Digital Leadership Ltd

Digital Maturity framework

Digital maturity model

Digital maturity is a measure of how ready an organisation is to digitally transform. Fourteen competencies are evaluated on the level between 1 and 5 to produce the final digital maturity using the Digital Maturity Test. The test is completed by Digital Leads and, sometimes, their colleagues too.


How digital competencies decide an organisation's maturity?

When thinking about digital transformation we looked at thirteen organisational competencies that are essential for embedding Digital in an organisational strategy and operations.

These competencies fit under the building blocks of a digital strategy framework (summarised in the digital strategy house on the right): 

  • Digital Vision & Leadership
  • Insight
  • Processes (Planning, Innovation and Reporting
  • Staffing (Digital Capability, Recruitment and Training) 
  • Systems (Technology platforms, Budget and Data Management)

Underlying the competences is organisational culture and attitude to Digital and to organisational change.

How each of the competencies impact on the success of a digital transformation programme is briefly described below. 

Culture & Attitude

With the development and mainstreaming of Digital across organisations and the increased investment in this area, many Digital Leads (the person in your organisation who is responsible for digital delivery or digital strategy), find themselves spearheading a wider and necessary organisational change process, triggered by these changes. 

However, Senior Management often do not realise the extent of these changes and the support that might be required by Digital Leads to guide the organisation through them.

The change triggered by digital transformation is indeed transformative – it changes how things used to be done, it requires new behaviours, new skills, new systems and new technology. That is why an organisation can only embark on the process of digital transformation with strong vision on how Digital can most significantly help it reach its objectives, strong support from the top levels of the organisation and an investment in Digital Leads, digital technology and digital training. 


In order to get best value out of Digital, organisations need to integrate planning under the same brand (in order to keep consistency across different channels) and become audience centric in how they make planning decisions (in order to successfully engage audiences where they are).

When this isn’t the case, disparate communications have varying levels of impact, some are successful, some bomb. Overall, this means that the effort put into communications/marketing initiatives are sometimes not strategic. Organisations are not learning from previous experience, understanding what works best for their audience and are not optimising future communications accordingly. 

When organisations plan in an integrated and supporter-centric way, communications reach and impact grows over time thanks to gradual improvements based on evidence. 


Many charities say that their work is evidence-based but not all apply this criteria when it comes to their communications/marketing planning. Sometimes challenges are related to a lack of ability to generate performance reports due to data being held in disparate databases that don’t ‘talk’ to each other. 

Sometimes this is due to culture – where lessons from previous communications projects are simply not considered when planning new ones.

When planning is based on lessons from previous experiences, organisations can learn and improve every time they push communications out to their audience. Results can also provide an unbiased view of what audiences are responding to/are interested in, which helps future communications planning.



Using audience insight in making decisions is based on a belief that this is the only way to successfully engage supporters and deliver for beneficiaries. Once an organisation is focused on its priority audiences, it starts to integrate communications planning better.

This also means the organisation will invest in creating and collecting independent evidence of market trends to develop communications and products.

For example, once organisational objectives of a communications/fundraising/marketing campaign are clear, an organisation would look to understand where the target audiences are when it comes to that issue. What will be needed to engage target audiences and get them to act in the desired way can then be identified.



Innovation is driven by competitive appetite, by perfectionism and by a healthy level of dissidence. A willingness to speak out against the status quo. 

Ultimately what enables innovation is a sense of ambition on behalf of beneficiaries and donors. 

As such, innovation requires a willingness to take a leap of faith, invest, learn and keep improving on what’s being done (be it ways of working or a product), and to not necessarily drop products if they don’t work as planned the first time round. Prototype, launch, learn, amend and try again. 


Technology platforms 

In order to form a single view of a supporter and deliver personalised communications and services new technology is needed, developed with digital communications in mind. These technologies are about improving the performance, speed, user experience (both of staff, beneficiaries and supporters) and about generating better reporting. All this leads to better understanding of how well current systems are working. More often than not, to achieve this, pre-digital technology and business processes need to be updated or changed.  

The ability to upgrade and integrate technology platforms requires a daunting mix of commercial pragmatism, long-term thinking, a willingness to invest and a commitment by all to use new technologies once they are acquired. 

However systems change doesn’t have to mean throwing everything old out and starting a new as this can be very disruptive for an organisation. Start by adding new technology systems, creating new business processes and providing support and training to users in utilising them. Then you can think about replacing some old systems.



Budget for Digital is not always seen as a priority. There are often requests for it to be reduced although there is a clear increase in digital activity overall. 

Sometimes digital budget is only spent on technical maintenance while the rest of it is included in other team budgets. This is limiting the ability of the digital experts to test and create new products. In some cases it also means that teams have already gone some way in planning a digital product without seeking advice from Digital Leads. 

Without an oversight of the digital spend by a Digital Lead, digital products can often be output-led (such as “we need an app” or “we need a website”) rather than, preferably, objective-led (“we need to engage audience X to do Y). 


Data management

Data management is your 'way in' to understand audience behaviour and to make both commercial and social impact decisions. 

Understanding how audiences interact with an organisation, through which channels and how often (single supporter view) will help segmentation of communications. At first this can be done with email, later with social media and websites. 

Data on how different digital products are performing is essential learning to feed into future planning. It shows what audiences are reacting to and where improvements can be made. 

Some common obstacles to getting the insight from data:

  • Systems holding data are disparate and there is no easy way of bringing that data together to form a single supporter view 
  • Legacy technology and internal processes are primarily based around financial reporting and forecasting and are not fit for real-time digital marketing communications.

Digital capability 

Digital skills need to attain two separate objectives – to become pervasive across the organisation and for the process to be strategically managed.  

This requires a breadth of vision and depth of expertise among digital practitioners. 

There also needs to be a clear direction from top levels in an organisation that digital skills are essential in every job, whether this is acquired through recruitment or through staff development and training.

Where Digital should ‘sit’ within an organisation (central team, de-centralised team, ‘hub and spoke’) depends on how that organisation operates. 

But, it’s essential to not de-centralise too soon. 

In order for ‘hub and spoke’ structure to work, the organisation needs to have a good set of processes (for planning, recruitment, evaluation), systems (for data, content, marketing) and a clear digital strategy. Decentralising without this being in place will lead to lack of consistency and effectiveness in Digital output.

While, in the longer term, Digital is seen as a given in every job and everything an organisation does, it will inevitably need strategic leadership by experienced specialists (as is currently the case with Communications, IT or Fundraising). Until people with long-term digital strategy background come into leadership positions. 



Digital skillset needs to be part of every job description. And if the skillset can not be recruited, training and support should be provided. 

Salary grades can be an obstacle for recruiting digital talent, especially for organisations with limited budgets. While the right candidate will be the one motivated by an organisation’s mission rather than by the salary, it can not be expected that they will accept a position that’s paid considerably lower than the rest of the market. 


Training is an essential condition for an organisation to become truly digital. The investment in digital skills of all staff, managers and the senior leadership teamis essential in order to enable longer-term transition to a digitally transformed organisation. 

Often Digital Leads in organisations are either not skilled, given enough time, or positioned in the organisational hierarchy to help lead the kind of change all-round digital implementation triggers.

It is therefore essential to invest in the development of digital experts into Digital Leaders and ensure the successful implementation of Digital Vision by guiding the organisation through this process.


In order to be strategic about Digital one needs to draw on confidence gained through practice. 

Digital leadership is demonstrated by a Digital Leader who understands the digital ecosystem, can identify how Digital will contribute to an organisation’s strategy and builds trust and motivation amongst colleagues so together they make the digital vision a reality.

The role of a Digital Leader is a complex one as that individual needs to be able to work with, influence and integrate all functions in an organisation:

  • Brand
  • Communications & Marketing (content, creative and innovation)
  • Supporter management and development
  • Financial processing
  • IT
  • Supporter care
  • Data
  • Reporting
  • Programmes
  • Service delivery
  • Operations
  • Retail

… and any other function that an organisation might have.

The assumption that someone who doesn’t 'get' digital technology and data-centric thinking should be a Digital Leader, by virtue of traditional authority, or seniority – is a mistake. 

The solution is a mix of upskilling Digital Leads in management capability, recruiting them into senior positions and familiarising traditional functional leaders and Boards with digital challenges. 

Staff experience 

How staff do their jobs as an organisation impacts on the effectiveness of the organisation and its operations. 

Digital provides many solutions to improve collaboration, especially where staff is working in many different locations, knowledge-sharing and administration. Over the years, new systems have been introduced in organisations by different teams. The result: staff having to deal with many different systems, some of which are used often, some of which are used only occasionally which means that knowledge of how to use them fades quickly. All together, this doesn’t make for a good staff experience and a more effective organisation. 

Changing how you do things needs to go hand-in-hand with staff engagement, training and clear vision and direction from the top. 


Service delivery 

Delivery of services is increasingly moving online in the developed world and this is a trend that organisations need to embark on. Even in the developing countries, the penetration of smartphones and social media is increasing at a dizzying rate and organisations are moving towards using Digital to communicate/provide services to beneficiaries.

Often, the tendency is to look at technology and then try to find a problem that it could solve. For example, a few years ago this has led to the development of many apps which were a trend of that moment, many of which have failed to deliver any real benefit to the organisation. 

It is important to start by identifying the biggest issues in service delivery first. Only then is it worth looking if they can be addressed by creating digital solutions which will make process easier and more efficient from the user point of view. Then follow the best practice cycle of innovation - prototype, launch, learn, amend and try again.