Ian Patterson, who leads the UK Digital Transformation offering at The Digital Consultancy, has been writing a weekly Digital Transformation Diary exclusively for Prolific North. You can find all the diaries here; this is his last instalment.

Ian Patterson

Ian Patterson

Patterson worked for more than a decade in the North West, leading teams and projects at the likes of BJL, Guardian Media, MoneySuperMarket and Studio North.

What’s next for digital?

Last week I wrote about some key risks that businesses and suppliers face when embarking on digital transformation initiatives. This week I’d like to end this series by sharing my opinion on the digital sector at large. By that I mean, any people or businesses already working in the online space.

The fourth utility

Today, digital access is perceived by many as an essential utility, powering communities that need to get to work, pay our bills, communicate with family, park a car or order food. During the digital transformation of Guardian’s Radio Group, I led the team who took listener enquiries during some website, app and email down time. It’s not until you experience the cold face of customer dissatisfaction, that you realise just how vocal your online visitors can be.

Today, the baseline expectation of any website visitor is extremely high. This is because the same people who visit your website also use Amazon, their online banking, countless mobile apps and other world-renowned services. Those comparing eyes are very unforgiving.

A war for digital talent

Because the connected consumer has such high expectations, we are driving a new demand generation and businesses are struggling to keep up. With over 90% of companies lacking suitable digital skills (Capgemini, Digital Talent Gap Report) it’s easy to see why this shortage is being described by some as a ‘war for digital talent’.

Neelie Kroes, vice president of the EU Commission, tweeted the below this week:

With this rallying call you can see why traditional businesses are recruiting digital specialists at all levels.

Unlimited choice

I have family history from Tyneside and Liverpool – two great shipbuilding and seafaring cities. So, when I was younger I wanted to work with boats, or planes, or anything marine or aerospace for that matter. Starting out as a sign-maker meant I had to limit these natural ambitions. Now I’m a digital consultant, I’m finding my skills in demand across many sectors, including those I’m most passionate about.

Digital, as a discipline, is dissolving into the fabric of traditional businesses across well-established industries. If you are a digital specialist, this means you don’t need to work for a digital business anymore. You can branch out and move into new sectors, perhaps ones you’ve only dreamed of. I met with a good friend recently who told me that her husband’s technology business had been acquired by eBay. I believe we shall see more businesses being absorbed and merging as the economy normalises to reflect our widespread adoption of digital technology. You only have to look at the Internet of Things and wearable tech revolution that is taking place, and you can see ample opportunity for businesses to mix, mash-up and mesh.

In Europe, it is estimated that by 2017, over 90% of all jobs will require tech skills (Capgemini, Digital Talent Gap Report), so if you were like me, and identified early on that the internet was an opportunity too good to miss and would benefit you later in your career, then it’s time to cash-in your investment and broaden your horizons. The world is digital, and you can lead the way in the most unlikely of places.

If you are someone who still sees digital as a distant, future factor that only affects digital, marketing and IT teams, then I would encourage you to spend a day researching how digital is revolutionising your ideal industry. I’m convinced you will feel shocked and hopefully, excited about what you find.

Wrapping up this short series I’d like to thank Prolific North for the opportunity to talk about Digital Transformation.

Ian Patterson is the head of digital transformation at The Digital Consultancy. Over the last 16 years, he’s led digital projects and teams at Cable & Wireless, Rapp Collins, Moneysupermarket.com and Guardian Media Group.