The State of Scotland’s Public Sector Digital Transformation 2018
Dr Jim Hamill, Future Digital Leaders CEO, shares the findings from the latest Public Sector Digital Leaders Forum.
While there is growing acceptance of the need for Scotland’s public sector to transform digitally, only limited progress has been made in leveraging the full potential of emerging technologies for enhancing the citizen experience; building efficient, agile digital workplaces; and reimagining service delivery.
Most public sector organisations remain at an early experimental stage on their transformation journey. Few have yet fully embedded digital technology at the core of everything they do.
This report provides a short overview of the key findings emerging from our Public Sector Digital Leaders Forum held on the 1st November 2018. Based on a survey of 65 participants, representing 35 public sector organisations, the findings provide a useful snapshot of the state of public sector digital transformation in Scotland year end 2018.
- Despite wide acceptance that digital can deliver more cost-efficient, agile and citizen-focused public services, digital supported transformation is viewed as being ‘mission critical’ in fewer than half of public sector organisations in Scotland (49%).
- Only 26% of Scottish public sector organisations have an agreed digital transformation strategy in place providing a roadmap for change.
- Progress in transforming service delivery has been slow with 81% of respondents stating that ‘little or only limited’ progress has been made. Only 15% stated that ‘good progress’ was being made in digitally transforming service delivery.
- The absence of digital leadership, organisational culture issues and digital skills shortages were identified as the three most important barriers to transformational change in Scotland’s public sector. 73% of respondents stated that their organisation lacked digital leadership. Other barriers to progress included fear, funding, resources and perceived risk.
- Externally, few public sector organisations are leveraging the full potential of digital for delivering exceptional customer experiences at Key Moments of Truth in the customer journey. Only 15% of respondents stated that they were making good progress in this area.
- Internally, many public sector organisations in Scotland continue to exhibit the classic symptoms of pre-digital workplaces – hierarchical, bureaucratic and controlling organisational structures; silos; ‘productivity busters’ such as excessive use of e-mail and too many meetings; legacy technology and legacy management thinking; lack of innovation and staff engagement; poor communications; decision-making based on hunch rather than analytics.
- Less than a third of respondents agreed that digital natives would find their organisation an attractive place to work.
The core findings from our Forum raise an important question – how can we accelerate the digital transformation of public service delivery in Scotland?
Published in March 2017, the Scottish Government’s updated digital strategy – ‘Realising Scotland’s full potential in a digital world’ – set out a vision for Scotland as a “vibrant, inclusive, open and outward-looking digital nation”.
Through this, a range of measures were announced to: “Ensure that Scotland continues to prosper in an increasingly connected and competitive world.”
Digital transformation of Scotland’s public sector and services was a key element of the updated national strategy. Almost two years on, what progress has been made?
This question was addressed at a recent Public Sector Digital Transformation Forum organised by three Microsoft Accredited Gold Partners (Bridgeall, Redspire and Exactive) and facilitated by Dr. Jim Hamill.
Held on the 1st November 2018, the Forum used a live interactive audience polling tool to survey participants’ thoughts and experiences regarding progress being made.
The results provide a useful snapshot covering the state of public sector digital transformation in Scotland as we move into 2019.
Sixty-five public sector digital leaders attended the Forum representing 35 different organisations as shown in Figure 1 below. A broad range of organisations were represented including local authorities (17), education (5), central government (1), health (2), housing (2), government-funded organisations (5) and charities (3).
Figure 1: Participating Organisations
The majority of public sector organisations in Scotland do not view digital transformation as being a ‘mission critical’ priority.
Despite the strong focus on public sector reform in the ‘Realising Scotland’s full potential’ document, digital transformation is viewed as being ‘mission critical’ in fewer than half (49%) of public sector organisations in Scotland.
It is, however, ‘emerging as a priority’ in 38% of the organisations that took part in the interactive poll. In 14% of participant organisations, ‘some discussions are taking place’ – but transformation is still some way from being considered a priority.
Two years on from the re-launch of the National Digital Strategy for Scotland, considerable progress still needs to be made to ensure that digital transformation becomes a top agenda item for Scotland’s public sector.
Figure 2: Has digital transformation become a priority for your organisation?
Digital Transformation Strategies
Successful digital transformation requires a clear vision and strategy, supported by a digital roadmap for ‘getting there’, with organisations who plan their transformations well tending to outperform those that ‘muddle through’.
Reflecting the findings reported above, just over one-quarter (26%) of the public sector organisations participating in the Forum claimed to have an agreed digital transformation strategy in place, with fewer than half (47%) claiming to have a digital transformation strategy to ‘some extent’ (Figure 3).
Two years after the launch of the updated National Digital Strategy for Scotland, over a quarter of public sector organisations (26%) still do not yet have an agreed strategy in place to support digital change.
Figure 3: % of organisations having an agreed digital transformation strategy.
Not surprisingly, Forum participants stated that very little progress has been made in implementing digital transformation. Based on the question shown in Figure 4 below, a weighted average of 2.6 was recorded; highlighting the slow progress being made.
Twenty-seven out of the 33 organisations answering this question (81%) reported ‘little or no progress’ being made in transforming digitally.
Two years after the re-launch of the National Digital Strategy for Scotland, only 5 out of the 33 public sector organisations attending the Forum (15%) reported ‘good progress being made.’
Figure 4: What progress has been made in implementing digital transformation?
Barriers and Obstacles
As shown in the word cloud below (Figure 5), respondents identified a wide range of barriers and obstacles preventing the more rapid digital transformation of Scotland’s public sector.
The three most important barriers mentioned were the lack of digital leadership, organisational culture issues and digital skills shortages. Around 73% of respondents stated that their organisation lacked digital leadership while other barriers to progress included fear, funding, resources and perceived risk.
Figure 5: The main barriers and obstacles to transformational change.
Only two of the 34 public sector organisations responding to this question (6%) stated that they had a well-developed implementation plan for overcoming organisational barriers to change. Twelve (35%) reported having an implementation plan ‘to some extent’. A full 59% stated that no implementation plan was in place or ‘not known’.
Figure 6: Do you have an implementation plan to overcome barriers?
Leveraging the Potential of Digital Technology
Especially in an era of tight budgets, the effective use of digital technology can provide public sector organisations with a major opportunity for delivering enhanced levels of customer (citizen) service in a more cost-efficient and effective manner.
With citizen touchpoints becoming increasingly digital, the implementation of a digitally-supported Customer Experience Management Strategy can significantly enhance the citizen experience at Key Moments of Truth in the customer journey.
As shown below, considerable progress still needs to be made before public sector organisations in Scotland are leveraging the full potential of digital technology in this area.
Twenty of the 33 organisations answering this question (61%) ‘strongly disagreed or disagreed’ when asked if they were leveraging the full potential of digital technologies for delivering exceptional citizen experiences at KMOT in the customer relationship.
Only five organisations (15%) stated that they were making good progress in this area.
Figure 7: To what extent do you agree/disagree with the following statements?
Exhibiting Classic Symptoms
With an average score of 3.5 out of 5, more than twenty of the public sector organisations answering this question (62%) agreed that their organisational structure was too hierarchical, bureaucratic and controlling (Figure 8).
Excessive reliance on email was viewed as a major ‘productivity buster’ by 61% of respondents with a further 59% strongly agreeing with the statement ‘our system won’t allow us to do that’.
Concerningly, 53% ‘strongly agreed’ that decision-making in their organisation was based on ‘hunch rather than analytics’.
Fewer than one-third (29%) of public sector organisations in Scotland agreed that digital natives would find their organisation an attractive place to work.
Almost all participants (91%) strongly agreed that their organisation needed to become more innovative.
Figure 8: To what extent do you agree/disagree with the following statements?
A wide range of inefficiencies and frustrations were listed in the answer to this question including; excessive time spent in meetings, answering e-mails, people and cultural challenges, organisational silos, administration, negativity and connectivity issues, procurement processes, ineffective decisions, blinkered mindsets, poor communications, leadership, poor technology, lack of engagement, information availability, unwillingness to change and many others as shown in Figure 9 below.
Figure 9: List the main operational barriers in your organisation.
Considerable Progress Required
The results for this question are especially worrying (Figure 10). Only 8 out of the 33 organisations responding to this question (24%) stated that they were making ‘good or very good progress’ in digitising key business processes.
Over three-quarters (76%) stated that ‘little or only limited progress’ had been made in using digital technology to support staff engagement building more collaborative, agile, digital workplaces.
Only 9% of respondents stated that ‘good or very good’ progress was being made in deriving actionable insight from data by providing staff with access to self-service, visual-based BI software. Additionally, more than 80% of respondents stated that ‘limited or no’ progress was being made in using digital to support innovation.
In terms of their use of emerging technologies such as voice, digital workplaces, automation, IoT and the blockchain, only two organisations stated that good progress was being made.
Figure 10: What progress has been made by your organisation in using technology to:
29 out of the 33 organisations (88%) responding to this question agreed that digital disruption will have a major impact on future employment, labour markets and skills, with 56% ‘agreeing or strongly agreeing’ that automation would lead to large scale job losses in the public sector.
- 26 out of the 33 organisations responding (79%) ‘agreed or strongly agreed’ that the public sector in Scotland was facing a digital recruitment/skills crisis.
- Twenty-four organisations (73%) ‘agreed or strongly agreed’ that the public sector was facing a digital leadership crisis with only seven organisations (21%) agreeing that their senior executive team ‘get digital’.
- Only five organisations (15%) agreed that digital was strongly represented on their main board.
Figure 11: To what extent do you disagree/agree with the following statements?
The findings reported here, covering the public sector in Scotland, are broadly in line with other recent studies adopting a more globally focused approach – evaluating digital transformation progress across a wide range of industries and countries. Please see the reference section below for a short list of relevant reports.
Based on this research, the ‘so what’ question becomes – how can we accelerate the digital transformation of Scotland’s public sector?
As a next step, we will be organising a follow-up Forum and Expert Panel Session on ‘Accelerating Public Sector Digital Transformation’ in the Spring of this year. Details to follow.
The Digital Enterprise: moving from experimentation to transformation, World Economic Forum, 2018.
Realising Scotland’s Full Potential in a Digital World: A Digital Strategy for Scotland, Scottish Government, 2017.
Two years on, who’s leading digital? Probably not your board, Didier Bonnet, 2018.
The State of Digital Transformation, Brian Solis, 2017.
Digital Culture: Your Competitive Advantage, Microsoft, 2018.
Charting the Digital Transformation Genome, Deloitte, 2018.
Why so Many High-Profile Digital Transformations Fail, Harvard Business Review, 2018.
Digital Leaders Out-Perform Digital Laggards, Bridgeall Blog, 2018.
Having the Technology is Not Enough, Sloan Management Review, 2018.
The Digital Culture Challenge, Capgemini, 2018.