Digital checkup learning – does size matter?

By John Fitzgerald on 27th Aug 2021

In this second blog on our digital checkup learning, I’m looking at whether organisation size has a big effect on checkup scores. We know that larger organisations often have a bit more internal expertise, if they have an internal IT department. And some areas of digital and technology require a bit of investment, which can be easier for larger organisations. Before crunching the numbers, my hunch was that organisation size would make a relatively big difference across checkup scores. Was I right? Read on to find out. 

First, a bit of context 

Just to set the scene, this analysis covers 54 checkup results, taken from March this year, when we updated some of the question content in our digital checkup. 54 is a reasonable sample size, but it’s worth noting that two of the income categories (‘Unknown’ and ‘More than £10m’) only have responses from 3 and 2 organisations respectively. This means we need to be a bit cautious about leaping to conclusions about average scores from these groups. The second piece of context is to consider whether the group of organisations who have responded to our Digital Checkup are representative of the sector as a whole.

In summary, larger organisations are over-represented in our sample. This is not a deal-breaker but worth keeping in mind as we look at average scores for each income bracket. The striped line in ‘Under £100,000’ highlights that in the sector at large, 57% of organisations have an income of less than £25,000 per year. These are micro charities with less than one FTE employee. In the checkup, we just use the broader category of ‘under £100,000’. 

Overall score – a modest but clear difference 

This graph shows average total checkup score, broken down by organisation size (annual income). There is a noticeable trend here, but not quite as dramatic as you might expect. The smallest organisations are averaging 49%, while the very largest average 62%. 

Note, on this and all other graphs, the scale is cropped so that differences are easier to see. This crop is the same across all the graphs. 

Leadership & culture – all in a similar place? 

It’s immediately obvious here that organisation size makes much less of a difference to Leadership & culture scores. We know from detailed conversations that even the tiniest organisations can adopt a really positive digital culture and make major progress, even on a limited budget. Digging into the data a bit more, I found that workforce skills is a weak area for organisations of all sizes. Although everyone has changed a lot of their working practices very rapidly in the past year, very few organisations are systematically tracking or developing their workforce digital skills. Finally, organisations which scored well in this section are likely to be using an agile, ’test and learn’ approach to developing digital services. It can be easier to adopt this approach if you are in a small organisation with a committed leadership team. 

[It’s worth flagging that SCVO have partnered with Microsoft to provide free online training sessions on their products – sessions run every other Wednesday until the end of 2021]. 

Tools and equipment – pleasing progress 

Our next section, Tools & equipment, again shows little difference across the income bands. Also, average scores are fairly high across the board. We’ve drilled into Tools & equipment in an earlier blog post, so we won’t say more here. For now it’s encouraging to see a good proportion of organisations are using modern digital tools like cloud-based systems. The capability gap is more to do with staff skills and ways of working – a longer-term change. 

Content, marketing & data: bigger = better? 

In the Content, marketing & data section, we can see a clear trend – bigger organisations are scoring much better, on average. This makes sense, as larger organisations are likely to have a dedicated database, and possibly even a dedicated comms and marketing team. Smaller organisations often have to muddle through with data, with a fair proportion of smaller organisations not even having a database. As ever, an accessible, affordable database system could be a real game-changer for smaller organisations. These organisations often have strong relationships and rich insights into the people they work with, but they lack the capacity to use this data systematically. 

Cyber resilience – bigger organisations doing much better 

In March, we revamped the cyber resilience section of our digital checkup, asking more detailed questions to get a clearer sense of where organisations are at. This section shows the starkest trend, with the smallest organisations scoring much lower for cyber resilience. 

Talking to organisations who have completed the digital checkup, we can see why – smaller organisations are much more likely to be working with ad hoc IT setups, without regular access to any professional advice. By contrast, larger organisations are likely to have an internal IT team, or at least a contract with an established IT provider. We know that the largest organisations are potentially more vulnerable, working with more people, running bigger budgets and with a higher public profile. But even the smallest local charities are providing critical services in their local communities. We’re working with the SBRC to ensure that the Scottish third sector gets access to the latest cyber resilience insight and good practice

So, to sum up: size doesn’t matter as much as I thought it did. With strong leadership and the right mindset, even the smallest organisations can get to grips with digital and see some real improvements to their effectiveness. Having said that, smaller organisations are likely to face bigger challenges in the areas of data and cyber resilience. 

Finally, the one area that every organisation needs to work on is staff digital skills. Although everyone has learned and adapted a huge amount in the past year, now is the time for organisations to invest in this systematically. 

Find out more about the Digital Check-up!