The Government is putting £1.8 billion in place to drive digital transformation across the public sector.
As the public sector faces challenges on all fronts – as the stresses of austerity and tightening budgets continue to bite down on funding and resources – IT professionals are expected to do more with less.
Such challenges can appear insurmountable but there are approaches to successful transformation proven to bring about positive change, delivering increased efficiency and reduced costs. Digital public services are geared up to deliver these outcomes, and are at the centre of the Government’s ongoing strategy.
However, exorcising the ghosts of IT past, present and future is essential for getting the green light for your digital transformation programme:
The Ghost of IT Past – Hype
The public sector has been burned many times over by the promise of the new. All those transformation programmes and ‘innovations’ have left a residue of cynicism by failing to deliver on their over-hyped potential or costing far more than originally forecast. The Rural Payments Agency IT system that administers Common Agricultural Policy payments, for example, went over budget by 40% and its digital interface collapsed.
IT professionals must stay grounded, putting in place a roadmap for digital transformation, stripped of all hyperbole. Performance measures and metrics should be determined upfront, and these must demonstrate genuine ROI and business outcomes across the organisation.
The required level of human resources must be made available to deliver on any transformation plan – including any training and equipment required. Organisations with skills gaps in core digital areas should consider partnering with reputable third parties who can present a proven track record in their specialist area. However, bringing on board a provider with a pre-determined set of inflexible processes is counter-productive. Every organisation is unique, with its own challenges and issues to contend with. Providers should offer an agile approach to development and deployment.
The Ghost of IT Present – Culture
It’s humans who can act as the biggest and most immediate barrier to the creation of digital public services. Challenges can present themselves on several key fronts:
- Organisational inertia brought about by a lack of advocacy and acceptance at a board level
- Employees who are unwilling to adopt new ways of working because they are nervous about change, or too comfortable with existing infrastructure and work practices
- Members of the public who either can’t or won’t embrace digital public services.
It’s up to those charged with the delivery of digital transformation to factor in this human element and create strategies that champion their potential and drive up adoption rates among employees and citizens, by clearly communicating the benefits. Critically, to ensure success, IT professionals must roll out digital public services at a careful pace that suits all stakeholders, to ensure that they are given the time, space and training needed to buy into the strategy. Identifying local evangelists, who will adopt new technologies at an early stage and then spread the word, can be invaluable.
The Ghost of IT Future – A Blueprint for Digital Transformation
To fully understand the organisation-wide impact of digital transformation, IT professionals need an objective view of their organisation’s current digital “readiness”. They can achieve this by assessing current operational capability, processes and supporting technologies. This needs to be considered in the context of their organisations digital ambition based on a clear understanding of customer needs. From here a blueprint to help guide, inform and prioritise change projects can be developed.
Assessments should be completed to accrue the necessary data. This will feed into the digital transformation strategy, providing a credible evidence base and enabling a joined-up approach for successful implementation.
Public sector organisations should promote digital not merely as an update of existing services, but as a change of mindset that will transform how they operate from end to end – from cloud adoption and reduced IT support and maintenance, through to improved business processes and digital-first, joined up approach delivering services.
Only by adopting a 360-degree view of the digital transformation process that encompasses the past, present and future can IT professionals hope to gain the support of internal stakeholders needed to make a smooth transition to digital public services – and critically, to secure the funding needed.
- Create a digital public service strategy that is genuinely people-centred.
- Strip away the hype – focus on pragmatic, real-world benefits through metrics and performance.
- Understand how existing systems and processes work to ensure that new technology investments can be integrated and the full benefits realised.