NAO publishes crib sheet for digital transformation in government

The National Audit Office (NAO) has released a new guide aimed at supporting government senior leaders who are tasked with overseeing large-scale digital change by helping them understand in more detail the core issues to be addressed. 

The 25-page document identifies seven areas where the more persistent obstacles stand in the way of successful digital transformation in government and groups them into three themes: constraints of the existing environment, underestimating the scope of early work and a lack of skills and leadership.

The guide contains a list of of suggested questions designed to help organisations assess how well they are managing risks and seizing
transformation opportunities. 

NAO described it as a “crib sheet for senior leaders” who aren't confident with digital. By encouraging government executives to examine and understand potential issues in their digital transformation programmes more deeply, the guide aims to ensure that organisations do not set off on the wrong footing with unrealistic scopes or inappropriate budgets and timescales that are not grounded in a realistic assessment of what is deliverable. 

The guide is aimed primarily at the transformation of core operational citizen- and business-facing services that already exist, but is also relevant to organisations when determining their future strategies and considering funding requirements.

Not just an IT issue

Failing to see technology as more than an IT issue has led to past digital transformation failures. While the technology community in government is often expected to drive transformation, most digital change decisions, like funding, programme scope and how procurement should be undertaken, are made by the senior business leaders; the success of which depends on their digital fluency.

“Without a deeper understanding of digital transformation, senior leaders in government often focus on tactical solutions and quick fixes, which avoids addressing the underlying inefficiencies that contribute to driving future costs,” the document states.

Research undertaken by NAO over the last decade has found a consistent pattern of underperformance in delivering digital business change, often resulting from decisions on technology being taken too early, before the business problem is properly understood. "Government must learn from past experience and better equip senior leaders if it is to improve its track record of delivering digital change" the document says. 

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