To deliver digital business change effectively, senior government decision makers need to better understand the business, technical and delivery risks associated with digital programmes, a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has found.
Transformation of public services is increasingly led by digitally enabled business change. It is essential that public bodies deliver high quality digital services in a time when our way of life is increasingly digital.
Despite 25 years of government strategies and countless attempts to deliver digital business change successfully, there is a consistent pattern of underperformance. This underperformance is often the result of decision makers fixing on technology solutions before fundamental aspects of projects and programmes are sufficiently thought through.
The NAO found that only a small proportion of senior officials in government have first-hand experience of digital business change and as a result many lack sufficient understanding of the technical and delivery risks for which they are responsible. Many of the problems that occur in large digital operational change programmes stem from senior decision-makers’ inability to understand the issues and make the decisions required to implement digital change in an effective way.
Pressures on public finances mean there is an urgent need for those designing and delivering digital business change programmes to learn from past mistakes. Our work shows that there are six vital areas decision-makers need to get right if they are to stand the best chance of delivering these projects successfully:
- understanding aim, ambition and risk;
- engaging commercial partners;
- approach to legacy systems1 and data;
- using the right mix of capability;
- choice of delivery method;
- and effective funding mechanisms.
The NAO recommends that the Central Digital and Data Office, along with the Government Digital Service and the Cabinet Office, reviews and applies lessons learned from past failures and successes to improve government’s delivery of digital programmes. They should revise existing training programmes to better equip decision-makers who are responsible for digital transformation programmes. Individual departments and public bodies should ensure that senior digital, data and technology colleagues have greater influence on digital change programmes.