Getting Government 'Future-Ready'

Are the systems, processes, technologies and skills in Government fit for a future filled with change and innovation? At GovX Digital 2020, the panel session ‘Getting Government Future-Ready’ asked an expert panel for their thoughts. Here are their key takeaways.


Three foundations of Digital Readiness

James FreedJames Freed - CIO, Health Education England

How do you help create an environment which is more flexible, able to make change happen quicker and respond to change more rapidly? 

To be more flexible, you need to know what tools you've got at your disposal, at least theoretically. So you've got to be horizon scanning, you've got to have trust and a risk model that enables you to move at the point of expertise rather than the point of highest paid position - the hippo effect where decisions defer to the highest-paid person's opinion.

Our research has led us to the conclusion that you need three things from a digital readiness and people perspective. 

  1. A leadership team that recognises the value of experimenting safely, and at pace, which means that all of the governance is not about making that decision on that product. It's about helping others make decisions quickly and appropriately and escalating when necessary. 

  2. Recognising Moore's Law means that it's impossible to have a horizon-scanning function that picks up everything nowadays, and that everyone is best placed to solve the problems that they personally experience. That's a digital literacy issue. That's a whole workforce issue, and increasingly a whole service user issue. 

  3. Finally, there's the group of people who are the expert digital workforce, and how do you best employ those? In government, certainly in the health service, and across all industries, we don't have a language for what good looks like for those different skill levels. How do we professionalise our digital professions? 


Multi-Agency Collaboration

Peter TollandPeter Tolland - Head of Digital Directorate Programmes, Digital Directorate, The Scottish Government

We need to be looking at giving more back to our communities and working with those communities in more proactive and constructive ways. In Scotland, we had the Scottish Tech Army -1,000 volunteers working on hundreds of projects, making things better for people and the communities of Scotland. I think our major institutions here need to start adopting that kind of approach as we move forward.

We've definitely headed towards a collaborative world that means we're moving away from consultations towards more meaningful engagements -those realisations that we are maybe no longer in control, and the balance of power is shifting. But the whole point of collaborative relationships is to build and maintain a new level of trust. 

Breaking out of Silos

Elizabeth RhodenizerElizabeth Rhodenizer - Chief Information Officer, Public Service Commission of Canada

We don't know where we’re headed. Are we in this for another quarter? Are we in this for much longer? What we need to do for our citizens is be responsive. We need to take that environmental context into consideration and better understand their needs, be responsive to that, but also be inclusive.

When we talk about our citizens or clients, it's not just one silo or one persona that we have to consider from our perspective. It’s the inclusion of all and meeting their needs. What that means for our colleagues is getting out of silos.

If the last seven or eight months have taught us anything, it definitely showed us silos do not work - we cannot achieve alone. So whether it's crossing silos within organisations or across sectors, we really have to ensure that we continue that. 

Blending legacy and new technology

Jackie SmithJackie Smith - Head of Public Sector Consulting Scotland, Sopra Steria

I don't know a single government or public sector body that doesn't have legacy technology and systems. It's just the nature of the beast because you haven't had the funding to continually change everything. And you don't have to do that either. 

There are some amazing pieces of legacy technology out there that do the job they were designed to do. It's about trying to find ways to connect to those and make sure that you've got as much as possible in the front end of the service running smoothly. 

If you can make the digital front end slick and easy to use so that people can navigate it quickly, they can self serve. So looking at infrastructure, aim for great front ends, but don't necessarily think you have to rip out everything that's sitting behind it - find the right ways to link it together.

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