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The growing pains of public sector IT

Natasha Veenendaal
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I recently facilitated a roundtable discussion for the Local Government Executive Briefing Programme, hosted by Hackney LBC with ten local authorities represented.

The title of this session was ‘Designing for digital service delivery’ but the conversation was much broader. We talked about how to create dynamic places to work, shape markets and change mind-sets.

The conversation reminded me that the technology is often the easy bit and what is much more complex is people, process and culture.

IT professionals often find themselves in the centre of the organisation, very often knowing business processes better the businesses themselves. This position can contain incredible power that cuts across silos, but it also creates tension.

One participant at the meeting likened this to the tension between a teenager and parent: “There is a growing-up that needs to happen, and a need to become adept at finding ways that allows our [IT] roles in the community and ecosystem to move from child to adult.”

Digital is not just about technology, it’s about changing the way that organisations operate. In this new organisational environment there is a need to learn to manage by influence, rather than command and control, and find the levers for change. IT is described as a support service, or at best and enabler, but it needs to become a partner at the table. It is important that IT is seen as capable of understanding what the business needs and what the public expect, as well as having the practical capacity and capability to deliver this.

And our conclusions from the meeting? We need to change mind-sets and activate new behaviours for leaders, the workforce and citizens by creating a culture where change is possible, building digital skills and empowering staff to innovate.

These meeting are one of my favourite EBP activities; I learn a lot, meet great people and come away inspired to share ideas. I’d like to thank the participants for their contributions, which have been written up into ten recommendations for action and can be downloaded here.

Our next meetings will be about skills taking place in Warwick (28 February), London (5 April) and Wigan (17 May). This series of workshops will enable discussion and provide practical guidance about the development of digital skills in the workplace, and how to engage the workforce to create a culture to support digital change. Interested in attending? Email me.

Natasha Gwilliam, Executive Briefing Programme manager, Eduserv

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