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Vice-President of the European Commission
More interactivity, more involvement, more collaboration: improving digital competence
Digital Competence Day /Brussels
26 March 2013
Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues
I am delighted to be with you here today to open the Commission's first Digital Competence Day and to be in the company of the pioneers and leaders in this important domain.
The widespread introduction of new technologies over the last decade has changed the world enormously. Like other public and private sector organisations, the Commission is moving towards becoming a workplace where the majority of activities, processes and transactions can be managed digitally.
This involves interactions with our customers, our stakeholders and our staff. The demands of each of these groups increase at great speed: they want more interactivity, more involvement, more collaboration, and a greater chance to have their voice heard. We need to be in a position not just to respond but to lead.
The European Commission has already launched several initiatives and programmes in this regard, from the Digital Agenda for Europe to the ISA Program on Interoperability Solutions for EU Public Administration or the eCommission Action Plan. All these initiatives underline the importance that the Commission gives to today's increasingly digital world.
At the same time, we are encouraging our European partners in Member States to implemement their eGovernment strategies and to set up their own electronic services – which means of course that we too have to keep pace, make the best use of modern technologies, and modernise our own tools. And we also need to increase our competence in using these new interactive and IT related tools effectively, developing what I call our "digital competence".
Let me outline why this issue is important and some of the challenges we face:
Doing better with less
At a time of negative growth of internal resources and of increasing expectations from both external and internal stakeholders, we need to evolve, be ready to re-think the way we work, and be open-minded with regard to change. We need to continually improve the efficiency of internal working processes and also create economies of scale in the use of resources - in particular IT resources. New technologies, for example electronic workflows, collective data storage, and tools for instant interaction with stakeholders, can help us communicate and work faster, avoid double work and ensure the best use of correct data.
All this implies a cultural change across the organisation. We need to tap into the expertise that we have by increasing knowledge sharing, working together more, encouraging collaboration and breaking silos. These issues are key in response to the challenges of staff reduction, the departure of key staff, and the need to attract top young talents. If the Commission is viewed as an organisation that has failed to move with the times, how can we ever hope to be seen as an attractive employer for young people?
New technologies emphasise values like openness, flexibility, collaboration, sharing, and innovation across the services. New technologies have created new opportunities and new challenges for people and organizations that want to embrace this dynamic world of social interaction and fluid knowledge flows. But, in order to make the most of these, technology is not enough on its own. Behaviour also has to change, at all levels, and leadership is needed to drive initiatives forward. Managers have a key role in being ready to share more information, encourage more collaboration and involvement, and drive innovation.
Better listening and greater staff engagement
Digital technology provides tools to listen, communicate and engage with employees thus enhancing commitment and contributing to the developing a strong Commission culture and brand from the bottom up. Supporting genuine two-way communication across Commission services will, at the same time, allow management to "take the pulse" of the organisation, support decision-making in areas of concern for staff and allow for adequate follow-up measures to be taken.
The Yammer tool is one way of doing this. I joined the Yammer network on 27 April 2012 for a live chat with staff (in parallel with the Staff Regulations Forum on MyIntracomm) on our proposed reforms of the Staff Regulations. Feedback from that chat, and the others that I have had with staff on Yammer since then, has shown that there is strong interest from fellow Commissioners to engage with staff on Yammer on issues relevant to their respective DGs.
Directors-General are also keen to get involved: some have already used interactive tools for exchanges with their staff on different topics, for example DG HR's Director-General Irene Souka has run an interactive discussion with her management team and her staff on the DG´s Management Plan and the challenges for the year ahead. We have 8,000 staff members on the Yammer platform and I hope to see more senior managers using this tool in the weeks and months to come.
IT / Cloud technology
Our aim should be to support the business with productivity platforms such as the 350 collaborative sites at the Commission, the Yammer groups, the knowledge management platform of DG COMP, the social platform of DG CONNECT and others. We also need to ensure that we have the right tools for the right purpose, that they offer the best value-for-money, and that they are secure. We need to look carefully at cloud-based solutions, where they offer an opportunity to reduce costs. But we also have to be aware of the potential risk and be able to protect both Commission and personal information. We also need to put in place alternative solutions for business continuity, in case of disruption to services, and to facilitate remote working via access to and from mobile devices.
This in turn has its own challenges: we are a public administration, dependent on the public purse, and we need to make sure that we explain to citizens and to our institutional partners that using new technology at work isn't about giving luxury gadgets to a select few but rather about remaining close to citizens, in particular the younger generation for whom Twitter, Facebook and other social media are a part of everyday life.
Digital Competence Day
In order to help Commission staff navigate their way round these new challenges, we have created today's Digital Competence Day - the first of a series of training activities organized to create awareness and give some guidance on the need for more staff to develop competence in the use of modern communication and knowledge management tools.
During the day you will hear examples of why digital tools are needed and how to use them best, taking into account the necessary security. We have tried to bring a broad range of staff together, of all grades and positions, to share knowledge and experiences in real business areas. We hope that this day can help raise awareness of the need for digital competence and convince some of the "not yet converted" to join us.
Digital Collaboration Network
I would like to thank all the colleagues who are participating in this event and who are here to share their knowledge and ideas. I am impressed by the variety of workshops and training activities on offer. But today's event is about more than just training: it also shows that we are ready to embrace the digital technologies at our disposal and make the best out of them.
I encourage you to continue your work and leadership in these areas by launching a digital collaboration network, with you as founder members. Your work is helping to change the culture of our organisation, breaking down silos, and bringing people together across locations, DGs and grades. Your enthusiasm, competence and leadership, when shared with other colleagues, will help us move towards being a digitally competent organisation, ready and able to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Thank you for your attention