Leadership in a Digital World


With service delivery now underway in Agilisys’ digital partnership with the States of Guernsey, we asked Agilisys Guernsey’s CEO Richard Hanrahan for his views on leading a digitally enabled organisation.

Q: With digital challenging traditional working cultures, how are leadership roles evolving?

Richard: When it comes to leadership and digital, the public sector and the private sector are grappling with many of the same issues.

When “digital” first became a significant organisational driver, there was a fundamental gap where people didn’t understand what digital was, what its capabilities were or why it was important. And those who did understand “digital” and recognised its capacity to drive long-term change and efficiencies did not necessarily have the leadership skills required to deliver the change.

This has changed over recent years. Leaders have since recognised the need to educate themselves in digital, and now many digital natives are acquiring leadership positions. As a result, it’s becoming second nature for leaders to consider how digital can enable them to achieve their objectives.

Q: What tips do you have for organisations that are looking to create a clear vision for digital?

R: Every day, blogs and books are being written that explore how to embed digital into an organisation and make it the heart of all you do – so reading material is aplenty. But, quite simply, start by taking the ‘digital’ out of your digital vision. Begin with a vision and work out your strategy for achieving it. Then decide how digital technology and a digital mindset can enable you to achieve your goals.

Q: What causes organisations to struggle with the shift to digital?

R: Being able to identify the requirement and opportunity whilst also having the will to direct and lead change. Unbelievably, some organisations’ leaders don’t believe in the efficiencies and savings that digital transformation can bring them. Within the organisation, people can identify the need, but when direction is lacking, organisations flounder.

Alternatively, organisations on the other end of this spectrum can struggle because they are lacking a clear strategy. Challenges are presented when organisations are determined to digitise everything but lack a vision and a plan, resulting in failed “digital projects” and a loss of confidence. This takes us back to the importance of having a clear vision and using digital as an enabler – not trying to do everything digitally and then shoehorning in a strategy later. Understanding digital enables you to recognise which bits of a process exist because of previous limitations and harness the technology to enable improvement.

Q: What are the greatest opportunities for organisations going digital?

R: Digital unlocks the opportunity for total organisational transformation. For public services, things that have been talked about for years and were formerly just pipe dreams can now be achieved on a previously unimaginable scale.

Years ago, people worried about reducing avoidable contact. Now, public sector organisations are able to proactively serve – identifying demands before the customer is even aware, and fixing problems without any inbound contact.

Utilising massive and complex data sets and data analytics to inform service design and improvement can lead organisations to make better, meaningful decisions – faster.

At the same time, new technologies are unlocking cost savings and efficiencies that local authorities and government departments could not realise on their own. The reduction of hardware and maintenance costs and energy expenditure enables public sector authorities to reinvest money elsewhere, while receiving better access to technology that can help them harness the data they hold and the expertise that their employees have.

Q: How are our attitudes and expectations of public services changing, and how does this impact the organisations that deliver them?

R: With private sector organisations offering a taxi, access to your finances or the contents of an Amazon warehouse at the click of a button, it’s understandable that we are now holding public services to a similar standard. We are becoming increasingly used to the outstanding service delivery and ease of use from consumer organisations – and our expectation is that we can access public services in the same way.

Richard has real clarity and insight into the challenges our customers are facing. He has been working in Guernsey for 3 years and is driven by a passion for designing programmes that deliver long-term transformation and improved public services for whole communities. You can contact Richard on Twitter.

Richard Hanrahan