Test 13 February, 2017

Government at your service (III)

This article was first published in Reform’s 2017 Annual Conference brochure. To read more articles, click here.

The last few years have seen a huge transformation in how government departments procure, develop and manage the digital and information technologies upon which they rely to deliver services to the public. But if there is one lesson to be learned from these changes, it is that the job is never done. Successful digital transformation relies as much on continuous iteration of the processes and structures by which services are delivered as it does on continuous iteration and improvement of the services themselves.  It is now nearly seven years since the election of the Coalition Government under which these reforms were first introduced and the pace at which the art of the possible has advanced since then has only increased.

Whilst digital government services have advanced from the status of exemplars into the mainstream, there is more that can and should be done.  Recent changes in the leadership and direction of both the Cabinet Office’s Government Digital Service and individual departments suggests that we are on the cusp of the next-generation of digital policy.  Moving the work of the Department for Work and Pensions’ Digital Academy into the centre so that all departments can benefit from this approach will ensure that an understanding of digital is no longer a specialist skill, and digital will increasingly become an essential part of every civil servant’s capability.

Notwithstanding the many successes of the past few years, there are a number of challenges which departments and the centre must now tackle if they are to drive digital to the next level. Digital transformation must become end-to-end and address the legacy systems upon which existing services rely.  This is an essential step to enabling government organisations to start to use the data held in and generated by their online services to better focus them on the needs of individual citizens and drive the next generation of efficiencies from digital.  Departments and their technology suppliers must make further efforts to adopt agile development and the “DevOps” support model so that they can continue to evolve online services and properly integrate these with existing investments in technology.  Government digital teams, whether in-house or involving suppliers, must build upon the step-change in the quality of government web services that we have seen over the last few years and embrace the full suite of today’s digital technologies, including mobility, big data analytics, automation, robotics, and the Internet of Things. And we must ensure that all of these systems are properly secured against the ever-increasing threats of cyber-attack, so citizens can have full confidence that their sensitive data is being managed appropriately.

Finally, the governance and procurement models used to support the Government’s end-to-end requirements for technology must also evolve, informed by lessons from the last few years, so civil servants and supplier staff can work together more effectively to meet citizens’ ever-heightened expectations for digital government services that mirror the best that they experience from the commercial organisations with which they interact.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is one of the world’s leading technology companies, and a longstanding supplier of digital and IT services to the UK public sector. We constantly seek to apply the lessons from our experience with some leading businesses and governments around the world into the work we do for out public sector clients, so that we can help them scale their digital transformation efforts in order to deliver long-lasting and significant benefits for service users and the taxpayer.