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Digital Transformation and the f-word

The Digital Transformation 2018 conference organised by DIGIT, Scotland’s largest independent business technology community, took place at Dynamic Earth with 270 delegates braving the weather to listen to speakers from across the sector. Talks focused on key trends like responding to change and making transformation fun before finally ending up with the f-word – failure.

Digital evolution and responding to change

The first 2 speakers, Jessica Mullen from CreateFuture and then Alasdair Anderson from Nordea, talked about digital evolution and how to respond to these changes as an organisation.

There is a lot happening around the world with Airbus experimenting with drone taxis and shops like Supreme working on the cutting edge with designers, photographers and musicians to sell skater clothing. There are lots of companies that aren’t just talking about innovation; they are getting out there and living it.

Alasdair talked about implementing what is known as the Spotify model of team organisation for Agile development. It’s all about cross-functional teams owning their work and being empowered to take responsibility throughout the whole process.

One of the themes of the day was how digital doesn’t have to be complicated or constrained. It isn’t about approaching everything by telling everyone how to do their job – as that is pretty demotivating and crushes innovation. It’s about allowing people the freedom to be creative and innovative and feeling that they own what they are doing. And remembering it can actually be a lot of fun!

Building the future with the f-word

Alexander Holt from CivTech and then Lauren Gemmell from Amazon talked about taking creativity and innovation to the next level.

CivTech joins private sector innovation to public sector needs, allowing people to procure what doesn’t exist. The project is very much about creating the solution as part of the project. It’s about not having to define the end product in your project brief or your procurement tender as it might not actually exist yet. This allows creativity and innovation free rein.

Real examples were creating a flood warning system from a car bumper sensor and access to a 3D printer or strapping a phone to the front of a car to harness movement data to create a picture of road surface damage and pot holes. It’s about being comfortable with failure (the f-word!) but not giving up and knowing that you’ll get there in the end.

Amazon are trying to perfect the art of learning from failure by working over a 5 – 10 year cycle to get things right. The Kindle took a long time to reach the market, but they still continue to search for ways to transform it.

They want to obsess over their customers and not what their competitors are doing, starting with the perfect solution for the customer and working back from there. If it doesn’t exist already, then they try and build it.

Amazon Marketplace allows over 80,000 small companies in the UK to do business all over the world and is incredibly successful especially in opening up what Amazon is able to sell. But it didn’t start out like that; it went through many iterations, that didn’t work or didn’t work well, until it found what it was looking for.

It’s all brave stuff that needs a wealth of talent, and it was great to hear how Amazon tap into some of this at the University of Edinburgh!


The main takeaways from the day for me was that big boosts to productivity, creativity and innovation can happen from making things fun and removing unnecessary negativity and dictatorial approaches.

Build the best teams possible by allowing them to feel that they own the work they do, and be a great leader by giving them space to explore every avenue rather than telling them the solution from the outset. It’s in this way that you cannot only respond to change and transformation when it happens, but you can actually be the ones building it.

And our team is actually pretty good at all this if I say so myself!

It’s what we do with our UX service:

Showcase of UX Service projects – join us 4th April

It’s what we do with our training events and workshops:

Shift left-athon: IS website improvement workshop – Book on for 29 March

It’s what we do with our collaborative development approach:

Presenting the build up of the University collaborative culture at IWMW 2017

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