Public sector must ‘take back control’ of digital transformation

New whitepaper says organisations can ‘only operate on a crisis footing for so long’

Posted 28 July 2020 by Christine Horton

COVID-19 has taken away the excuses not to implement change, according to a new whitepaper that examines digital transformation in the public sector.

The paper from Brightman, draws on the discussions of 30+ public sector CIOs and CTOs. It shows how digital transformation plans accelerated during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“The COVID-19 lockdown was an unprecedented situation which required organisations to accelerate their existing transformation plan, or if they didn’t have one, to develop it as they went along,” said Romy Hughes, director at Brightman.

“The speed at which organisations were able to deliver homeworking for example was staggering and is a testament to the speed at which decisions were made and the hard work of those who made it happen. But it also leaves many organisations to ask themselves ‘what took us so long?’”

Hughes said the business cases for digital transformation around ideas like ‘paperless’, ‘contactless’ and ‘mobility’ were compelling before COVID-19 entered our vocabulary. “Coronavirus simply accelerated the change because there were no more excuses not to do it,” she added.

Digital transformation checklist

However, Hughes argues that now is the time to shift gears.

“COVID-19 has effectively been in the driving seat of digital transformation since March, but you can only operate on a crisis footing for so long. Organisations need to take back control of their transformation to ensure the change remains positive, successful and sustainable.”

She said that clients have implemented 18-month transformation plans in just six weeks. But when things are rushed, things can be missed. As such, the whitepaper has identified five factors it says are necessary to deliver successful transformation.

  1. The need for leadership: It is critical to have top level buy-in when embarking on the transformation journey; without this and the ambition to succeed, there is little chance of success.
  2. Cultural change and buy-in: Managing the people and the cultural change of transformation is often more difficult than the technology, but it is often left out of the equation or simply an afterthought. No change can be undertaken successfully without the people delivering that change being bought into it.
  3. The need for a programme manager: Having the budget is not enough. The first question to answer is who is going to run the programme? Would it be an IT specialist, a generalist or an operations specialist who has already run a similar programme? Ideally you would need a programme manager and a transition manager to be effective.
  4. An appetite for risk: The level of risk appetite is always going to be a factor in managing a programme of this size and nature. The correct use of a risk register and managing and understanding and even accepting the risks involved is a key element of programme management and will help to drive the programme forward.
  5. It’s not just about the cloud: Digital transformation could involve a move to the cloud, but equally and more likely there will be a hybrid model, where legacy platforms may stay on premises, some in datacentres and some in the cloud. “Cloud First” is no longer government policy, so organisations have the opportunity for more flexibility in their approach.