ND18 – Transform – will be the 18th National Digital Conference, and happens on 21 June:
the centrepiece of 5 days of discussion and debate across the UK on all aspects of Digital Transformation as part of Digital Leaders Week digileaders.com/week.  I’m really happy that ‘transformation’ will form the theme for this year’s Conference.  This is because, at a time when many organisations seem to have at least one ‘transformation’ programme on the go, it’s often unclear whether there’s a clear idea about what they’re transforming into.  With AI the unquestioned digital buzzword for 2018 (last year’s was definitely blockchain!) there can sometimes be a rush to ask what such connective technologies can do to enhance business-as-usual, in place of a willingness to rethink business-as-usual itself.



I’ve recently finished delivering our MBA Advanced Digital Business course at Cambridge Judge Business School – working with people from over 20 nationalities and at least as many sectors to think through the challenge that mature internet-based technology presents to our cosy, traditional measurements of value, and to design digital services that address this challenge in ways that customers find relevant to them.  There’s little point in moving to the Cloud, or adopting distributed ledger technology, or getting excited about IoT – unless you can articulate why this will make things better for your customers; and it’s important that narratives about ‘transformation’ never stray too far from this shining path.

Of course, those of us who work in in public services have a further definition of value: ‘social value’, enshrined in the Social Value Act 2012 – a measurement that is intended to ensure that public services focus on what citizens themselves find valuable, rather than on the predilections of the organisations serving them.  These are necessarily uncomfortable conversations, because what an organisation may consider to be of public value – say, squeezing an additional 10% out of a supplier – may in fact be of no value whatsoever, if the entire activity itself makes little sense to continue as traditionally organised.  My co-authors and I addressed some of these more uncomfortable issues in our Manifesto for Public Services, launched at Institute for Government in March.

So as we power up for ND2018 Transform, I hope we’ll move in some of our conversations beyond the tech itself – beyond ‘delivery’ for delivery’s sake – and pause to consider what we think we’re actually transforming to; how our organisations and we ourselves, plan to deliver value, and social value, in the internet age.  We can expect some of these reflections to be uncomfortable, but I believe they should be just another part of our job as digital leaders.
Mark Thompson will chair the 18th National Digital Conference, to be held at the TUC Congress building on 21 June. Read more here.