Are Government Departments struggling with digital transformation?

Legacy infrastructure is hindering the adoption of automation and other emerging technologies.

As a result, over half of government departments are seeing slow or partial progress in digitising their processes, with even less exploring automation.

This is impacting government digital transformation projects, which are struggling to achieve efficiency. They are also not being future-proofed to take advantage of emerging technologies and meet the ever-rising expectations of the public.

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Policy Exchange have released a new report called the Smart State, exploring how the public sector can overcome the challenges of legacy systems to deliver citizen-centric platforms. Read here

A lack of skills, expertise and vision

Government departments are likely seeing poor progress because the public sector is lacking the skills, expertise and vision needed to execute robust digital transformation projects, according to the report from Zaizi.

Legacy infrastructure is also stagnating progress with 65% of the respondents stating their existing ICT infrastructure is hindering, or partially hindering, the success of implementing digital services and automating their processes.

The survey also found that half of digital transformation projects are overlooking technologies that include: Internet of Things (IoT), robotic process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

When asked if their organisation had the skills and knowledge to apply these technologies, respondents replied overwhelmingly that they either ‘didn’t know’ or had none.

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Mature tech: No problem

In contrast, respondents were more confident about their ability to implement more established technology platforms such as cloud services and Software-as-a-Service.

Aingaran Pillai, CEO, Zaizi, commented: “Every organisation is a software company of some guise in today’s world, yet this research indicates that government is yet to embrace this mindset. However, it’s hard to do so when you don’t have the skills and expertise to imagine digital transformation projects not just in the context of today, but also tomorrow. The risk is that current projects will become a burden on the public purse because in five years’ time – or less – they will need to be revamped.”

Brexit looms large on the horizon and will compound the digital limbo government departments find themselves in. In the short term, it will need to digitise rapidly and smartly to minimise disruption to how Government does business, but longer term now is the time to think more creatively about how this digital chasm is addressed from early talent capture through to embracing new ways of working,” Pillai continued.

Other key findings

 When asked what the biggest barrier to replacing their legacy infrastructure is, 73% cited staff resources; 59% said staff skills and 54% outlined a culture that is resistant to change — with almost one in five (17%) highlighting a lack of leadership.
 When considering key success factors for digital transformation, improving data security, meeting standards and knowledge transfer were ranked as the top three priorities.
 Despite acknowledging the lack of internal resources and skills, just 42% stated that working with SMEs was of high importance, indicating that SMEs — or the SME government tenders target— is front of mind.

Digital transformation is complex — the pace of technical change has never been so great. That’s why it is imperative that agility is built into projects so that in the future they can flex to incorporate new platforms with ease and we can avoid the dark days of vendor lock-ins that strangled public sectors’ ability to innovate. Culture is a key element to delivering the digital agenda, so that over half thought there was a resistance to change is concerning — especially given that knowledge transfer and empowering employees were considered high ranking success factors. The intent and the will are there, but there is still much work to be done on the digital agenda,” said Pillai.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...