Report proposes shock tactics to shake off cultural inertia and promote new ways of using technology
Public sector leaders can see the benefits of a digital transformation, but most say their organisations lack the skills and are struggling with the workforce issues to make it possible, according to a report by management consultancy Deloitte.
A survey of more than 400 senior officials for The ascent of digital, conducted from January to March, showed that 89% said their digital strategy was aimed at increasing efficiency and 87% wanted to use the technology to improve their customers’ experience.
There was also a commitment to the cause in many organisations as 48% had increased their investment in digital over the past year.
But the capabilities of business acumen and tech savviness to make it happen are in short supply. Only 26% said their organisations had sufficient skills, only 32% of the leaderships had the skills and just 28% of organisations had the right resources or opportunities to obtain the skills. Subsequently only 35% were confident that they could respond to digital.
Struggle with change
The extent of the problem with workforce issues was indicated by 93% saying this was the area that provides the most difficulties in managing a transformation. It reflects the fact that people often struggle to handle big changes in the workplace, especially when it involves technology, and this can be even harder in the public sector where organisations often have rigid ways of working.
In response, Deloitte proposes some shock tactics that it says the research showed can overcome the cultural inertia.
One step is to place agitators into key posts with a brief to challenge the status quo. This is happening in some places with the appointment of transformation directors and chief digital officers, and if they are accompanied by changes in governance they can stir up new ways of thinking and the adoption of new skills.
Another is to change the working environment, such as office layouts and providing more scope for the use of mobile, conferencing and collaboration technologies. These can send a signal of the need for change and, if done well, promote goodwill and improve productivity.
Third is to base the transformation on user research, getting people to comment on new options for services.
The report says that some organisations have shown how to bring more of the necessary skills onboard by creating partnerships with universities, local employers and trusted suppliers, setting up in-house academies and training programmes, and tapping into other sources through the use of open data and co-creation. There have been advances in the latter, with organisations putting raw data – such as school inspections, crime recording and train times - into the public domain for others to provide apps and analysis.
The survey also pointed to dissatisfaction with suppliers: only 17% of respondents said they were happy with the vendor community, and 83% wanted a change in procurement with more flexibility.
Deloitte effectively supports the government stance on how to respond to this, emphasising the potential in breaking large contracts into smaller parts and increasing the use of open standards for data and interfaces.
It also says that leaders can benefit from using benchmark and baseline data, which would be helped by the adoption of locally and nationally recognised standards for data collection. This would support constructive comparisons, especially for local services.
In addition, it welcomes a trend in which some organisations are tilting their budgets towards services, with the scope for improvement, rather than individual projects. It says this reduces the barriers to change, supports quicker innovation and reduces the governance burdens on executive leaders.