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Getting transformation right means the right skills and approach to data, all wrapped up in an Agile mindset, especially in a challenging, uncertain environment

At the heart of digital transformation lies data, but to fully exploit its possibilities you need to develop the right skills for digital transformation which can be especially challenging for both SMEs and public sector bodies.

By James Fraser

02/04/2020

At the heart of digital transformation lies data, but to fully exploit its possibilities you need to develop the right skills for digital transformation which can be especially challenging for both SMEs and public sector bodies.

Like all of us, these types of organisations are experiencing a challenging and uncertain current environment. Even in normal times, they face intense pressure to enhance services, improve outcomes and drive efficiencies despite resource constraints. And all organisations experience enormous challenges with data in general, including with data silos, volume, value, fidelity and timeliness.

So whether you are a public or private sector organisation your biggest digital challenge is data and deriving maximum value from it. Data is crucial to increase competitiveness and reduce cost in the private sector, and improve service delivery and increase efficiencies in the public sector. This poses a major transformation challenge, but how do you go about managing.

To enable data driven transformation programmes, organisations should create a single view of the truth – a unified view of their data. This requires the right data architecture and the skills to build it, which in turn means you need to invest in developing your IT team’s capabilities in relational databases, data warehouses, data lakes, data mesh, and Lambda and Kappa architecture! You can do this through training and development or hiring consultancies that will help you build your data architecture while transferring skills to your organisation. Or you can do a combination of both – but the latter is almost always more efficient in the long run.

Transformation happens at the intersection of technology, data and culture, and this poses a multi-disciplinary and complex problem that most organisations struggle to grapple with. The Agile approach is well suited to this type of business challenge. It emphasises the importance of outcomes, ensures the people closest to the problem are empowered to solve it, addresses business problems using feedback and iteration, and encourages teams to work together to approach problems from different angles. For example, public sector organisations could consider bringing in SMEs to quickly to do proof of concept, while working closely with staff on the ground to achieve quick wins and demonstrate they can solve the issues, before engaging in larger scale data transformation projects. This is preferable to scoping out and attempting a big project and ultimately getting bogged down in bureaucracy and losing steam! It could also mean selecting partners that don’t necessarily have previous experience in government but do have a deep bench of expertise in data having worked with, and delivered good outcomes for, other complex organisations. It’s important to bear in mind you don’t always know the end point in transformation journeys so adaptability, creativity and resilience are key.

So think outside the box – there are different ways to get data transformation right but Agile is a great guide along the way.

James Fraser is Public Sector Director, Digiterre