Communicating digital — what is the role of comms?

Written by Victoria Ford, Managing Director, Perago and Chair of Digital Leaders Wales

What is the role of comms people in digital transformation? As a profession are we ready to support the cultural and behavioural change that’s needed for organisations to thrive in the digital world we live in?

Perhaps a good starting point is what we mean by digital transformation. If we think of digital in terms of technology, platforms and coding then we might decide that our role is limited to sharing updates and operating instructions. We may even steer clear completely, paralysed by talk of “on prem”, “cloud” and “SAAS solutions”.

But what if we think about it in a different way? My definition of digital transformation is this:

The terms digital and IT are often used interchangeably, but digital transformation is so much more than just technology. It’s designing services around the needs of your users, it’s creating an organisation with the culture and skills for change to succeed. It’s about people.

Now we’re talking about people, about culture and about users. We’re talking about preparing organisations and users to thrive in a digital world.

We may need to start thinking differently about how we engage with change and how we help deliver successful outcomes, but the skills we have as comms professionals have never been so important. As more and more organisations look at their services and how their users are interacting with them, conversations about the role of comms teams are starting to happen.

This week I joined a meeting of the Community of Practice for Communicating Digital set up by the newly created Centre for Digital Public Services. It’s a group brought together to share good practice, provide support and work collaboratively. It’s one of those places where the conversations are happening. We were joined by Adam Palmer from Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and Ross Gregory, my colleague from Perago. The idea was to bring in two agile delivery managers to give their experience of working with comms teams. Rather than comms people talking to comms people in a bubble we were given the perspective of those directly involved in delivering digital change.

Adam shared some of the learning from the Dwr Cymru Welsh Water delivery team over the last few years and in particular the mind shift from a focus on outputs and delivery dates to outcomes and iterative working. To deliver successful digital change as delivery manager Adam focuses on 3 things:

  • An effective delivery mechanism
  • Effective ways of working
  • Effective communications

Adam explained that historically he’d seen the role of comms being limited to sharing content 2 weeks before go live and expecting the comms teams to share that content through corporate channels. Over the last few years Adam and Ross have worked closely with the comms team and shifted not just the thinking, but the reality as well. As a result they were able to share their top 3 thoughts for comms professionals involved in communicating digital change.

To really have an impact and support digital transformation in our organisations we need to rethink how we approach our work and how we flex our skills and experience to a new way of working. That means taking time to learn about digital change and agile ways of working and understanding how we can add value. This can be a training course, additional reading or rolling our sleeves up to get involved with the digital teams in our organisations. We’ll also be publishing a follow up blog post next week with tips and techniques for working with digital teams.

I’ve been working in digital and comms for nearly ten years now. I recognised the challenges described, and I’ve also been part of multi-disciplinary delivery teams where I’ve worked hand in hand with digital delivery teams. This is about a different approach to our work, not a different profession. As comms people we need to make ourselves part of the change and use our skills, insight and the experience to add value from the outset.

Next steps, to find ourselves an Adam or a Ross!

We’ve recently added a new training section that gives details of all our courses that really help people develop in this space. If you like this blog, you’d probably be interested in our ‘Change for Communicators’ course. You can find out more about our Change for Communicators programme here, read a bit more about agile ways of working in this blog post from Ross and look out for our next post that will be giving tips and techniques for working with digital teams.

Originally posted here

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Originally published at https://digileaders.com on January 26, 2022.

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