An ageing population, cost and budget pressures and citizen demands are just some of the factors that are reshaping the way that government delivers services. But the introduction of digital technologies could be the most important factor of all. Government is in the midst of a fundamental transformation as it abandons analogue operating models in favour of digital systems.
Civil servants suggest that truly transforming government through digital technologies will be a journey. This is the second consecutive year we have asked civil servants for their views on the value of digital, the progress made and the barriers to transformation. They reported that digital technologies are having a major impact – 75 percent told us that digital technologies had an impact on their work; 33 percent characterised the impact on their work as significant.
But this transformation has only just begun and cross-Whitehall reforms are often fragile and can quickly lose traction.
Another key finding is that departments are at very different stages in the digital journey. Civil servants indicated how far their department had progressed with getting the services they provide online. 14% said that their services were now live (an increase of 3% since last year) with a further 52% saying projects are in progress (the same as last year).
This year we went on to ask how far their organisation had progressed with the redesign or reinvention of services through digital. 11% said that their projects were now complete, with a further 51% saying projects were in progress. The results are similar across external (citizen facing) and internal (employee facing) services.
We also wanted to know how confident civil servants were that their organisation was going to complete its digital transformation activity.
17% of civil servants feel very confident that transformational activity will be completed. But this falls to just 12% when only senior civil servants are included.
Good progress to date but transformation is getting more complicated.
These results partly reflect that transformation is never complete. There will always be new customer needs and technological advances. But civil servants also expressed frustration that their organisations were not structured to deliver digital services or did not have the understanding required to make complex business processes truly digital.
Over the next few weeks I will drawing on more survey responses to highlight barriers to digital transformation and the benefits of looking beyond the front end to middle and back office transformation.
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