Paul Boag: Digital Adaptation — Time To Untie Your Hands

Orde Saunders' avatarPublished: by Orde Saunders

Paul Boag (@boagworld) was speaking at Smashing Conference about digital adaption, these are my notes from his talk.

The web has changed stuff!  We know this but bosses and clients haven't figured this our yet.

It has changed society.  We communicate in very different ways and globally.  Society is fracturing into interest groups and this is changing our politics.  Social media had a big impact on Obama getting elected and helping to bring down dictators.  The president of the US had to appoligise for a website.  Anyone can be a citizen journalist or musician, the gatekeepers are changing.  Power is shifting.   Crowd sourcing is changing the finance controllers.  New sectors are being created, old sectors are being revolutionised. 

It's changing the workplace.  Home is becoming like work, work is becoming like home.  People aren't interested in following people just because they are above them in the management structure.

The industrial revolution was driven by steam power, factories needed to be built by water.  Electricity changed this but factories were still being built by the water.  The digital revolution is facing the same problem, we're making the same mistakes because we're not adopting the full capabilities of digital.  We're not allowing digital to change organisations.  Organisations are digitally incompatible, they are putting digital in a box that fits their mental model. 

Beauracrices are honed by the past and almost never can they deal effectively with the future.

This can lead to massive failures.  Birmingham council ran £2m over budget on their website.   Healthcare.gov set to rise to $677m from an initial budget of $93m.  Businesses need to adapt and change.  Senior management aren't seeing digital as transformative like the printing press.  It's our job to change businesses to digital - be the change you want to see in the world.  Going to have to be grass roots change.  If the organisation is broken you'll be constantly frustrated.  Leaders are not picked, they stand up.  It's changing so rapidly there are no qualifications - you have to step up and be heard.

  1. Management
  2. Strategy
  3. Culture

These are the areas you can have the biggest impact.

We should have a digital strategy, it should be the business strategy but the people who write the business strategy won't like that so stick to the digital strategy.  Big organisations are so far from digital that we need a transition period.  There are no chief electricity officers any more because we have finished the transition.   Needs to be a prioritised strategy, too much pulling in different directions when under resourced anyway.  Have to solve specific problems.  What can digital do to help solve real problems?  Set some guiding principles, these can be used to help get things done in the right way and which actions you can take.  The strategy needs some tangible aims, focus on pivotal objectives that will have a cascade of favourable outcomes - e.g. improve the calls to action works for all calls to action.

We're managing like it's the industrial revolution, low paid, low skilled and low motivated workers.  These days digital workers don't need to be managed.  We don't need managers, we need leaders.  We know more than our bosses do, we need a new management attitude.  Set your workers free - let them work how and where they want to work.  Digital professionals can manage themselves.  We need to lead our clients, not manage them.

Death to committees.    Web is cross disciplinary, there are a lot of stakeholders so lets form a committee!  This is a flawed approach, we need a responsibility assignment matrix (RACI) to prevent people making decisions about things they don't understand.

Need to break the project mentality.  Waterfall, conveyer belt - it's easy to manage.  The fact that they inevitably don't work and go over budget yet we still use it because it's easy to think it works.  Agile is a much better approach, it forces people to think in a different way.  Websites aren't like a building, they're like a garden - needs caring for and tending.

Need to invest much more in our staff.  We're hired as experts in our field yet our skills atrophy because people aren't allowed to have time to grow their knowledge.

We need to change the culture, turn it upside down.  Our clients may think they are paying for a website.  They actually need someone to change their culture as that's the only way to deliver a successful website.  We need to embrace a culture of failure, it's no longer so expensive to fail.  We need to leave space for experimentation.  We must proactively engage with the organisation, look for problems that people are struggling with and help them.

We must be educators.  More than anything else we do we need to be educators.  We're supposed to transform our client's understanding.  We have to show people the power of digital and how it's reshaping the world.  We have to become user centric, service driven.  Bad customer service is a real problem now as standards are higher and will become a public problem.  Run usability sessions to see how frustrated people can get with your products.  We need to treat our bosses the same way as our users, get inside their heads to speak to them in terms they understand.

This isn't easy.  It's outside your comfort zone.  You will meet resistance.  Things will go wrong.  If you don't do this then things won't get any better.

Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

Resources for this can be found here: http://boagworld.com/smashing/