal framework based around data sharing, and then purely due to financial constraints were forced to use local SMEs to collaboratively build these systems and services. Also one couple of years back on the economist:
Former Member 5 Years ago in reply to Former Member .
Hi Scott - thanks for the links an reinforces what I was thinking. Does make me think that if we took a step back and applied systemic thinking around the cost/benefit ("police are 50X more efficient", "the hospital can get you the right kind of blood and check for any medicine allergies"..) we should be saying " let's do it" as it does make sense but needs everyone (especially government) to see the opportunities.
Liz Copeland 5 Years ago in reply to Former Member .
Hi Nick, Socitm have just published the presentations from last week's conference. Anna's presentation can be found here: Cheers, Liz
Former Member 5 Years ago in reply to Liz Copeland .
Hi Liz - slick presentation but what would have been useful was more on lessons learnt (what were the obstacles, how they were overcome etc. etc.). Really exciting all the same!