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Why top managers need to 'do digital'

By: Vicky Sargent, Director, Boilerhouse Media
Published: Monday, April 14, 2014 - 08:39 GMT Jump to Comments

It is essential that top managers understand their organisation’s IT and digital opportunities/constraints, and how profoundly these can impact the future of an organisation.

"I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time", wrote the seventeenth century French mathematician Blaise Pascal, in a much quoted witticism.

The same problem seems to affect many of today’s IT and 'digital' experts, whose presentations are stuffed with acronyms (API, RDFa), out-of-context words (parse, platform) and incomprehensible diagrams, because they haven't the time to communicate in plain English.

All experts have an interest in preserving their professional status by being obscure and using their own special jargon. This would be ok if their actions only affected the organisation from time to time. But digital ways of doing things, often supported by complex legacy IT systems, have become pervasive and central to every aspect of every organisation.

So, it has become essential that top management really understand their organisation’s IT and digital opportunities and constraints, and grasp how profoundly these can impact all aspects of its future operations.

This was the thinking behind Do you do digital?, the 16-page guide we have just written and designed for Socitm - the association for IT and digital professionals working in local public services.

With hefty reports on digital public services appearing on a weekly basis, we wanted to make digital engaging, recognisable, and above all something that can be actioned by senior managers responsible for the services millions of people use every day.

Do you do digital? aims to avoid jargon and provide a simple, plain English guide to the scope and potential reach of digital activity within organisations providing local public services.

It is highly visual and packed with illustrations - we wanted to ‘show not tell’, and demonstrate what good 'looks like’ with short, punchy, vignettes of digital in practice, in the back office and on the frontline.

Starting with the growth in internet use and government policies that are accelerating the pace of digital implementation across health, social care and housing, Do you do digital? goes on to discuss how customers can be engaged digitally through customer accounts, email alerts, and social media.

Additionally it discusses the opportunity digital provides to re-design services for lower cost delivery, and (given these austere times) the use of digital to manage, and even remove, demand for services.

The guide illustrates the ‘digital culture shift’ involved in the various new ways of working, like online networking, sharing through Twitter, blogging and ‘unconferences’, showing how these can be taken up by chief executives, as much as by the most junior employee.

Central to the guide is presentation of a series of ‘vanilla’ designs capturing key essentials of website content presentation for desktop and mobile users. Do you do digital? emphasises the fact that council websites are increasingly accessed from mobiles (particularly by poorer people who may rely on this form of access for claiming benefits and other essential services) and that failure to keep pace with this development will disappoint and inconvenience large numbers of people.

The guide, which is free and downloadable from the Socitm website, is based on Socitm’s own research including the recent Better connected 2014 and Better with Less reports. Content is also derived from its ongoing council website user surveys and data collected for its channel value benchmarking service, as well as other published sources.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

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