Smile – it’s a Kodak moment.

Audit and hindsight can provide a perfect camera lens. But change - what about that?

Toma Haslam and Fraser PearceOur office is a pretty smiley type of place most of the time, and despite popular belief, we auditors are not such a dull bunch.

Audit and hindsight can provide a perfect camera lens. But change - what about that? Organisational change can be like peering into a void - a scary place that nobody wants to visit on holiday. It’s not something you visualise as being chock-full of Kodak moments. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable. It’s much easier to keep on truckin’ in the same direction.

Yet we live in a world of rapid change. Future historians will look back and announce that we lived through an industrial revolution. But instead of coal, steam, and dark, satanic mills, it’s silicon, connectivity, and information.

Like a sepia-tinged photo, Kodak is almost a memory. When I quizzed my 11-year-old son, who is a keen photographer, he’d never even heard of Kodak!

In 2013, Kodak, once interchangeable with the word photography, has just about escaped bankruptcy. It was the Google of its day. It had leading-edge technology and clever marketing.

In 1900, it created mass market photography with its Box Brownie camera. By 1976, it sold virtually all the film and cameras in the USA. At its peak in 1997, it employed 145,000 people and had a USD$16 billion turnover. The profit margin on film was high, around 70%, and it was selling shed loads of it - every minute of every day.

And by some superb irony, in 1976 it invented the digital camera. Imagine the digital camera R&D team presenting at a senior leadership team meeting (using an overhead projector, of course):

“So great work guys, how much money are we going to make with this new stuff?”

“Well, it doesn’t use film, so um, err, probably 10%”.

“Thanks, we’ll let you know…..”

The digital revolution did for Kodak what evolution did for the dodo. Digital technology and smartphones with cameras have carpet-bombed Kodak's old film and camera business into dust.

A review of Kodak’s decline argues that it was comfortable and failed to embrace change. A virtual monopoly brought about complacency. Clear leadership was lacking.

Public sector entities don’t have profit and loss to determine their existence. But they are often monopolies, and that does bring a risk of complacency. They do have service users - customers or clients – but their expectations are changing. Not unreasonably, they’re starting to think that new technology should deliver public services built around them. Expecting digital native customers to conform to public services, rather than the other way round, is a mindset that’s about as relevant as photographic film.

Public services need to embrace change no differently than companies like Kodak needed to. And leadership is crucial, so it’s going to be one of the issues we will be exploring in our work using case studies of current social media practice.