“When a problem is identified, you create a paper and form a committee.”The sheer number of stakeholders, functions, assets (digital and physical), and (being pragmatic) sources of revenue often make decision making the function of committee upon committee. Often this process can take years from the submitting of a paper highlighting the problem to a point where the problem is ready to be tackled. Precious time consumed with discussion and aiming for consensus while the marketplace marches on, innovators and disruptors enter the market, and the attention of the audience drifts very quickly to those offering what it is that the audience wants, and that is delivered in the manner in which the audience has come to demand it. This is, of course, easier stated than activated, as one of the delegates noted. “Unlike a house that can be knocked down and rebuilt, the professional body has to be evolved and updated on the fly.” While the specific route to achieving organisational agility is of course a unique journey for each professional body, common threads include establishing a shared vision, empowerment leading to a rise in customer centric thinking, and the breaking down of workplace silos. Digital Transformation is not a solution to a problem, it is an organisational journey. The organisation needs somebody in a role that will ask the right questions and apply due diligence when acquiring IT. There is a need to make a shift in order for IT to become a partner for the rest of the organisation with a sufficiently large enough umbrella to capture IT purchasing across the business, rather than having technology decisions being made in each department independently. A delegate shared one experience demonstrating resistance to share data within the organisation. An anecdote was shared about the response to a request to integrate CRM systems, which alarmingly was not dissimilar to what one might expect from the NRA when questioned on the matter of gun control. Another challenge is that of ownership regarding the IP being created as new systems are integrated into the business, and how to begin a transition of the systems and IP in-house as a core capability as a means to reduce exposure to suppliers. Too often we hear of multi-year technology projects which, despite promising the world result in a less than flattering response from the teams who inherit them in their day to day operations. This raises important questions about the caution required as we typically empower technology oriented questions to an occasionally ‘technology disoriented’ set of senior stakeholders. Given the pace of digital change, digital experience can rapidly lose relevance, and the right questions must be asked in order to ensure projects have the best chance of success. Seldom will all the right questions come from the digital seniority or from within the organisation. While there is plenty of thought into the strategy, often the clutch to engage the vision is missing.
“We invest a significant amount of money every year in updating our pdf.”As an example of leadership provoking the right questions and seeking opportunities to improve, one organisation decided to run fundamental personification and testing of the customer journey with regards to joining. This exposed no fewer than 5 steps. 1) Navigate to the ‘join’ webpage 2) Download a pdf 3) Complete form by hand 4) Scan form 5) Email form to a contact within the organisation The data journey then continues, with internal resource required to enter the handwritten form into the database. Only then is a response able to be generated and sent to the customer. Not only was this cumbersome for the newest members, but this journey is required annually as part of the renewal process. The incumbent technology is driving the experience, rather the other way around. The business must design services around members going forward to move from a position of ‘signing up’ to one of ‘please share your email address so that I can begin to build a relationship with you.’ As an example of ‘test and see’, another organisation made a small investment to record a series of expert led, topic specific lectures (traditionally delivered from the lectern to a live audience) and offering the lecture to be viewed remotely as an opt in. Huge success was realised, as demonstrated when the system crashed due to the overwhelming demand. Having demonstrated the response, the business case now exists to invest in this with greater gusto. The results came from the appetite to “just do something” so as to listen and learn and, if it all goes wrong, to acknowledge and share the learning opportunity. Leadership is key; the business is often aware of the ongoing inefficiencies and issues, yet may often be waiting for the opportunity, the question, the challenge, even the permission, to do things differently and begin the process of improvement.
“We created a burning platform. People ask me ‘is there enough stuff on fire now?’”A question was raised regarding the perception amongst the organisation of a ‘burning platform’ and how quickly do organisations need to move. Some staff and many members have been part of this one organisation longer than our delegate has been alive; significant resistance to change exists, both internally and externally. To combat the response to change of ‘I don’t have time’, one organisation adopted an accelerated variation of agile project management methodology. By moving to fortnightly sprints, the organisation has countered the lack of ability for rapid decision making, drawing a line in the sand and demanding action to be taken within short focused periods of work with very positive results. By making an operational change, demanding that the business embrace moving quickly, and asking brave questions with the desire to challenge thinking, a shift to where the organisation is beginning to ask, ‘What is it that we can we do now?’ has been achieved.
“If we don’t sort it out, our people will simply run away to someplace else where the IT works better.”The member experience is a direct result of the employee experience; don’t think just about the member experience. It’s not just about the members. Many of our staff will say that they don’t know what digital transformation is and naturally will not be enthused or too supportive. We need to be able to transform our business and see if we can make their day to day working more efficient. It was agreed that today’s professional body simply cannot be a collection of hundreds of staff wanting to act like it is at the cutting edge whilst operating like a university from the 1960s. One organisation found traction in positioning transformation as the solution to staff concerns, and means to improve their own experience at work. Achieving greater efficiency, streamlining of process, leveraging of data, customer centricity and more; these all ceased to be feared challenges related to change, and instead became relevant and value driven pursuits to better serve the membership. Rolling out 16 shiny new IT modules is of little value if you have a staff member who just wants to be able to manage a simple set of tasks better, and drive efficiency in their daily operations. Management can be guilty of creating initiative overload, whereas the people at the coalface can already identify which activities can be stopped, which can be improved, and what new activities need to be started to improve both the working lives of the employees as well as the value delivered through to the members. By starting with workshops to explore the current staff experience and identify pain points, focus was shifted to reframe the staff as the initial beneficiaries of transformation, with the shared objective being in allowing them to deliver increased value to the membership.
“If you have a poor system and modernise it electronically, you now have a poor electronic system.”Leadership must also trust those charged with transformation; Leadership do not need to fully understand transformation, but it certainly helps. With a swathe of analysts and six-sigma gurus and the like, one group still found that they deliver very little. And the reason they don’t deliver is that those on the operational side of the business don’t own the problem.
There is a growing demand from the members for us to have, and to state an opinion.For another, very newly formed, organisation, the membership is looking to the association to take the risk and be the first mover; the industry as a whole is far behind other sectors largely due to complications around data and privacy and a general lack of appetite for adopting new technology. In this situation, the responsibility to lead transformation for the sector lies with the professional organisation itself. The professional body has the trust and the support of the membership to litmus test the change required to drive the profession into a more digitally enabled future.