The Long Journey to Going Digital

The call to go digital is a deep one, one that echoes off the heavily lacquered wood of a boardroom table, one that resounds above the hum of a data center, one that rises up during debate in the C-suite.

But what does going digital really mean? Like many questions, the answer depends on whom you ask. Going digital to archivists at the New York Philharmonic means making the past come alive on a smartphone. For the author of Delivering on Digital, it means wooing some of tech’s sharpest minds into the realm of government IT to help envision how services and information gathering can be improved. For the CTO of Deloitte Consulting, it’s helping organizations that are struggling to reconcile existing technology with emerging tech.

Going digital is a subjective action, but there are several common elements to the process; namely, IT must put everything an organization can offer in the hands of customers and employees hands—via smartphone, tablet and wearable tech.

Digital Archives

Mitch Brodsky served as the digital project manager at the New York Philharmonic. During his time there, he helped create a comprehensive, high-resolution digital archive that makes the online experience as satisfying as researching at the reading room table.

“Prior to the Digital Archives, the only way to do serious research in our collection was to visit us in person,” Brodsky said. “For many people, that meant expensive travel and dealing with scheduling constraints. As well, it increases physical handling of the collection which poses a preservation risk.”

“Now, researchers are able to access the archives from anywhere, anytime, for free. We have made an effort to be comprehensive and digitize in high-resolution so the experience online mirrors the experience at the reading room table.”

“This ease of access to the collection will help scholars generate new knowledge faster and more deeply than before. It also allows the Philharmonic to leverage these digitized materials internally, whether for marketing and social media, fundraising, or even looking back on administrative decisions of the past.”

Delivering on Digital

William D. Eggers, author of Delivering on Digital, realizes the most critical component to realizing government’s digital future is the people who will drive the transformation.

“A whole new group of innovators are coming into government with a digital mindset that is simply different from the attitudes driving most organizations, especially in the public sector. It’s a different way of thinking about customers; a different way of launching products and services; a different way of working.

The digital mindset is more akin to the Silicon Valley mindset than the typical attitudes of senior public officials. It’s shared by a cadre of new digital leaders in governments from Washington to London, from Tallinn to Seoul.

Five characteristics tend to be common among individuals that understand the opportunities inherent in digital transformation: a belief in openness, user-centricity, co-creation, simplicity and agility. In many respects, the digital worldview is as important to the future of government as the labels “conservative” or “liberal” were to its past.

“Attracting innovators with a digital mindset into government—change-makers like the ones profiled in my book—and supporting those already there is essential.”

The Business of Digital

Bill Briggs spends a lot of time working with companies. As the CTO of Deloitte Consulting, he helps organizations understand the impacts that the latest innovations, emerging technologies and trends may have on their businesses, in addition to working within Deloitte by taking a leadership role in driving the investment innovation strategy for its technology practice.

“The transition (to digital) is often easiest when it is focused on creating specific experiences for customers or specific products and services,” Briggs said.

“This way the effort becomes bounded—your goal is not some abstract promise, but rather something very specific. This becomes the first step in a broader effort toward digitizing data and transforming the enterprise. It’s also important to remember that a major part of any digital transition is delivering new technology and capabilities across the company. To do this effectively, you will likely need different skillsets, tools and, more importantly, different mindsets. Digital transitions will challenge IT to grow beyond “business as usual.”

Patrick K. Burke is senior editor of CIO Insight.

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