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The importance of people in public sector digital transformation

By Aingaran Pillai - 14th March 2019

“We cannot underestimate the importance of people in the digital transformation journey,” that was one of the main conclusions from our recent survey exploring the progress of digital transformation in government departments.
 
Much of the insight we gained through the survey, having spoken to individuals from 95 Central Government departments and agencies, highlighted how crucial people are in the drive towards digital transformation.
 

Our survey says

For example, staff resources (73%) and skills (58%) were cited as the main reason there are issues with replacing legacy infrastructure in the public sector. It was followed closely by a cultural resistance to change (54%) within organisations.

Our survey showed how crucial it is for government organisations to make sure it’s providing staff with the right resources and tools to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

As we work in more digitally-focused ways, we will continue to face different challenges. We must be willing to think differently, work differently, and drive this complex change from the heart of our organisations.

The survey recommended some changes that required attention. Organisations need to raise their internal capacity by upskilling staff and investing in training. The importance of ‘empowering employees’ and ‘knowledge transfer’ scored highly in the survey.


SURVEY: Redesigning Government’s Digital DNA — read the full report

Knowledge and skills

When it comes to knowledge and skills, we’re still seeing a clear correlation between widespread usage and understanding. As we move forward in our digital transformation journeys, we should be looking ahead, and making plans to increase training and understanding around tools, software and systems even before they’re implemented.

If we don’t do this, we run the risk of chasing a skills deficit for many years, unable to take advantage of the available tools and technologies that emerge and become relevant. Upskilling enables the digital workforce to become agile, flexible and respond to this change seamlessly.

We should also be strategic about how we approach technologies. Rather than train employees for different systems individually and make them switch between them, we should cultivate a mindset that allows employees to get their work done effectively using systems with great user experience, integrated across organisational boundaries. This maximises the investment we put in our people and the effectiveness of the service they provide. For example, Digital Process Automation is a great approach, enabling employees to build digital maturity in their organisation. 

Looking at our teams objectively, and encouraging open, transparent conversations about roles and responsibilities could be key to opening up new opportunities in the digital transformation space. 

Collaboration

Collaborating with specialists and experienced technology partners can help ensure that shared learning and knowledge transfer takes place. We always work as one team with our clients and knowledge transfer is one of the things we enshrine in whatever project we undertake, ensuring the baton is passed on to employees so they are fully equipped for the changing digital landscape. 

Digital transformation represents a significant shift for public sector organisations, not only in embedded processes, but in culture. Often an unrealistic expectation is that digital changes will be implemented, adopted and embraced seamlessly. In reality, that’s rarely the case. It’s why we need to build a robust workforce that is prepared for change but is also supported to make the most of these emerging technologies. 

We must not only invest in our technology, but also in our people, if we want to reach our full digital potential.

About the author: Aingaran Pillai
Aingaran Pillai is the Founder and CEO of Zaizi. Having worked on an Alfresco project in Government back in 2006, he liked the technology so much he started Zaizi to work on many more Alfresco implementations. Since then he has built Zaizi to be a leader in providing end-to-end digital solutions, specialising in business automation, open source technologies and cloud platforms. He provides thought leadership in the field of digital transformation in both the Public and Private Sector.