Perspectives on Digital Transformation

Editor’s note: written by Heather Leson (IFRC) and Karl John Pedersen (DNV GL)

Shaping a Digital Strategy with Partners

How can we collaborate with partners on our digital transformation journey? IFRC and the Solferino Academy have had great success working with partners throughout. Over the past 2 years, IFRC and DNV GL have been on a journey to collaborate on digital activities. We spent time learning about each other’s work and considering how and what to collaborate. There were research papers, special events, humanitarian missions, and many conversations. We’re excited to continue this effort in 2021 building on our lessons.

This type of partner ‘secondment’ or ‘innersourcing’ is a relatively new type of partnering and Corporate Social Responsibility opportunity for the IFRC. National Societies are also using this approach as a successful model for support, mutual learning, impact, and collaboration. It was invaluable to have an industry leader on data standards mentor and advise IFRC on their digital strategy journey. In addition, this helps us consider how we might reshape our partnerships to build on each other’s skills and needs. 

The DNV GL team advised us that they have learned much about large scale organizations’ needs around measurement, data management, and digital transformation. Working closely with the IFRC has allowed DNV GL employees to contribute expertise to humanitarian projects that are related to our core business. It also provides the opportunity for employees to develop their skills, with new insight drawn from this international collaboration.

What we delivered

As part of DNV GL’s sponsorship of the Norwegian Red Cross (NorCross), DNV GL’s Digital Solutions – Data services team was asked in 2019 to provide advice and guidance to IFRC with digital transformation competency development and to provide input to formulating a digitisation and roadmap for the IFRC’s Strategy 2030. Digital Transformation is one of the 7 transformations proposed for the 2030 strategy, and the aim is to utilise data and digital technologies to a greater degree to strengthen the work of the organisation.  

DNV GL have worked closely with both the Norwegian Red Cross and the IFRC. Staff from DNV GL’s team have provided training in Data Management and Data Quality and advisory input at various IFRC events including the Global Innovation Forum, Digital Transformation Workshops (The Hague, June 2019) and the 33rd International Conference (Geneva, December 2019). A Community-Based Health and First Aid field trip to Malawi (November 2019) as participants at a Malawi Red Cross and IFRC technical health workshop allowed DNV GL to understand how digital transformation can be implemented at local level and provided a case study to promote the importance of the transformation to the wider IFRC network. DNV GL hosted learning sessions within the Malawi health project and gave feedback about the data management processes for a global health project.  See more in our 2019 summary post about the partnership.  

At the 33rd International Conference, Strategy 2030 was approved with “Digital Transformation” as a key enabler for supporting our Humanitarian work global challenges – climate action, health, crisis and disaster, migration and values, power and inclusion.  Building on the research insights, special events guidance, advisory role, we shifted to more strategic work for 2020. DNV GL provided advisory services to help the process of forming the digital strategy and anchoring it in the global Red Cross Red Crescent network. This included activities such as presenting at our 2nd Digital Transformation workshop (February 2020) and joining our digital consultation meetings from March 2020 onward.

In May 2020, the IFRC kicked off the “Roadmap to Digital” project to inform the IFRC’s digital transformation strategy. Four groups – one each for the IFRC Secretariat, National Societies, External Partners, and Core Synthesis – were convened to research, seek evidence, and write a draft IFRC Digital Strategy to be submitted to the IFRC Governing Board in November 2020.  To support engagement and provide additional conceptual background and peer experience to the stakeholders involved, DNV GL wrote a strategic overview and analysis on “Perspectives on Digital Transformation.”  The paper included 60+ references and resources.  This document was shared with IFRC Senior leadership and all the Roadmap to Digital working groups as a main reference document to inform on the following key points:  “what is digital transformation,” “what is happening in other industries and the humanitarian sector” and sharing of strategic references to guide the working group members’ learning and organizational change.  

Perspectives on Digital Transformation

From August 2020 ongoing, DNV GL joined the Digital Transformation ‘External Partners working group’ to review over 86 hypotheses, join external partner interviews, analyse results, and work within the team to write a summary of findings. The Digital Strategy was successfully presented to the IFRC Governing Board in November 2020. The advisory role played by DNV GL has been instrumental in reaching and influencing the IFRC’s senior leaders with a practical, business focus while being mindful of humanitarian purposes. DNV GL continues to be a strategic advisor to help the IFRC shape a digital transformation strategy which is useful and helps the IFRC meet its humanitarian mandate in a rapidly changing world. 

Next steps, Lessons and quotes 

We are now collaborating on exploring digital maturity models (standards and assessments) as well as leadership development. These are two items strongly noted in the digital strategy and DNV GL have, in addition to existing resources, brought in employees experienced in change management and leadership development. This work will contribute to the realisation of digital transformation within the IFRC during the next strategy period. A new two year period of collaboration between the Norwegian Red Cross and DNV GL was signed in late December 2020 and allows a continuation of this work amongst other topics where DNV GL can provide relevant domain knowledge. IFRC is thankful for the collaboration with DNV GL via Norwegian Red Cross.  We are excited to continue this shared journey and will provide further updates as we proceed through 2021.


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