Digital maturity - what's tripping you up?

It’s been a year since I launched the Digital Maturity Test. Since then, over 75 digital leads have responded to it. And a few organisations have used it to create a benchmark for the digital programme they are rolling out.

Digital maturity is a measure of how ready an organisation is to digitally transform. The Digital Maturity Test helps staff in an organisation evaluate how mature their use of and attitude towards Digital is.

75+ Digital Leads (mostly in the UK, from xsmall to xlarge organisations) evaluated the performance of their organisations. The average digital maturity level is 2 out of 5, spread across the 14 digital maturity competencies.


A few organisations also did an in-depth digital maturity benchmarking with a number of staff filling in the test. That way different perspectives on working with Digital were included in the final result. Interestingly, while the ratings of different digital maturity competencies did differ from one respondent in an organisation to another, the resulting level of organisational digital maturity was more or less the same across the board.


The digital maturity of UK NGOs – highlights

The Digital Maturity Test is by no means scientific and each organisation has its own specificities. But there are some common issues which keep emerging which chime with what I see on the ground:

1. People in charities seem to share the conviction that Digital is essential for efficient operation of any non-profit organisation.

2. However, the involvement of digital expertise in planning, external output or organisational communications overall is still limited.

At best digital experts are brought into projects to advise but that advice can be ignored.
At worst, digital teams are told about the project at a stage when some information needs to be put online (‘stick it on the website’ mentality).

Sometimes Digital Leads are only brought to the table at the last stage of the project leaving no time for input/adjustments or appropriate budget allocation. Or there’s no capacity in Digital Leads to plan projects which undermines ability of teams to plan digital properly.

3. The transformative part of digital transformation comes from audience-centric planning where every project begins with thinking about audience profiles, the journey the organisation wants to take them on and the experience they will have while interacting with that organisation. However, most of the time these elements are seen as an add-on rather than the starting point in deciding which audience to target with an organisational priority message. As a consequence, audience insight is siloed in the Fundraising team and rarely includes online data.

4. Issues with insight also include limitations presented by the underlying technology, e.g. supporter databases. How this situation is being managed is different from one organisation to another but there are some common issues:

  • Siloed data management resulting in a set of separate databases run by different teams.
  • Surprisingly, as data protection has been such a concern especially since media focus on charities’ fundraising practice, some supporter data still sits on people’s computers and in Excel spreadsheets.
  • More often than not the database/CRM technology might be outdated but the bigger issue is practice. To avoid any major changes, the technology is being bent to the way the processes used to work, instead of building on the capability of technology to make processes more efficient.
  • There’s some theoretical knowledge about what CRM should do for an organisation but no detailed planning of journeys. Some organisations have no more than a welcome email.

5. The majority of organisations seem to have confidence in their digital systems whether they are new or about to be replaced (e.g. Content Management System or email systems). Where there’s dissatisfaction with systems, it often transpires after some probing, that the issue is not technology but failings in the planning of digital projects or a strained relationship with an external agency.

6. Digital competencies like training, recruitment, digital leadership are on the level which allows the organisation to deliver good digital tactics. Training is usually focussed on digital skills for digital experts (e.g. agile project management, Google Analytics Academy, etc). Or the Digital team is rolling out a training programme for staff (how to use social media, writing for the Web, etc).

In the majority of cases Learning and Development teams/people do not seem to be as involved in the rollout of the digital training programme. While the majority of Learning & Development staff are very aware that making the organisation more Digital is an important part of their remit and are very interested to start working on this, they feel they need strategic guidance on where to start and what to prioritise.

Digital skills are still seen by recruiting managers as unnecessary or, at best, desirable to a job role, likely because they are unclear what digital skills would be appropriate to require as essential.

7. Organisations invest in digital experts to implement and deliver digital tactics. This expertise is not developed to be used on the strategic level. Often organisations lack senior digital leadership to help internal teams identify digital priorities and help them plan the implementation.

Digital transformation – do it step by step

Digital transformation happens at the intersection of three main areas of organisational operation: Business model/ Service delivery, Customer/supporter experience and Employee experience. 

It’s not only a technology programme, it’s a major culture-change and personal development challenge for staff. It’s about moving from culture that asks ‘how can I add something digital to this work?’ to asking first ‘what are digital solutions to the problem this project needs to solve?

This big change process can seem overwhelming because it’s like a domino effect– change one thing and the impact will be felt everywhere in the organisation. Just consider the complexity of introducing a new business process such as the online membership renewal system or the website chat service.

But why feel overwhelmed – the work can always be sliced into smaller chunks and phased so it delivers from day one. The Digital Maturity Test provides organisations with a prioritised to-do list of steps they can take to move up a level of digital maturity. Fill in the Digital Maturity Test now to get your own.

Or get in touch if you’d like to discuss digital maturity of your organisation!


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