Civil Servants list roadblocks to digital transformation

Inefficient legacy systems and difficulties retaining talent are among the top threats to digital transformation, says civil servants. 

A new whitepaper by HR tech firm Workday, surveying 400 civil servants with responsibility for HR, Finance and Enterprise Planning systems
within government, explores the progress government departments are making on their digital transformation strategies - and the barriers they face in the process.

Top three barriers

Existing tech infrastructure is seen is seen as the biggest roadblock; with over half (55%) of civil servants reporting that 'fragmented and disconnected' systems were slowing down digital transformation.

Over half (51%) of civil servants believe that ‘inflexible legacy HR and finance systems threaten operational resilience’. Meanwhile, three quarters (74%) of civil servants report that current systems do not offer a seamless or accessible experience for user.

A representative from the Cabinet Office, who took part in the whitepaper, highlighted these challenges when they said: "Our annual leave process currently involves filling in a Word doc and a spreadsheet - we don’t have a piece of software to manage this." 

Civil servants clearly recognise the limitations of their existing IT systems; with 45% reporting that their department's current digital priority is modernising or upgrading legacy technologies.

Difficulties in developing and retaining skilled staff is the second biggest barrier to digital transformation (54), along with a lack of internal technical
knowledge or expertise (43%).
Despite this, 29% of civil servants claim there has been ‘no progress’ in developing and retaining skilled staff - with only 3% reporting ‘significant progress'.

There is an acknowledgement that departments need to invest more in its technical and analytical capabilities to deliver the benefits of the systems being installed. "We are currently failing to get the benefits from an expensive IT programme due to staffing and skills gaps," one respondent said, speaking on behalf of the Home Office. 

Other than technical and skills-based challenges, budget restrictions (46%) emerges as one of the top three barriers that can restrict digital transformation.

Asked to do more with less  

Daniel Pell, Vice President and Country Manager, UK and Ireland at Workday, said that the report “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.” 

He continued: “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.” 

He suggested that to address the challenges highlighted in the whitepaper: “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.”

Five recommendations 

Against this backdrop, the whitepaper highlights five key recommendations to overcome the biggest barriers to digital transformation:

1. Improve the employee user experience
2. Invest in tools to tackle workforce challenges
3. Educate and train staff to use digital tools
4. Invest to foster innovation
5. Explore cloud-based solutions


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