Our monthly digital transformation column for Manchester Digital continues this month with Discerning Digital MD Richard Lucas's highlight from this year's National Digital Conference.

"As digital continues its ascent to top level government and business agendas, I find it fascinating to discover what lessons there are to be learnt for businesses further down the chain.

"This past month presented such an opportunity with the National Digital Conference on 25th June.

"An annual event that brings together both commercial and public sector digital leaders to discuss opportunities for digital growth, transformation and social innovation, this year’s event piqued my interest particularly owing to its discussions on how we can empower a nation of digital businesses.

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"A powerful keynote from Nick Williams, consumer digital director of Lloyds Banking Group, outlined why Lloyds is investing in helping businesses improve their digital skills.

"Williams revealed that research by Lloyds showed that 25% of organisations surveyed didn’t think digital was relevant to them, and stressed the importance of fostering a ‘digital mindset’ - an approach I like.

"For businesses to utilise digital and truly reap its rewards, it’s important that they develop this digital mindset across all functions, not just marketing but customer service to HR to finance.

"Williams also made a crucial point that digital isn’t about technology, it’s actually about ensuring you have the best people with the right skills in your business.

"I can’t stress enough the importance of fostering a culture that understands digital in your business. The most challenging transformation projects I’ve worked on have been those for whom cultural change and supplying the right skillsets were prominent features.

Simplicity and Transformation in Government

"Cabinet Minister Paul Hancock delivered a keynote focusing on the government’s work to deliver increasingly-digitised services, and how technology is helping the government to improve the lives of millions of people.

"The Minister spoke of his desire for simplicity and the need to ensure digital is the tool to achieve simplified outcomes for citizens, not an outcome in and of itself.

"He outlined some key improvements including the integration of a number of common payments systems to create one simplified system, and the development of a prototype status tracking platform that will allow people to check on their progress of applications such as passport or driving licences online.

"The Minister also discussed taking an iterative, flexible approach to transformation, which I found interesting.

"Many of my clients often view digital transformation as an overarching, time-consuming project that makes wide scale changes, which can seem daunting. The truth is that there is another way - I often recommend taking a project-based approach and prioritising key areas of transformation, starting with short-term wins and working towards more holistic changes.

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"Although the Minister’s speech was impressive, it appears that even the government encounters internal cultural resistance to the digital agenda.

"Digital champion Baroness Martha Lane Fox made the point on Twitter that a recent civil service survey revealed only one third of respondents considered the digital agenda to be a major focus on what they did. Furthermore, just 39% use customer behaviour data to help design public services.

"This indicates to me that the cultural changes required to truly embed digital within an organisation might be one of the most crucial requirements of any transformational programme.

"There were many interesting conversations happening on the #ND15, which I’d recommend dipping into. From a business perspective, it seems that we have work to do to ensure the urgency and importance of digital is grasped by businesses of all levels, and its benefits are understood.

"I’ll leave the final word to the Minister:

“Technology marches on. And we who see the transformative power of technology, we who would pave the path people travel: we have work to do."

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