When you are trying to get the theatre production perfect the last thing you want are noises off stage from those that are about enter the fray. You need the focus to be in (and on) the moment. You need the audience to have anticipation for what’s next but to be living in the here and now. As we try to set the narrative for digital transformation we need to not just talk about today but consider how far in the future the noise can be without distracting our audience. In 2024 more than ever before this feels like a hard thing to get right because the future is so much more flexible and ill-defined than ever before as well as being closer, almost reachable by every part of our business.

How can we settle on a narrative, what is the future of digital and how do we talk about friction, legacy and the public perception of what we do.

For me the largest area of alignment between digital delivery in public and private sector is the how this can be done. I keep talking about the role of digital as the foundation of change and transformation, this is where our voices align and we can and should be there, present with every part of our business as we define what to go for. Transformation grounded in problem solving is the alignment we are seeking in how we attack the future and deliver against the definition of what we are here for.

Delivery requires clarity and agreement on next steps, always.

Gaining agreement requires alignment and sometimes that can feel hard to get to. I think we have started to focus the conversation on delivery rather than intent and this has become critical when we consider the importance for the future. Taking care to ensure delivery intent doesn’t become ‘short-term-ism’ focused has been difficult and is something we need to keep focused on. The need for immediate benefits being released is not unique to the public sector, the promise of jam another day has stopped working as more leaders start to want, need and understand the digital paradigm. The expectation though of how long some things take to deliver needs to be constantly worked through. A large organisation with significant Tech Debt will (sadly) take longer to make things happen than a new organisation with a blank piece of paper. Every tactic we know and are learning needs to be pulled though to make change happen at pace and benefits to be released as incremental prizes to be shared across our business for the benefit of our customers.

Building that alignment top to bottom on not just the outcomes but the productivity measures along the way will ensure that every part of our business backs the direction now and when the going gets tough as progress is delivered. This has become a new focus for us, to create such a level of engagement that there is never a blame only ever a shared problem to be resolved. We strive to have this as a way of thinking and working across all of our business change programmes, its hard, to some degree it goes against human/business nature but we are getting there through the continued focus on relationships.

When we look around we are starting to see the new enfranchised nature of a department that has worked together and wants to do more together. Harmonising the why has been hard but now you can ‘see’ it, not everyone can see the outcomes described as the north star for 2030 but many people can now see a new way of delivering and a new way of working together that allows that definition to flex and change to live strong in all that we do. Adopting a common mantra is helping…

“…making things better, simpler and more efficient in all that we do.”

As this has become the go to phrase of why we are here we can feel the tangible difference it makes to how we go about our roles and in particular the new level of respect afforded to each other.

For years in the healthcare the IT folks were the ones spending the money on stuff the organisation couldn’t always see and understand. We were in the basement; we were up all night and sadly we were often somewhat ‘bullied’ into submission by the rest of the organisation. Debates about spend avoidance, robbing Peter to pay Paul and how service management was a side of desk role 24/7 are all things I can attest to in different roles I had in this decade. The change happened as healthcare delivery and operations began to realise the power of transformation that had a digital fabric at its foundation.

And the heart warming thing is seeing the tide continuing to change, admittedly through the damn hard work of a few people who were prepared to shout and keep shouting about how transformation is at the core. Perhaps this week (in the annual calendar) more than any other as the brains of NHS transformation gather together for the Rewired conference in Birmingham clarity about how it is people moving the juggernaut of change together is what will create success is worth highlighting.

The set corpus of knowledge in an organisation is growing and changing all the time. The entire world IS going to be different in three years and exponentially more different than the last three years. Being able to help everyone stay close to what change looks like, what the art of the possible is will be challenging for us all, but exciting too. Never more so have we needed to be translators of the vision of the art of the possible. The new challenge, the new mission maybe is that the translation needs to be the art of being in the middle of the conversation much more than ever before.