The week in digital transformation: telco culture & funding problems at Whitehall – Econsultancy

Regular DT-roundup author Rebecca Sentance has earned a break, so today I’m bringing you a slightly terse collection of the digital transformation stories that have caught my eye this week.

We’ll be covering Whitehall, telcos and a popular comparison site. Saddle up!

(Remember, too, that Econsultancy offers digital transformation training, consultancy and reports)

Business cases favour programmes over true transformation at Whitehall

“It has generally been easier for departments to get new capital investment for programmes than to increase their resource spending to cover transformation, especially in the current fiscal context.”

That’s the view of IfG researcher Tess Kidney Bishop, one of the authors of a new paper from the Institute for Government focusing on the effective use of business cases by civil servants seeking funding for transformation projects.

As reported by Scotland’s current affairs magazine Holyrood, the report authors “observed that the process for approving financing in the Treasury and departments encouraged the development of individual programmes to manage transformation, rather than incremental change that was managed by service leaders.”

There’s a very obvious lesson here for us all, that transformation is more than the latest tech project, but means changes to skillsets and a shift in resources.

Do telcos have the same sense of purpose that OTT players have?

This was the take-home message from Total Telecom Congress 2018, according to editor Chris Kelly.

Kelly writes that “operators’ Digital Transformation strategies will only be effective if they place employees at the heart of programmes and ensure a cultural shift, as a well as a technical one.”

In a panel at the event, speakers from Facebook, OTE Group and Bakcell discussed the issue.

Bakcell CEO Nikolai Beckers said “The direction is very clear – the problem is in the detail and really making it happen…One thing which most telcos really have to focus on is the internal culture of the company which is, in general, too bureaucratic and too slow.”

Yannis Konstantinidis, chief strategy, transformation & wholesale officer at OTE Group, agreed, but added “It is both cultural and technical… It is true we are very bureaucratic but, more particularly, where we are lagging behind is time-to-market. In this area, we need more agility and we need to rethink the operational model we are using.”

The panel closed by considering what telcos could learn from over-the-top (OTT) players such as Netflix.

Head of tech and telco at Facebook Daniel Augsten said:

“From a cultural point of view, purpose is very important – you need an organization where everyone in it can tell you what the purpose of the organisation is and the purpose of what you are doing. That is strongly lived within OTT players – whoever you ask in the company, they will tell you the purpose of the business!”

This is what an ambitious digital transformation 3-year plan looks like

The Italian Government Digital Transformation Team (find them on Twitter here) has published a document (handily translated by AI into English) showing exactly what they have achieved over the last two years.

The detailed publication coincides with the departure of the team’s leader Diego Piacentini.

This document describes what has been done in two years and how the Government must think big for the next phase. Thank you Luca #Attias to be the new leader of a growing @ITdigitalteam. It’s only day one!

– Diego Piacentini (@diegopia) October 31, 2018

You can download the full doc here, with lots of stunning detail on work carried out on a single payment platform, open software and interoperability through APIs (to name a few projects).

I thought it worth reproducing the vision and mission of the team (which are very elegant) and the three year plan (published May 2017), to give some idea of what a truly ambitious digital transformation programme looks like (obviously most businesses aren’t working to this scale, but some are big and should probably buck up their ideas).

The team’s vision

“Create Italy’s “operating system”, namely a series of fundamental components on which to build simpler and more effective services for citizens, the public administration and businesses alike.”

The team’s mission

“Make public services for citizens and businesses accessible in the simplest possible way, utilizing mobile devices (a “mobile first” approach), with secure, scalable and highly-reliable architecture based on clearly-defined application interfaces (APIs).”

The three year plan

  • adoption of a modern connectivity model for the public administration, no longer based on physical infrastructures dedicated to the exchange of data, but on direct internet access by every public office for the use of services – also in the cloud – in order to ensure efficiency, security and cost savings;
  • migration of the thousands of data center sites to a hybrid cloud infrastructure… This hybrid infrastructure offers greater security and flexibility, with reduced costs;
  • definition of minimum security guidelines for the PA’s technological infrastructures;
  • adoption of enabling platforms such as that for digital identity (SPID), the National Registry (ANPR), the electronic identity card (CIE) and the digital payment platform (pagoPA) to simplify citizen interaction with the public administration;
  • development of interoperability rules that are clearly defined and based on API to permit systems to communicate with each other;
  • enhancement of open source as a method of collaborative development of digital public services, being more efficient and less costly, and the creation of dedicated tools… helping administrations deliver a modern user experience that is consistent and simple for all citizens;
  • enhancement of public data through the creation of a big data analysis platform equipped with modern data science and machine learning tools…;
  • rationalization and reclassification of ICT spending towards modern technological solutions;
  • directions for a governance model in support of the process of changing and transforming the public administration.

Buddying staff with engineers to embed digital transformation

There was a short but sweet tale about’s move to the cloud published by CloudPro (makes sense) this week.

Though you might think of, a company born online, as being ahead of the game on digital, Bobby Hellard, author of the CloudPro piece, points out that “the 16-year-old price comparison website only adopted a cloud service five years ago. And the tricky part was not about introducing new technology to the business, it was about introducing it to the workforce.”

During this migration, performed by Microsoft Azure engineers, sought to implement a scheme to partner staff with an engineer, so that familiarisation with the tech was not too daunting a prospect.

Fast forward to this year and the company has started a ‘school of tech’ to further educate the two thirds non-techie staff base about digital.

Twenty percent of staff have been through the program already, with the company noting “some successes”.


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