27 February 2019

Moving to a digital business is a journey. In my session we’ll share the journey we’ve experienced, the lessons we’ve learnt along the way and ideas for how you can make your journey a little bit easier.

Plan your destination

If you were starting your organisation today, would you design things exactly as they are or would you take the opportunity to imagine things differently? Would you design a new, more streamlined service that delights your customers? Would you make accessibility as easy as possible, regardless of the method of contact? Would you create an IT infrastructure that enables future development rather than holds it back? And would your teams be confident in talking to customers about the benefits of being digitally confident?

Remember all your baggage

For many of us, the answer is yes, this is exactly what we would do, but the reality can be very different. Many of us are grappling with existing (often complex) IT infrastructures, embedded working practices and behavioural patterns (with each other and with our customers) that have developed over years. Changing these to meet the challenges of a fast changing world, technologically speaking, but also in terms of customer and colleague expectations is definitely tough, but it’s also entirely necessary.

Creating a digital business takes tenacity and courage. I’ve heard others compare this to trying to change the engine of a plane while it’s still flying. The scale of the challenge can be daunting; knowing where to start, what comes first and the fear that you’re investing precious resources on the wrong thing or you’re not sure when you’ll see a return on your investment. You’re not alone in these fears.

Prepare for take off

For us at whg, the most important factor that helped us to build a strong and cohesive approach to our digital transformation was the creation of our digital vision that directly supports the delivery of our Corporate Plan. Our Digital First Strategy has helped us to engage our customers and colleagues, align resources, prioritise work and identify skills gaps. This in turn, has helped to create momentum across the business.

Arrive at the (right) destination

Going digital isn’t just a customer portal; it’s a whole-business culture change and business transformation. We’re using this as an opportunity to reconsider our existing working practices, whether it’s back office support process or frontline customer facing services. We don’t want to replicate old, clunky, out-of-date processes in a digital environment. We want to identify new, better ways of working. We will reimagine some processes, but we will also take the opportunity to stop others. We will be asking ourselves, do we still need to do this and if we do, can it be done in a better, more efficient, way?

Technology might provide the solution, but the biggest barrier (or enabler) to change is culture. How many of us have implemented a shiny new IT system only for the benefits not to be realised once it has been launched into the business? Teams can make or break the change, so an essential part of becoming a more digital business is on-boarding your teams, explaining the vision and why it’s important, engaging them in projects and giving them the opportunity to contribute to the future.

Is everyone on the journey?

A core part of our strategy is to leave no-one behind. There are huge benefits to customers becoming more digitally confident. Being digitally enabled saves money and opens up opportunities, whether it’s access to employment or making new friends and reducing social isolation. To support our digital strategy we have launched a new customer engagement project, including a new ‘Clever Conversations’ approach that is now being rolled out across the business.

Without a doubt, becoming more of a digital business is going to be a dynamic journey. New technology becomes available all the time (who knows where 5G is going to take us), so this is likely to be a conversation that continues for a while yet. I’m a great believer in sharing experience to help others, which is what we’ll be doing at this year’s conference. I look forward to seeing you there.

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Fay is speaking on day one of this year’s Business Transformation in Housing conference and exhibition. Join her in ‘T2: Digital transformation – be careful not to crash!'.

Fay Shanahan

Fay is Corporate Director – Operations at whg

Fay was appointed to whg in October 2017 as Corporate Director of Operations, bringing 18 years of housing experience to her post. As the Corporate Director of Operations at whg, Fay is responsible for the Housing, Health and Wellbeing, IT and Customer Services teams. Fay recognises the benefits of using technology, to improve the services whg offers. She leads on Group wide projects, to bring colleagues and customers into the digital arena. Bringing both energy and enthusiasm, Fay plays a crucial role in helping whg achieve our ambitions. Working as part of the Group Executive Team, Fay makes a significant contribution to the business; ensuring it has the capacity and capability to achieve its current and future objectives and plans. Fay also takes responsibility for the strategic leadership and overall management of the Operations Directorate, ensuring it is aligned with whg’s values, vision and priorities.

Preparing for digital transformation