Creating a Digital Vision and Landing Value: The place of Digital Change and Transformation professionals within Social Housing

Creating a Digital Vision and Landing Value: The place of Digital Change and Transformation professionals within Social Housing Author: Matt Cockbill Published: 16 February 2018

With the drive to embrace digital as a critical lever to achieving stronger and deeper customer relationships as well as better and faster business decisions, the infamous ‘war for talent’ rages on. Amidst the rush to ‘be agile’ and ‘do digital’, it is the fundamentals of change and transformation delivery across people, process and technology which will secure the successful execution of a compelling digital vision. 

Over the last decade Change and Transformation has become an increasingly important and accepted part of business norms. Historically, stand-alone Lean/sigma process improvement teams and external consulting led engagements might have been accused of ‘doing’ event led change such as a shift in business performance, M&A or a regulatory change. While these types of change delivery do carry on, focus has now shifted to more agile change and transformation mechanisms being ‘in and of’ the business. Digital, as a positive business model disruptor, has served to accelerate the demand for internal change leadership talent, serving the appetite for improved speed and accuracy of delivery.

Effective change professionals combine change management and change leadership offering more than a simple programme delivery capability. We identify those who can create, utilise and instil a core set of tools and structures required to keep any given change initiative under control, driving it to successful delivery.  The goal of change ‘management’ is often to minimise the distractions and impacts of the change to operational delivery in the ‘now’. Change ‘leadership’ is the collection of driving forces, visions and processes that fuel large-scale transformation, ensuring successful delivery and demonstrable realisation of change and transformation outcomes across all aspects of people process and technology/digital. 

Across the market early digital adopters have typically been in nimble, fast paced sectors such as Media and Retail.  Without a domineering commercial imperative the Public and Third Sectors can rarely pivot so quickly. Digital transformation can only be successfully delivered by those who can drive effective stakeholder engagement in every part of the delivery cycle – from strategy through to change delivery. To be effective digital must be owned by the CEO, and the board, but there must be a fulcrum for delivery. Be it; Chief Digital Officer or Head of Digital (Transformation) the role draws upon IT, customer experience, business change and transformation as well as clear operational insight. It is a truly multifaceted position, leading a social enterprise in its management of ubiquitous data, digital processes and enabling technology.

Alongside technical knowledge, it’s critical that the individual has strong influencing and interpersonal skills to ensure both their board level colleagues and the wider workforce buy-in to the transformation. They must be nimble in their decision making, but agile in digital delivery – ensuring regulatory compliance, process improvement and demonstrate leadership in engaging key stakeholders. 

Of course any candidate transitioning between sectors must do so carefully and consciously. Acquiring fresh talent from new markets can offer fresh perspectives and be an effective catalyst to a change process, but the individual must have the interpersonal skills to adapt.  Digital skills have a premium in the present market. The private sector is broadly ahead of the social sector in terms of digital adoption, but remains a competitive environment for such talent. It can be a challenge to persuade ideally suited private sector candidates to move due to financial constraints, but it’s not unachievable. Money is not always the main driver for the right individual. Overseeing a digital change that will directly affect the quality of home and life chances of immediately visible customers is an enticing prospect, and a challenge to be relished. These sorts of change are usually a once-in-a-generation opportunity that will achieve long term returns, enabling the candidate to foster a real sense of worth within their community.

Being creative is key. Individuals that have achieved their financial goals and are on the hunt for increased job satisfaction are prime targets. Conversely, younger millennial candidates that want to make their mark will see working in a social enterprise or charity as an opportunity to shape a project on a much larger scale than commerce and industry. While millennials may not offer an extensive background in industry, they bring fresh perspectives on user experience and digital adoption that Gen X &Y simply don’t have. It is something worth exploring in the ever changing Social Housing landscape. 

The choice of a candidate should of course be treated on their particular merits, as leadership is never a one-size-fits-all issue! Wherever the right candidate is currently situated, the digital world is forever moving forward and the approach to sourcing such talent must mirror this progression. 

Matt Cockbill is the Partner leading the IT & Digital Leadership Practice. Working across Public, Private and Third Sectors Matt recruits senior transformation leaders driving all aspects of people process and technology/ digital change.

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