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How is the Public Sector placed for their Digital Transformation journey?

In a blog earlier this month, we looked at three examples of digital transformation of varying size business in the private sector and how it looked for each of them and the challenges they faced.

Technological challenge.

How different then, is a transformation journey in the public sector, why is it at a slower pace and what are the different hurdles in their path? Experts recently expressed the opinion that it is a cultural, as opposed to a technological challenge, that prevents many organisations in the public sector from attaining their desired digital progress.

Business journalist Morag Cunningham Jones spoke with chief digital officer for the Digital Office for Scottish Local Government, Martyn Wallace. Martyn noted some differences he’d discovered between public and private sectors and explained how technology and digital transformation are positioned in the public sector is key.

Wallace found himself head of a digital transformation project that was initially set up across Scottish councils for three years and that was still ongoing seven years later. Likening it to a ‘never-ending mountain to climb’ with vast requirements including 5.5 million customers, 700K school children to educate, healthcare provision for all, life, death and seemingly everything in between including the registration of births, marriages, and deaths and, definitely, definitely ‘Not. Just. Bins!’

Whilst Wallace believes a sense of purpose is a definite incentive for public sector leaders, he concedes that for such a vital service, it is often somewhat considered a thankless task in the eyes of the public and presented as such in much of the press.

The Scottish Digital Officer felt the most notable difference between private and public sector is that the culture of the former is one where it is allowed to fail fast and learn from that failure, whereas in the latter that simply is not the case. “The challenge is that we have less money and higher expectations and scrutiny, and we look after the whole population.” He believes this culture of risk must move.

With such challenges from internal culture and external pressures and cost considerations the question Journalist Cunningham Jones posed Wallace was what kept him at what she termed, ‘the public sector coalface?’ Wallace admitted whilst having moments of doubt, and amidst such a risk adverse culture that doesn’t promote the celebration of wins, rather a modest ‘’just doing our job’ attitude, he admitted he was proud of his and his team’s efforts and said this should be celebrated.

Additionally, in the public sector, improving digital experience is a key challenge to be met. A recent study by Adobe entitled ‘2022 Digital Trends – Public Sector in Focus’ attested to this, with only 14% of respondents expressing their digital experience was ahead of customer expectations whilst 37% admitted it fell far behind.

Adobe Senior Digital Strategist Neil Bacon expressed that data use and skills as the two main barriers to investment in technology in the public sector stating that there is an “uneven spread of digital skills at leadership and practitioner levels.” Whilst acknowledging the progress made by the Government’s GDS Academy, Bacon believes this as an area more needs to be done to improve ensuring that those leaving education and entering the public sector work force have the desired digital skill set.

On a positive note, and with experience of working in public sectors such as education and health, Danny Blackstone, CEO of digital agency ‘Cyber-Duck’, believes knowledge sharing between the sectors has brought about real improvement and can encourage a ‘culture of innovation’ and highlights where such successes have been. “The government has largely adopted lean and agile management frameworks to govern, support and deliver large-scale enterprise programmes and projects mimicking the private sector.”

Whilst involved in transformation projects across industry and sector Bluestone states that whilst any organisation in any sector can have great technology, strategy and delivery - without the right culture in place any such programme or project will either decelerate or fail.

In his experience this is where models such as ADKAR (– awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, reinforcement) are proven to change and improve management frameworks.

Further to such internal process, external factors such as the new building safety regulator has necessitated many within the public sector real estate sphere to initiate and pilot management systems to improve sign off, gateways and control.

fu3e. adaptive management software - an umbrella that can sit above an organisations exiting software – takes only 10 working days to install and effects change and adds value from day one. Risk in real estate development can sneak up fast – and in our experience, with minimal disruption and having no impact to daily operations ensures leadership level engagement and usage, witnessing benefits immediately, facilitating a risk adverse sector to stay ahead of risk.

The ease of installation of such technology as an additional safety net and check points including additional workflow and audit journey mapping can also improve engagement at leadership level and induce a change in culture from top down.

#challenges #publicsector #digital #technology #software

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