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WSPs Meenakshi Mandhar guides clients toward a more digital future

WSP's Meenakshi Mandhar guides clients toward a more digital future

 May 26, 2022

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WSP Head of Digital – Local Government Meenakshi Mandhar has an impressive 20-year career in digital as an architect, academic, consultant, and information manager. This provides Meenakshi with a valuable perspective on the challenges that accompany change, and the best ways to navigate it. As such, Meenakshi guides WSP local authority clients as they chart their course to a more productive and digital future.

Digital transformation is a focus for many organisations as they look to work smarter and be more productive. WSP itself has been through that journey and continues to explore new opportunities to improve the way it works, collaborates, shares, and make decisions.

Here, Meenakshi shares insight into her digital transformation career. 

Preconceptions about digital transformation

"I think when people hear ‘digital’ they think ‘tech’. The technology element of digital transformation is not an end in itself. It’s an enabler. The real purpose of digital transformation is the efficiency and effectiveness it unlocks. You can start to standardise and automate processes, use the data you capture to make better, more accurate and timely decisions based on that evidence. It’s important to stay focused on the benefits and not get lost in the technology," explains Meenakshi.

A starting point for advising on digital transformation

"My first point of call is actually to define their start point. We run Digital Maturity Assessments to help local authorities understand where they are, what processes they are using, how confident their colleagues are in working digitally. We do this by thorough interactive workshops with local authority teams. We review their organisational culture, financial budgets, communications, data insights, equipment and skills to benchmark what already exists. A Digital Maturity Assessments not only gives you a baseline but also provides a roadmap, which is vital. Working with the many different teams also helps identify the destination and define a digital strategy. It reveals where digital transformation will be most valuable and where the quick wins are in the early stages of the journey," says Meenakshi.

The business case for digital transformation

"Of course, financial considerations are key however you must look at the value and opportunities too. Local government spend billions on patching up ineffective legacy systems, which are costly, poor value and fail to deliver the data that will help authorities make better use of their resources. Having a benchmark and a roadmap allows a local authority to phase its investment in smarter, digital ways of working over the course of that journey," says Meenakshi.

Planning a transformation programme

"The digital strategies we help define take a holistic view at each step. There is no point investing in new software if legacy systems cannot run it, or in new systems to run old software. Those investments only deliver results if you give staff the skills they need to work with them. So our approach focuses on rightsizing each element for each phase," she says.

"To really see the benefits of digital, we take a similarly inclusive approach to its roll-out across authorities. Of course, not every role requires digital skills, but taking a siloed, department-by-department approach is slower and more costly. It also fails to unlock the collaboration, information sharing integrated systems and a fully data-connected environment can make possible."

Barrier faced for digital transformation

"We all know change can often be met with barriers. Supporting or advising authorities as they re-plan processes and guiding their selection of software and systems can be straightforward, but changing culture is the real heart of digital transformation. Authorities may employ or deliberately hire ‘digital natives’, but they need to bring ‘digital beginners’ on the journey too. Through Pinnacle, our in-house training team, we provide a wide range of assessments, certifications, face-to-face sessions, online learning and webinars, all of which makes a positive impact," suggests Meenakshi.

"Home and hybrid working during Covid has given many more people the confidence to work digitally, but culture is not just a skills-based challenge. Successful programmes embed a digital mindset at the centre of a local authority, making ‘digital first’ – or ‘digital by default’ – the new normal. So we focus on culture every bit as much as skills."

Digital transformation benefits businesses and residents

"Digital transformation simply helps councils make a better use of resources, and that’s something every user can appreciate. Ultimately, it improves services and the way councils communicate with users about those services. At its most simple, if you are able to report a maintenance issue online, that request is processed automatically and planned into a workflow, so your issue is resolved faster, then you are going to having much better experience. Better data and visibility also make for greater accountability which again improves the way residents use and value services," explains Meenakshi. 

Advice when considering digital transformation

"I’m always struck by Darwin’s famous observation, that it is those most adaptable to change – not the strongest or most intelligent – who survive and thrive. That adaptability has to be part of the culture. It’s a key focus of our work, building a willingness and confidence to embrace new ways of working. That’s the real satisfaction for me, seeing the sea change in an authority when a digital first mindset becomes part of their culture," concludes Meenakshi.

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