Accelerating Scotland’s digital revolution


Posted on: March 27, 2019 by Tom Swanson

The scale and pace of change in the digital era is evident not just in new and emerging technologies, but in the way organizations function. Over the last decade, public and private sector organizations have been focused on achieving some level of digital transformation. This too is changing. It’s notable for Atos that we’re increasingly engaged with enabling our customers to remain in a constantly adaptive end-state if they are to survive and thrive amid ongoing disruption.

Useful indicators

Scotland’s digital vision is also evolving. The Government’s latest digital ambitions are encapsulated in its Digital Strategy to be recognized as a vibrant, inclusive, open and outward-looking digital nation. While the Strategy has a number of components, to gauge the implementation of Scotland’s digital ambitions, there are two indicators worth examining.

The first is a global Digital Evolution Index, which plots the countries whose digital economies are moving fast and those whose might be in trouble. It paints an interesting picture, and although there are many countries behind the UK when it comes to digital, there are others – Singapore, UAE and New Zealand – who are ahead. There are lessons for Scotland here; all three of those digital leaders are relatively small countries who have the advantage of agility. Given that New Zealand is comparable to Scotland in geography and population size, I’ve looked more closely at how it has been so successful, such as its effectiveness at identifying the economic benefits of digital, with an emphasis for organizations on higher revenues and faster growth.

The second indicator is Scotland’s Digital Economy Maturity Index, which measures and categorizes the digital maturity of Scottish businesses. This shows that although businesses exhibit a wide range of digital maturity, between 2014 and 2017, there was no significant increase (with a rise, for instance, from 3% to 7% of organizations in the highest two categories of digital maturity). One stand-out statistic is that 67% of Scottish organizations say they have a skills gap in relation to digital (rising to 72% for the most digitally mature).

Key priorities

So, while Scotland’s digital ambitions are important, tangible and clearly articulated, there are signs that there’s still some way to go – and opportunities now to step up the pace of digital evolution. As an outward looking country, Scotland can learn from others’ experiences and focus on three key priorities:

1.       Accelerate adoption and exploitation of digital by organizations.

There are opportunities now to develop a more coordinated approach to evaluating and increasing digital maturity. We use a digital maturity framework that enables organizations to identify what they need to do strategically, culturally, organizationally, and in terms of capability. This has proved effective in helping to understand strengths, opportunities and gaps, as well as to articulate more clearly the enterprise merits of digital. There are also opportunities to accelerate and share the experiences of government agencies and digital leaders as exemplars of digital adoption.

2.       Close the skills gap. Given Scotland’s educational credentials and resources.

There is the potential to excel here. Firstly, the education system needs to be further developed to fully exploit digital content and tools, such as digital learning platforms and materials from global providers – not just to learn digital skills but to develop the adaptable workforce of the future. Secondly, schools, universities, government and industry partners need to find new ways to ignite Scotland’s entrepreneurial spirit and inspire, encourage and raise awareness of digital opportunities, just as Scandinavian countries have done.

3.       Develop a systems leadership approach to manage high levels of complexity.

With continuous disruption the new norm, organizations in every sector must operate in a context of ongoing volatility and uncertainty. This creates fresh leadership challenges and the need to take a more systemic approach to evolving Scotland’s digital economy. Systems leadership means thinking, planning and implementing activities and interventions in a more holistic, connected and integrated way. By recognizing all the factors at work and understanding their interdependencies, much more can be achieved – just as Finland has done with its improvements to healthcare, and now education.

Scotland clearly has the vision, talent, capabilities and creativity to be a thriving digital economy. While advances have certainly been made, it’s time to accelerate the journey and coordinate progress in speeding up the adoption and exploitation of the digital revolution, closing the skills gap and developing a systems leadership approach to realize Scotland’s full potential.

Digital Vision for Scotland

This article is part of the Atos Digital Vision for Scotland opinion paper. We explore the key opportunities and challenges for Scottish Government, organizations and citizens in the digital age, as new technologies bring huge potential to enhance people’s lives and transform organisations.

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About Tom Swanson

Chief Digital Officer, Atos UK&I
Tom Swanson assists a broad spectrum of private and public sector clients to anticipate disruption and exploit opportunities enabled by innovations in CX, AI, IoT. He also advises Exec Teams, formulating strategy and accelerating shifts to more agile execution. Tom has an extensive track record of success leading transformations for large global corporations across multiple industries as well as with small private and private equity backed companies.

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