Making government digital transformation the norm

The UK is one of the world leaders in digital public services.

In the last parliament 1,700 government websites were replaced with just one – GOV.UK – and more people are accessing government information online than ever before. The UK is also a world-leader in transparency. It is releasing huge amounts of public data to help people understand how government works and how policies are made.

And yet, despite all the progress being made, the UK and other governments are far from capturing the full benefits of digital. Digital transformation needs to go deeper, beyond the provisions of online services through portals, into the broader business of government itself.

In our second annual Government Digital Trends Survey we asked civil servants to tell us what digital transformation means to them. We were encouraged to find that 71% of respondents said digital transformation means change in the structure of how services are delivered. So the understanding that digital technology can be a tool to spark organisational change – rather than merely making existing structures more efficient – is now widespread.

Or as one senior civil servant told us, transformation means…

 …complete business transformation to enable government to do business in a digital world – not just services to citizens.

Digital transformation requires changes, to both processes and IT systems, but this is challenging to implement. It is important that private sector partners supporting digital transformation understand that civil servants operate in a unique context. This includes multiple agencies, long delivery chains, a range of organizational mandates and the challenge of maintaining continuity as politicians and policies change.

Success means looking for opportunities to improve productivity, efficiency and innovation at scale. What does this mean in practice?

The need to reduce costs and find efficiency savings remains a given. This can be achieved through shared service arrangements and a transition from legacy contracts and better management of contracts. There are still opportunities to reduce the costs of customer contact through the so-called ‘front office’.

But this will not be sufficient. Government must focus on reducing, avoiding or diverting demand.

Advances in a range of digital technologies, including mobile devices and data analytics, combined with changes in working methods, allow services to be radically reshaped in ways that reduce costs and provide a more streamlined and transparent services for users. A good example is our work for HM Courts and Tribunals Service and other partners to develop Court Store, a digital repository and document management system that is reducing the age-old dependence on paper.

And, increasingly, this means looking beyond providing citizens with better access to information. It demands, for example, integrated systems using real-time data, interactive and ask-once information seeking, joined up delivery and new forms of automated processes.

Leave me a comment or drop me an email if you want to know more about the Government Digital Trends Survey.

Published by

Philip Craig

I am the Government Sector Strategy Director at Sopra Steria. My background is in the public (central and local government) and private (consultancy) sectors. I have an interest in public policy, technology and public service reform.

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