Published on in Public SectorDigital Transformation

In the public and private sectors, disruption has become the state of play – and at times it can feel as though chaos reigns.

In the UK, we are in a very unique position as we find ourselves on pause, yet desperate to accelerate the pace of transformation.  It was such a pleasure to attend Fujitsu’s latest Executive Discussion Evening, where we discussed this, and much more.

In industry, the pace of digital transformation is being hampered by public nervousness around new and emerging technology, not to mention widespread concerns about the security of personal data. So much so, that 58% of business leaders are being held back by the public’s fear of technologies they don’t fully understand, and 44% fear they’ll miss out on benefits of new technologies completely, simply because they haven’t planned radically enough to embrace them.

“Our lives are being disrupted by unstoppable forces we can’t control.”

This was how host Patrick Stephenson, Client Managing Director for Central Government at Fujitsu, chose to open our evening, as we gathered at the historic venue the Institute of Directors for the biannual Fujitsu Executive Discussion Evening.

So, how do we shake the nation out of this perpetual state of stagnation? And as we edge closer towards a post-trust world, how do we begin to reverse this trend and lead with purpose?

Living and working in a post-trust world

While we all get a sense that trust in institutions has eroded in recent years, I think very few people fully understand the extent to which trust has diminished.

Joe Twyman, CEO of polling company Deltapoll, highlighted a decline in trust in the institutions we have relied upon for generations, fuelled by the digital revolution and events of recent years. Consistently, the public’s trust in institutions to tell the truth has declined. And while some professions have only seen minor reductions, some groups – such as the media or political parties – had seen their trustworthiness plummet by more than half in that time.

Joe also emphasised that the consequences of the vast amounts of data now available are not yet fully understood, but that big data is absolutely the next big thing for organisations to deal with in the post-trust era. On one hand, big data has the potential to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, but on the other, trust is hanging in the balance as one wrong step can lead to catastrophe.

“By 2020, the world will create as much data every two days as it did from the dawn of time to 2003,” Joe revealed. Every device, app, or website we encounter is generating data about us, and it’s contributing towards this sense of distrust in the organisations collecting it.

Fujitsu’s latest research highlights only 19% of the UK public said they felt prepared for the changes happening today. Despite the progress we’ve made, only 12% of people in this country believe the internet has had a positive effect on society. Almost a quarter (24%) don’t understand how online services make money. And around 5% of people don’t use the internet at all.

This points to a severe lack of education around some of the influence of technology. People need leaders who are not only thinking about technology but understand the consequences of the vast amount of data available and are going that extra step to ensure they are acting responsibly and ethically with this information.

Disrupting the ‘disruptive leader’

Priya Guha, Venture Capitalist and former diplomat, focused on the importance of skills in driving successful outcomes in the future; she called for recognition of the Arts in the development of technology and for education to prioritise skills over academic qualifications in order to create a workforce that is fit for a digital future. Priya also pinpointed innovation as a key enabler for success and called for corporate organisations to transform their business models to meet the demands of the digital world.

She also highlighted the leadership qualities required to be successful in a digital world, emphasising that leaders will need to demonstrate traits such as emotional intelligence and compassion, alongside a desire to foster positive cultures.

Rethinking transformation – it’s about people

Despite the challenging nature of the subject, our speakers agreed on one core premise; the need to put people first when considering strategies for the future. Whether we’re considering business models, future skills, or indeed technology, prioritising the human element throughout the process will separate the winners from the losers.

This is a subject very close to my heart. Technology doesn’t create digital transformation – people do. By combining the talent of people we can harness their creativity, and by designing technology with people at the heart, we can create far better outcomes.

We live in times of change. We need to equip people for the world of work in a future they can’t envisage; up to 85% of the jobs which will exist in 2030 don’t exist yet, and it’s predicted that today’s learners will have eight to ten jobs by the time they’re 35. This is a very different world of work to the one we know.

Similarly, the average life span of an SNP 500 company in 1958 was 61 years. Today, three quarters of the companies listed on it today won’t exist in 2027.

“Change is happening fast,” professed Priya. “And only the companies, large or small, who are riding that wave of technological change will stay relevant and perform effectively in the new economy.”

And through better educated citizens and evolved leaders, we can press play on our country and find a path forward through these turbulent times.

Fujitsu’s host, Patrick Stephenson, drew attention to Fujitsu’s latest research, which brings to life all of the themes discussed. To find out more you can download the report and if you’re in any doubt at all simply watch the video, which reinforces that single critical success factor – the people.

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