Legacy systems and skills gap biggest barriers to public sector digital transformation

More than half of civil servants say technology and skills gap threaten transformation goals, according to new research.

Posted 19 July 2023 by Christine Horton

More than half (55 percent) of UK civil servants believe ‘fragmented and disconnected systems’ to be their biggest barrier to digital transformation.

That’s according to new research from enterprise cloud firm Workday, Inc, which reports that legacy IT systems fail to capture the changing needs and expectations of today’s workforce

Nearly three quarters (74 percent) of civil servants report that current systems do not offer a seamless, easy-to-access experience for users. More than half of those questioned (51 percent) agree that ‘inflexible legacy HR and finance systems threaten operational resilience’.

Moreover, 43 percent report that their department or organisation does not have the required data visibility and tools in place for managing its workforce effectively and efficiently.

This follows research this week that claims a third of public sector workers are currently unable to do their job properly due to lack of access to the right technology.

Still work to be done

At the same time, 54 percent of the 400 civil servants surveyed believe the biggest barrier to digital transformation is ‘developing and retaining skilled staff’.

“Our latest research report highlights the progress that government departments and organisations have made in terms of digital transformation. However, the report also demonstrates there is still work to be done to bring the benefits we have seen from citizen-facing digital services to the systems that civil servants use internally,” said Daniel Pell, VP and country manager, UK and Ireland, Workday.

“Public sector organisations are increasingly being asked to do more with less despite dealing with fundamental challenges. When it comes to digital progression, these organisations are faced with the barriers of fragmented legacy systems and a significant skills gap. To address these challenges, it’s crucial that public bodies use modern, flexible and easy-to-use HR, finance, and enterprise planning systems to increase efficiency and better support the workforce.”

Paper-based processes

The research shows that there have been inroads made into the digitisation of HR and finance processes, with nearly half (45 percent) of UK civil servants reporting that their department/organisation has adopted digital self-service applications for HR and finance.

However, paper-based processes are still prevalent with about half (47 percent) of respondents stating that their department or organisation is only partially replacing paper-based processes, with almost one in ten (eight percent) stating that paper-based HR and finance systems aren’t being replaced at all.