Earlier this year, Homes England announced that I would be taking on the role of interim Chief Digital Officer (CDO).
I wanted to take the opportunity to clarify a bit about the role, how I see it working and scaling as part of not just the way that FutureGov works, but also how it might point to new ways of bringing in digital leadership to government to help it make the transition to truly 21st century ways of working.
If I’m being honest, taking on a CDO role wasn’t top of my priorities. Driven in part by my passion to make a difference in housing, the huge ambitions of Homes England and feeling it was time to put my money where my mouth is, both myself and the leadership team at Homes England felt that I should step in to take on the role on an interim basis while working with the passionate in-house team and external colleagues I have brought with me to change our ways of working.
Three months in, I can now reflect on what that’s meant and how I see it working while still being CEO at FutureGov.
The timing (my second kid coming along and the somewhat exponential growth of our work at FutureGov) definitely made it tricky. But it’s opened up a new way for FutureGov to work with the public sector to deliver the change we need.
CEO and CDO, and regularly the twain shall meet
The CDO role is increasing in popularity and necessity. There are many formats the role can take, from the head of digital overseeing digital comms and a website to Chief Digital Officer of a city. For me, it’s all about making change happen across an entire organisation. As Chief Digital Officer for Homes England, in my mind, I’m there to serve as much as a chief organisation designer as much as the person responsible for the technology.
I’m now simultaneously leading FutureGov as well as taking on my new role at Homes England, balancing the requirements of being both CEO and CDO.
This is not without its challenges.
To deal with this we’ve put in place some practical, day-to-day tools and ways of working including new time management and collaboration tools at Homes England which allow me to consistently work in 21st-century ways and efficiently switch context. Not only is it the right thing to do for Homes England (all organisations should be using these tools in these ways) but it brought me personally the benefit of having a consistent way of working five days a week. It’s the only way I can survive! Even if both organisations are in different places, aligning the rituals and rhythms of Homes England to those of FutureGov means we can run productive, fast-paced work.
Leading by example
The most important part of taking up this role is figuring out how I can share my knowledge with the next person.
Starting by establishing strong leadership, we’re now working to redirect the strong in-house talent to work in new ways. By designing the best possible employee experience at Homes England, staff will feel empowered and capable to undertake the roles needed in a 21st-century organisation. That’s going to require a shift in the way we work and having myself as a CDO is a good start to begin building trust and help radical change happen.
In the future, the idea of CDO-as-a-service is something we see happening more as the need to reshape digital leadership roles and mindsets becomes clearer in the public sector. We’re working together with Homes England to demonstrate what’s possible and that’s what my new role is all about in many as much as the job at hand itself.
We’ll be blogging the journey as often and openly as possible so please do follow along and share your advice for me. It’d be much appreciated.
CDO as a service — a new approach to digital leadership was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.