NSTA’s CFO on what it takes to achieve digital transformation

The ongoing shortage of digital skills in government signals a growing need to upskill people who don’t see themselves as data or technology experts. This is according to Nic Granger, Director of Corporate and Chief Financial Officer at North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), who says improving digital capabilities while raising expectations of what is possible across all roles can be transformational - if done correctly.

Granger tells Government Transformation Magazine: “Increasingly, civil servants are looking to gain more digital skills, but the barrier they often come up against is time." 

To remedy this, she says the NSTA has established a Digital Academy, a platform designed to give staff instant access to digital training resources with the aim of addressing the skills requirements in the organisation in a flexible way, Granger explains. 

The Academy is part of the NSTA’s five-year Digital Strategy, which aims to embed a “culture of digital excellence” across the organisation. Nic Granger

“Each month, our Head of Digital Skills and Innovation, Patrick Rickles, hosts a digital awareness session. It's half an hour so it doesn't take up a huge amount of people's time and we also record them so people can watch it at their convenience," Granger says. 

The sessions tackle a different topic each month, ranging from general digital skills or training on new technology, to more technical coaching across the organisation’s bespoke internal platforms. 

The Academy was established in response to feedback the team received from staff who didn't know where to go to find more information on data or to build their digital skills. While the desire to learn was there, action was needed in order to actually capitalise on that.  

Providing a platform where all the necessary digital training is stored in one place, and staff are signposted to relevant resources saves people the trouble of having to do that research themselves - as Granger says: “they don't have to spend two hours doing something, they can spend an hour doing it because the legwork has already been done for them.”

Since then, on average, 75% of the organisation turn up to the digital training sessions each month, Granger says. 

“That in itself is a good indicator that it's helping staff. People are actually doing the digital skills training now whereas before, they would say it was too much bother, because they couldn't work out what it was supposed to do and how they're supposed to do it.” 

Cybersecurity priorities

Building the right internal digital capabilities also means ensuring that the organisation is aligned on cybersecurity from the right perspective and standards, Granger says. 

As public service organisations continue their digital transformation journeys, the potential for new cybersecurity risks increases - a trend that has been accelerated by the shift to remote working.

While cybersecurity and compliance is seen predominantly as a technology concern, Granger believes people, as the “last line of defence” are critical to managing and mitigating risk within an organisation. This means making sure staff - not just the IT team - develop a solid understanding of cyber threats and when to act on them. 

NSTA has recently stepped up its approach to cybersecurity, Granger says. Alongside its mandatory cybersecurity training and monthly phishing tests, the organisation has launched a scheme whereby staff are rewarded if they detect and alert the security team to a cyber threat.

“It doesn't cost us much as an organisation, but it does go that little further in encouraging staff to be more proactive… that cultural piece is important.” 

Moving towards better data standards 

Data principles and standards are another central component to building better digital capabilities - something Granger says will “enable an approach for data to be interoperable.”

“There is a strong need in government for data to be more interoperable. In order to facilitate that, the industry needs to look more closely at what data governance, standards and principles should be used.”

The current lack of consensus on data standards is something Granger believes needs to be overcome first and foremost.

“Everyone agrees that it's a great idea to have data standards but there are so many that no-one can agree on the best one.”

The NSTA is launching a task group to get to the bottom of this. The group, which will be chaired by Ed Evans, a senior consultant from the Open Data Institute, will review current data standards with the aim of finding out which ones are most applicable. 

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