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Are you a Digital Native, a Rock or a Sponge?

Over 200 Shared Service Professionals met at this year’s Shared Services Forum UK in Manchester last week. The over-arching topic of discussion centered around the relationship between humans and their growing interdependency on all things digital.

With Futurist Dr James Bellini relating historical facts to today’s digital world it was scary to hear him talk about things connected to the internet (more things than people were connected in 2008) and by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected things on the www. When we sent men to the moon the technology was nothing compared to what is used today in creating a singing birthday card!

Big Data was a highlight again and everyone agrees it is already here. This may prove to be the most disruptive technology of the 21st Century; the connected world, crowd sourcing, and the digital natives joining our workforces daily. These young & connected – anytime, anywhere, any device people are the future. The new Digital Natives are story tellers, they are accustomed to collaboration and willingly tell stories over the internet to complete strangers on a daily basis… just look at the uptake of Twitter, Facebook and a plethora of other social media knowledge sharing vehicles.

John Timpson CBE was an inspiring speaker whose personality and management style shone through. Timpson’s presentation however, relied on people not data. Trust, personality and an upside down management model removed the usual rules of business to deliver profits, real community added value and business innovation. If a market is in decline you have to innovate, you have to empower and trust the people who deliver your services and look at new ways of engaging with communities and employees that really do deliver competitive advantage through collaboration.

The day ended on a high when Sir Clive Woodward took us through the DNA of a Champion. I loved the phrase “great teams are made of great individuals.” His explanation of why ‘Talent alone is not enough’ was a very thought provoking presentation from an exceptional leader. Sir Clive spoke about people being either a Rock (not open to learning new ways of working) or a Sponge (willing and able to change, learn and grow) and how he used this knowledge to coach the England squad who successfully picked up the World Cup in 2003.

The ways in which Data and IT are used to improve performance are increasing. But it will still require people to communicate the value and meaning of the data back to a business for it to be a competitive advantage. The usual mantra still applies, people, process and technology are required for a collaborative environment to work well. With Digital natives the more visual the collaboration the better. For us older Luddites the personal touch is still appreciated.