Digital Maturity vs. Digital Delusion

Digital maturity is little understood and regularly confused with IT maturity IE a strong and effective adoption of technology in the business. Here are some comparisons so you can check out your own organisation. IT maturity it is hard enough to achieve in its own right, but don’t assume that that is the same as being digitally mature. It’s just part of journey.

Strategy – IT Maturity:

You have an effective IT strategy, with a range of digital outcomes identified. The process of IT strategy implementation shows a high-performing even ‘world class’ IT department, regularly and independently benchmarked. The strategy recognises the importance of business change to drive value from IT investments and the barriers. There is a clearly defined and well-managed IT architecture.

Strategy – Digital Maturity:

You have a digital (not IT) strategy, agreed by the Board for all parts of the business. The process of strategy formulation and implementation demonstrates business value. There is a recognition that IT-related costs will increase, along with technology-led entrepreneurial change and innovation. A new risk model for the business as a whole is in place, recognising the reliance on technology for reputation, service, cost and future success.

Culture – IT Maturity:

Cultural change is underway as a result of new service models using IT, with staff expected to use systems for common activities, especially in finance, HR and procurement. They will be comfortable with electronic self-service for things like annual leave requests, absence, expenses, purchasing and changing personal details.

Culture – Digital Maturity:

All employees are aware of the impact of ‘digital’ and the part in the change this implies for them – in what they do and how they do it, in being more accountable and responsible, in operating more swiftly. They know they are responsible for coming up with ideas to improve digital adoption as part of the digital strategy – helping to capture, prioritise and to harness digital opportunity in their day-to-day work.

Leadership and Governance – IT Maturity:

You have an effective IT department and a strong CIO leader, with great ideas and a good IT delivery track record. Programme boards follow Prince and Programme methods, to ensure effective allocation of roles and responsibility, with IT projects underpinned by effective and tracked business cases.

Leadership and Governance – Digital Maturity:

You have a digital leader (aka CDO) and a Board-led digital programme, cutting across the whole business, supported by effective operational IT delivery. The digital programme assigns clear digital responsibilities to all board members and is a regular topic for the main board. Long-established working practices, processes and senior management skills are challenged openly and positively.

Delivery – IT Maturity:

You have an effective management and reporting of all IT programmes and IT-enabled change, with clear business cases and prioritisation of resources against corporate ambition. All back-office transactions are ‘self-service’ digital, and individual departments have digital plans of varying levels of maturity.

Delivery – Digital Maturity:

There is an overarching digital roadmap or delivery plan which has a mandate of sovereignty over every service area and department, to deliver a common digital platform, process and working practices. Back office and front office business processes are digitised and boundaries blurred. Delivery is not by ‘IT’, but by all directors and managers of services, coordinated corporately.

Performance – IT Maturity:

All IT-enabled programmes are consistently judged against time, cost and quality metrics, and ‘benefits realisation’ is carefully monitored. IT costs are tracked and controlled against industry best practice, and reported transparently. IT performs, by any metric, at the highest level and has adopted modern practices (Agile, ISO and ITIL).

Performance – Digital Maturity:

Value outcomes from digital change and investment are part of chief officer performance targets and embedded in all service planning. There is no separate annual report of IT, only the effectiveness of IT deployment to transform the business and innovate for financial and service benefit reported by service leads. Assessment of the performance of IT common business platform for digital adoption is considered regularly by the Board.

Skills – IT Maturity:

The organisation has good or very good IT skills, with appropriate eLearning and training programmes, ensuring that all new technology is rolled out as a managed change. IT literacy amongst staff is high, IT skills are valued (and expected) for all.

Skills – Digital Maturity:

Learning and Development, including leadership skills, is designed holistically across the business to support fast-track digital adoption – considering employees, suppliers, partners and the public. Employees in particular are comfortable and competent in using digital tools and electronic information in everything they do, wherever they work. This is more than competency in using IT, but in how tools are used to deliver service improvement.

Service Design – IT Maturity:

IT opportunity is embedded in the process of service design and development, looking carefully at IT potential to support new ways of working and engaging with customers. Web services are highly automated, easy to find and easy to use.

Service Design – Digital Maturity:

‘Digital by default’ is the norm in service planning, and services are developed to empower service users (customers, suppliers, and employees) and intermediary service providers to use digital methods first and to take control. This means web design starts with the user and encouraging take up of digital dictates IT policy and practice.

Customer Access – IT Maturity:

Single sign-on and web access methods are prioritised and there is an effective ‘deep and broad’ customer contact service, using modern tools such as ‘Live Chat’, and CRM. Customer choice is prioritised, recognising not everyone can embrace the ‘digital world’. ‘Digital by default’ results in more efficient operating models.

Customer Access – IT Maturity:

Entire ‘customer facing processes’ are digitised and personalised, and customer experience is consistent across all channels. Digital services are designed in collaboration with users, as well as across the supply chain and with partners. All users are expected to engage digitally or through intermediaries, and support mechanisms are prioritised to enable this. ‘Digital by default’ empowers users and is designed for take-up and equality of access, not just for efficiency.

Technology – IT Maturity:

You have invested well in IT tools, keeping abreast of trends and developments and judging correctly the right time to exploit them. You are a leader in successfully delivering new technology services such as social media, videoconferencing, single-sign on, identity management and automation.

Technology – Digital Maturity:

You have undertaken a full IT review to consider from the ‘bottom up’, what will need to change in terms of IT supporting a full move to ‘digital’ and to create a digital platform for the future – capability, capacity, priorities, governance, development methods, digital design principles, technologies, investments and prioritisation of IT activity. This has fundamentally challenged traditional ‘world class’ IT delivery. Legacy IT is no longer a barrier to innovation.

Examples of Innovation – IT Maturity:

All internal transactions are available on-line, on multiple devices, with complete end-to-end self service, removing any unnecessary internal management hierarchy of checks. BYOD is mature and secure. Social media is widely and effectively used, with electronic data capture and analytics of customer feedback and engagement.

Examples of Innovation – Digital Maturity:

‘Internal only’ processes are now made available to customers and suppliers, to increase the level of self-management which clients, suppliers and partners can undertake. In particular suppliers take on new parts of the value chain to reduce any double-handling. ‘Big Data’ is used effectively to drive faster decision-making and service design. eBook for digital help staff to fully engage with the digital agenda.


10 thoughts on “Digital Maturity vs. Digital Delusion

  1. gordon scobbie says:

    Really useful article. So important that leaders get their heads around their responsibilities on digital to transform service delivery. Well donne

    • I agree .. It’s our job to help make connections, simplify the message, align IT with business priorities and to help directors to grasp and exploit the opportunities of ‘digital’.

  2. Great article Jos, really enjoyed it. As mentioned above and I totally agree, a major area I believe is struggling at the moment is (Digital) Leadership in a Modern World

    The question needs to be asked, what does it mean to be a digital leader? And are we talking about leaders being more ‘digital’ or is it simply that business leaders just now need to be adaptive? It was “e” 4 years ago, “digital” today, what will it be in 4 years time with the current pace of change?

    There seems to be a real need to support the C-Suite and senior leadership team to adapt and drive this new business agenda throughout the whole organisation.

    Again, thanks for a great article.

    • if ‘digital’ is simply seen as ‘lipstick on a pig’ we are sunk (to mix metaphors!). Digital has to signal a fundamental change to business culture, behaviour, and service design. Which is why I worry about more sexy IT ….

  3. Thanks Jos. It’s really great to have you sharing these observations.

    Its very true that we need senior execs/managers to show open, honest digital leadership in organisations if those organisations are to stand a chance of becoming digital by default.

    I also think that we need to define the leadership thats needed here as being about ‘letting go’ and moving from the control of structures to placing trust in teams. My fear is that if we just talk about senior people needing to show digital leadership that we will allow some of those senior people to settle back into (comfortable old) notions that innovation and decisions all have to come from on high.

    For me, this is all about organisational transformation to a healthier, more open and iterative way of working.

    • Done well and technology can be a silver bullet – for the environment, for the economy and for social well-being. Done badly and the reverse is true. Real digital leaders will map the course and lead the way. They may be technologists, but not necessarily, and arguably (and ironically) its often harder to do from an IT background

  4. I struggle with this article. It implies that one group has digitisation sorted when we haven’t even scratched the surface of its potential.

    On the one hand we are heading towards a hyper-connected Digital Age with billions of Internet of Things devices to manage in near real-time, on the other hand the vast majority of the value added by IT to date remains trapped in legacy applications designed in the pre-Web era.

    As a simple example we could have one healthcare (community) application, just as for eBay and twitter, but we still have tens of thousnads of legacy (organisation) applications operating in GP surgeries, hospitals, pharmacies, etc…

    There is a massive DESIGN issue to be resolved.

    The Digital Age needs to be saved from the IT industry.

    There is more on the twitter page should you wish to discuss further.


    • I agree with the challenge – we need to start thinking abhout these things in a a more mature way. Your closing comment is exactly my argument .. but the IT industry has a crucial part to play and needs to change to fulfill it

  5. Thanks for your response Jos but I beg to differ re the IT industry.

    If you look at the paper at then you will see that the redesign reduces the volume of IT dramatically, as per the healthcare example.

    If you then take into account that the applications are generated directly from a specification then the human resources required is minute compared to today.

    Teaching everybody to code is analogous to teaching everybody to build an internal combustion engine. That is all automated now.

    Application software NEEDS an engineering approach. We develpoed such an approach in an applied R&D programme whilst at AT&T. There may be others around.

    The Digital Age does really need to be saved from the IT industry.

    That requires a fundamental redesign + enginnering.


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