Unprecedented pressures over the last two years have seen a period of significant transition for charities across the country.
Increased demand for services, coupled with a move to remote working, have led many charities to focus on moving towards a digital way of working. Digital projects enable charities to maximise their reach and bring change to internal processes and ways of working.
Yet embracing digital transformation comes with many challenges – from the proliferation of new tools and infrastructure to ongoing experimentation with new technologies. This is coupled with the ongoing pressures of delivering services in a restricted and stretched sector.
What we know and hear most often as key challenges across the sector include:
- How to navigate a constantly changing technology landscape
- How to make sense of and harness the potential of digital aligned to existing internal resources and service user needs
- How to access and manage funding to develop skills and resources
- How to manage change brought about through digital – new systems, tools and ways of working
- How to understand the impact of digital on the communities that organisations are working alongside, and
- How to build a solid case for digitisation, and how to justify digital investment to boards and funders.
A large percentage of digital change projects fail because of the very nature of not taking into account the skill, capacity, time and patience needed to embed new models and ways of working across the whole organisation. Digital transformation is often focused on distinct projects to deploy digital services, adopt new technologies and improve infrastructure, without ensuring the culture, structure, and processes are in place alongside this.
Tech and teams
For any digital transformation to be successful there are two fundamental levers: tech and teams. At Dot Project, we mentor organisations to look at the change they want to see through two lenses: a technology lens and a team lens.
With a technology lens, it’s about taking stock of your existing infrastructure; the systems, processes and data that underpin your services and ways in which you work. We recommend that charities sit with their teams and understand exactly what tools are being used and the benefits they bring to their organisation.
Then, it could be about identifying opportunities to rationalise and scale what you have whilst identifying any gaps within your technology, or digital landscape; defining data sharing activities and document processes to better understand your organisational data needs and how your technology should support these needs; establishing strong relationships with partners to support your technology and organisational activities; and designing governance practices and processes that will bring together a secure, reliable and accessible digital environment.
True digital leadership means embedding digital thinking and ways of working throughout the entire organisation. It means relentlessly focusing on making things better for users, at every level in the organisation, and fostering an open, collaborative and responsive culture. The team lens will allow you to focus on evolving your strategy and culture to deliver against your vision and purpose in a context of being digital. The steps may include building leadership capabilities for decision making, vision setting and direction in a digital organisation; building digital confidence, knowledge and skills across all your teams; driving a culture that builds open, collaborative and responsive cultures; and designing a support system of digital champions who coach teams on this journey.
At Dot Project, we use our technology and teams approach to guide organisations on how to successfully use both levers within digital transformation, and to enable them to become more sustainable and to thrive.
The Dot Project approach
At Dot Project, coaching and mentoring is an integral part of everything we do to support leaders and teams through digital transformation. We have worked with over 800 organisations to develop stronger technology infrastructure and more confident teams as part of funded programmes and directly one-to-one.
As part of the Comic Relief Ministry of Justice Specialist Fund, we supported organisations who specialise in sexual abuse and domestic violence to build organisational capability to initially scope, then implement, their technical projects in the context of being digital. Our mentoring covered a broad range of topics including requirements gathering, systems and digital partner selection, digital strategy, cyber security, data management, as well as team coaching.
Our practical guidance to the Employee Ownership Association has enabled it to build shared understanding of its internal capacity and capability needs, and a collective clarity of the principles, practices and processes needed to be a digital-first organisation. A technology and teams approach provided technology mentoring to evaluate and deliver against the organisation’s infrastructure needs, alongside coaching and organisational design consulting to help shape the culture and re-design the structures and processes to help it to deliver against its vision.
For Youth Music, we completed a number of technical audits and created collaborative spaces with the teams to identify how its existing tech and teams supported the organisation to reach its organisational goals. We were able to uncover the systems, behaviours and ways of working that could enable Youth Music to maximise its existing knowledge and experience whilst also identifying gaps and opportunities to improve. A prioritised change roadmap supported Youth Music to re-imagine team structures and cultural behaviours supported by evolving their use of digital systems.
Opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily the views held throughout RBC Brewin Dolphin.