Our digital strategy; it’s yours too (written as Head of Digital at RenewableUK)

A long exposure photo of a person shining a torch into the starry sky at night

I’ve previously written about the process which we’ve undertaken to develop our digital strategy. 

Since writing that article — and the previous ones about digital principles and our rules of engagement on social media — we have adopted the digital strategy and we’re on the implementation journey. 

This article is written to help others on that journey by sharing our strategy (here’s the link) — not least because one our digital principles is “Openness as a Virtue”.

A cropped image of a numbered list, with number 6 highlighted, emphasising openness as a virtue.

Expectation management — the digital strategy that you’ll see is just the skeleton. It’s just words, a framework. The real impact arises from delivering the meaning behind them in a corporate (or NGO, public sector) environment.

The platform

First up, kudos to Notion. They have created a very useful platform which eliminates the pain of a wiki and puts editing and commenting into the hands of your average office worker.

That’s important, because although I don’t *really* expect my colleagues to dive into this thing, it has to be as accessible and user-friendly as possible. One day I won’t be working for RenewableUK and someone else is going to pick up the mantle. Notion keeps things simple.

A screenshot of a Notion page with arrows showing how different aspects of it can be interacted with.

Navigating the strategy as a logged-in editor is reasonably intuitive — you just click on either the icons on the page itself, or on the navigation panel on the left. Nested pages can be exposed by clicking on the arrows on the left panel.

If you’re a viewer only (which is the case with the strategy I’m sharing), you’ll get something a bit different.

Gone are the menus and the drag’n’drop. You still have all the content though, and I’ve tried to make it reasonably straightforward to navigate by liberally scattering breadcrumbs throughout each of the content sections.

A screenshot of a Notion page highlighting the 'breadcrumbs' at the top of the page, enabling simple navigation of the site.

So while you won’t be able to edit the document directly, you’ll have in place a framework with a suggested bunch of content to get you off to a flying start.

What’s not in it?

An excellent question.

Clearly I’ve redacted anything which created any commercial risk, so there’s a lot of stuff which isn’t in there.

Top of that pile is our list of actions and beta projects. I have a brain fizzing with ideas, and have recommended around 20 discrete actions or programmes of work relating to digital. To date we are working on only about six of them.

The entire list ranges from the trivial (using a shared spreadsheet via Google Sheets to share contact details of staff members internally), to the near-impossible (change our office software to GSuite and have Chromebooks instead of laptop PCs).

I say near-impossible not because it’s technically difficult (that would be trivial) but because it require large cultural shifts. Unless you’re a small start-up, your organisation will most likely have ‘near-impossible’ digital adoption challenges too.

It’s all about the culture

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have heard the phrase about culture, strategy and breakfast a thousand times.

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast" text on a black background

Dead right. The organisational culture will kill a new initiative stone dead — or enable it to fly.

Culture is determined by thousands of interactions between staff and with customers every day, and by the impacts of previous corporate decisions — in some cases —decades ago. 

Culture is also a product of the political, policy and business environment that we currently experience at any given moment. Organisational culture is incredibly complex, durable and yet strangely dynamic.

In trying to implement a digital strategy, it’s critical to understand the priorities of colleagues, and to empathise with their situation.

That’s made a touch more difficult in that most of mine sit in an office several hundred miles away. This highlights the need for whoever is in charge of change management (me in this case) to be super-sensitive to my colleagues’ ability to take on new work practices and platforms at a time when they are stretched in different directions.

It’s an awareness of the limits of people to handle change that gave rise to our Digital Principle number 8 — Voluntarity. 

A screen grab of a numbered list, with number 8 highlighted: "Voluntarity; we encourage staff to engage, but only mandate where it is critical to business activity"

In managing my frustrations at the apparent slow pace of change, I’m also the first to appreciate that we have come a huge distance already. Meetings at head office about ‘digital’ are better-informed than they were six months ago. Progress is being made on real-life projects. Our culture is slowly shifting.

I’m not alone in dealing with change management. I know that Janet Hughes is working on cultural challenges, having identified digital leadership (or lack of) as a critical component. I also know that superb practitioners like Neil Tamplin, Dyfrig Williams, and renowned digital gurus like Paul Boag have experience and tools which can help speed the journey (if you haven’t come across Paul before, I strongly recommend you check out this YouTube video as an intro). 

“The secret of change is to focus your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new.” — Socrates

I’m a strategic, long-term thinker who specialises in information management, sustainability, digital strategy and governance. Get in touch if you’d like to chat about how I can help your organisation prepare for the future.

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