The UK government’s digital transformation: a scorecard


After interminable delays, the UK government finally unveiled both its ‘Government Transformation Strategy’ for 2017 to 2020 and its ‘UK Digital Strategy’ – parts of the notion of a digital economy. To say they landed with loud thuds would be far too kind in my viewpoint.

These strategies were delivered by culture secretary Karen Bradley, Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer and digital and culture minister Matt Hancock. They have been positioned as ‘the means to restore trust in the way that government works with people’, even in democracy itself’, as well as to ‘create a digital economy that works for everyone’. Those are pretty tall orders for a Brexit-rattled government that cannot define what its exit strategy actually entails.

Strategies come and go, but few have been set up for failure so substantially as these two. These strategies are a dog’s breakfast of vague promises – the result of the folly and fantasy of feckless digital cheerleaders in government, all of whom are desperate to show some progress and justification for their profligate spending.

>See also: The UK Government’s Transformation Strategy

They pander to rising nationalism and employ the tired practice of wrapping up their plan in empty patriotic rhetoric and slogans such as ‘the government wants to serve’ and ‘we have a plan for Britain’.

As expected, the facile technology press, government-funded institutions and recipients of corporate welfare have all rallied around the plans and are doing their best to promote their value to the UK. To convey my view on these strategies I have rated them based on ten categories.

1. Substance (something worth fighting for). Rating: very little.

2. Leadership (someone you believe it). Rating: virtually non-existent.

3. Value (is it worth it?). Rating: non-quantifiable.

4. The notion of government as a business, including corporate functions (governments are not businesses and vice versa). Rating: hard to fathom.

5. The use of repetition as a filler mechanism (see if you can count the number of times the same platitudes are cut and pasted throughout). Rating: top marks.

6. The notion of digital people (not a culture of digital). Rating: nonsensical at best.

7. The use of farcical financials (a tribute to bogus projections and other similarly dubious metrics). Rating: expected, but the use of extreme specificity exposes it farcicality.

8. The referencing of favourable reference points and case studies (cherry-picked for maximum alignment with themes). Rating: these are bad and belie the fact there is no measurable success or financial benefits so far.

9. Finding a way to blame it on Brexit (if it fails, who do we blame?). Rating: rubber stamp completed.

10. The level of incompetence and risk in the entire plan (not just mere whimsy, but rank incompetence). Rating: doomed to fail, but it will still be heralded as a success.

>See also: Why government-driven digital transformation is a train wreck

While the above may seem harsh, let’s be clear: strategy is a point-in-time view of a plan to get where you want to be. If it is crafted by people with no vision whatsoever (other than the next election cycle), with a mission that consists only of attaining and maintaining political power, and goals that benefit only those in power, then it is of little value. As we know, execution of the strategy is 99.5% of the effort and consumes all of the money. I see little to persuade me that precision in execution of these strategies will be the norm.

Brexit will require all the government strategies to be completely rethought and revamped. For an electorate wondering what Britain will be like after Brexit and how it will affect them, these abominations of a digital strategy and transformation programme will bring no comfort.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...