Digital and transformation: two sides of the same coin
Government has made significant inroads with digital transformation but needs strong leadership and governance to unlock true opportunity. Sopra Steria’s Director for Central Government, Tom McCann, sits down with Civil Service World.
Good news is hard to come by these days. It seems that whenever the media shifts its attention to the digital world, negativity abounds. The recent ransomware attack that hit the NHS had a major impact on frontline healthcare, with appointments cancelled and staff reverting to pen and paper, leading to calls for improved governance of information protection.
So far, so bad. But what about the positive aspects of digital? Sopra Steria has just published its third annual Government Digital Trends Survey report on the advancements made by government in its aim to fundamentally transform the way the public sector operates. The evidence is that good progress is being made.
“Three quarters of our 2017 respondents said digital is having a positive impact on the way they work,” says Tom McCann, Sopra Steria’s Director for Central Government. “That is a positive trend for government, demonstrating not just the delivery of more services through a digital front end, but also improvements on civil servants’ working experience,” he says.
McCann says this shift in emphasis away from front-end delivery is the most notable long-term trend. “When we started three years ago, everyone was grappling with the concept of digital – it was all about channel shift and the front end,” he says.
“Now it’s clear that it is not just about citizen services anymore, but about the business of government. This is where the real potential of digital lies: in applying digital business models and tools to government itself.”
This news is doubly positive considering civil servants’ growing appetite for change. “There’s a greater willingness across the civil service for transformation,” McCann says. Nearly a third of respondents think that tapping into data across government will bring efficiency savings, with nearly half believing digital will help them achieve better outcomes. “These are great indicators that civil servants have embraced digital, but also that they see value in breaking the traditional departmental silos in government and looking at the processes of government with service users in mind, both citizens and civil servants,” he says.
Of course, there’s still room for improvement. Almost half of this year’s respondents believe there’s a skills gap in service design, with over a third pointing to agile delivery management. “These two skills are essential for driving true transformation,” he says. “Without the skills and capability to look at services end to end and redesign them, we risk, at best, digitising the legacy. This is an opportunity missed. To inject pace, government should continue to work closely with industry and industry bodies like techUK, and support and embrace the Digital Academy initiative in GDS.”
There is still a long road ahead. Only about a quarter of respondents have digitally restructured their services, with almost half reporting a “work in progress”. “Progress is being made, but as we shift focus from the front end and bring digital into the heart of government, this is where the true efficiency opportunities and challenges lie,” McCann says. “This requires strong leadership, governance and culture change. And with the challenge of EU Exit now front and centre, it’s a daunting task.” But the data indicates that government is definitely moving in the right direction. That’s good news.
About the Government Digital Trends Survey
Sopra Steria and Dods Research asked civil servants for their views on the progress of the government digital transformation agenda, capturing nearly 4,500 responses over three years.