Creating a Public Sector Digital Transformation Strategy Framework

Piers Kelly
March 5, 2020

One of the most important reasons why markets and services grow is because they’re driven by changes in available technology. 

Distribution channels, business models, products and competitors will shift as technology targets inefficiencies within an industry. These powerful changes are further influenced by the evolving expectations of the intended audience. We’re talking about digital transformation.

You know what it is and you know why it is important. But how is it done? Here’s the digital transformation framework to help you discover how to implement such a change.

  1. Value Definition
  2. Launch
  3. Growth

1. Value Definition

For digital transformation to work, an organisation must see it as the core of any current or future growth projects. To head in the right direction, employees need to be aware of the magnitude of such a transformation and be willing to put the effort in to kickstart it. Here's how…

Secure the Commitment of Senior Management

Even though transformation should be understood, accepted and worked towards across the whole organisation, it's likely to stall if it doesn’t have the backing of senior management.

Senior management need to communicate the vision of digital transformation, making sure it’s universally understood. If this applies to you, you need to show why digital transformation is a company-wide priority.

Over the last ten years, the UK government has been increasing their digital remit, as part of the process of becoming Digital by Default. This began with the creation of the GOV.UK domain, part of a process which aims at transforming public services online, making them ‘better and cheaper for taxpayers and more effective and efficient for government’.

Pinpoint Your Targets

Targets are crucial. Without targets, implementing a digital transformation framework is pointless - like finding a specific coffee shop in an unfamiliar city, without a map, satnav or phone. Each source of value creation is based around a target, whether it's revenues, improved performance or customer satisfaction.

A target can be set within a unique process your organisation undertakes.

Targets are important for several reasons, with the most important being:

  1. They allow people to visualise what digital transformation is capable of. It creates an external benchmark for people to work towards.
  2. They prevent sliding backwards if you hit a particularly rocky patch.
  3. They impose discipline, especially on the process of deciding which are the most impactful initiatives to implement.

Secure Investment

Investment in digital transformation may result in lower profits for a small time but without it, an organisation can be left in high water when expectations inevitably change.

Recently, Durham County Council have dedicated a lot of time, effort and investment into their digital strategy, which has helped them secure their ambitions. They’ve been able to increase the use of mobile working for frontline services, explore the use of assistive technology in adult social care and support online access and safety within their community.

The Council secured investment on two fronts - financially and in terms of organisation buy-in - as investment is not a purely financial matter. Through financial aid, the Council have provided ‘new, efficient ways of working for both frontline and back office staff’. 

2. Launch

Often, an organisation can throw everything into the ring when it comes to digital transformation and due to this over-enthusiasm, they can end up throwing in the towel. Projects need to be chosen carefully to maximise efficiency and the chances of success. Alongside this, allocate teams and resources with due care. Here's how…

Begin With Lighthouse Projects

Organisations should begin by choosing the projects that can offer quick wins with easily manageable risks. This will help to win support company-wide.

By garnering quick success, you not only impress management but you also convince the early naysayers and increase satisfaction from external agents such as customers.

Create a Top-Quality Launch Team

Getting the makeup of the launch team right is make or break for digital transformation. The right makeup is determined by the correct emphasis on people leadership, experience and new talent. To ensure a successful transformation, look for the following skills:

  • Creativity.
  • Flexibility.
  • Collaborative experience.
  • Accountability.
  • Productivity.
  • Critical thinking.

You need people who will lead, people who understand the theory and those who provide new ways of thinking. After all, it’s a new field to journey into.

However, these soft skills also need to be combined with the required technical skills that come with the implementation of new digital processes. Only through a combination of these hard and soft skills can your team drive the digital transformation framework. Make a point to search for specific digital or technical skills when expanding your team.

Organise Agile Work Strategies

Digital success is based on fresh and agile implementation strategies. Service development, real-time testing methods and cross-functional teams that deliver both wide and specific expertise - these are all crucial factors that need to be supported.

A public sector team needs to have the authority and independence to make their own decisions. In terms of work strategies, this team needs to know how to develop processes that solve issues while ensuring that these solutions don’t negatively affect the current processes in place.

While the team can act as an independent unit, its creations must work to incentivise a smooth transition towards the new digital components.

Promote A New Culture

Digital transformation is impossible without the development and support of a cultural transformation. We mentioned previously that for a digital transformation to work, every employee within an organisation needs to be up-to-date and on-board with the process. But it goes a little further than this.

The new methods, approaches and attitudes brought about by the technological changes of digital transformation need to take hold across the organisation. To improve on working styles, attitudes need to evolve. Cultural transformation is about renewing the heritage of a company to match the innovation and progress that the market environment demands.

By promoting a new organisational culture, we create a holistic atmosphere in which digital transformation thrives.

3. Growth

After a certain point along the digital transformation framework, there should be a number of initiatives in place which are capturing value and success. These are periods in which we can further develop upon what we’ve created. Here’s how…

Capitalising on Quick Returns

The more value a process gains, the more it becomes self-funding and the more its support increases. This is evidently a good thing but it means individuals or organisations can feel too self-assured, which could lead to scarce resources by targeting several goals at once. Furthermore, the more success you gain, the more the market or competitors throw curveballs your way.

The initiatives to pursue are the ones that are the most strategically important. Financial pressures will shape digital transformation to some degree, so it’s also wise to look for cost-cutting avenues - but not those that will cause issues in the future. For example, legacy systems for data capture or planning tend to be cheaper options than cloud platforms but may restrict growth in the long run because they’re not up-to-date.

Capitalising on opportunities and tracking the returns gained by transformation initiatives is a way to build self-fulfilling targets. As success is claimed by your teams, these targets can be built upon, meaning your organisation doesn’t become complacent in the face of growth. Push more to achieve more but don’t overreach as you may become unbalanced.

Evolving Capabilities

On top of the new systems brought in by a digital transformation framework, new skills need to be fostered within a workforce as well. This means internal training both top-down and bottom-up in nature. Fortunately, this will come as an essential part of your cultural transformation which should include skills-based workshops and group training.

It’s a good idea to invest capital into company-wide training or at least designate key staff members who will be trained up to become the owners of specific software. This depends on your timeframe and capabilities as training the whole workforce rather than just several individuals is obviously more beneficial.

As digital transformation means establishing a new company-wide operating model, the way all employees work is something that will need updating.

Adopting New Operational Models

As technologies grow and become more integrated, organisations in the public sector need to distance themselves from traditional operating structures. A lot of the time, these structures can have rigid boundaries that can turn out to be too restrictive.

Teams and systems may not be permanent. Once they’ve hit one goal, they can be restructured to hit another one. An agile, interconnected approach to digital transformation is the only one that can succeed in the long-term. The nature of transformation is multi-faceted, so your teams and models should reflect that.

Agility is a key tenet for those looking to transform their organisation but agility can only be gained from an evolving organisational culture. Digital transformation itself emphasises technology, but agility in this respect can only be supported by an effective team and culture.

If you’re looking to build a great organisational culture that can drive digital transformation, download our guide below.

Discover How Cultural Transformation Can Benefit Your Organisation

If you’d like to learn more about issues like the above and the wider role of technology within the public sector then please do join us at the UK’s leading public sector tech event, DigiGov 2024.

You can find the agenda here and if you’d like to register for the show then please click on the banner below:

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Taking place on the 8th-9th May at the Excel in London DigiGov Expo will enable you to:

  • Meet and network with 2,400+ fellow public sector tech professionals across the two days.
  • Learn from 150+ exhibitors who are on the frontline of providing technological solutions to public sector challenges
  • Hear from key figures including Sue Bateman – CDDO, Keith Dargie - Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Lord Francis Maude, Daljit Rehal – HMRC and many others including representatives from the Alan Turing Institute, Cabinet Office Digital, the ICO, Innovate UK, the NAO and many more across 4 theatres
  • Forecast future tech trends with a clear and progressive roadmap of what’s to come