Digital Transformation: UK Government Transformation Strategy – culture change

Previously, as I blogged about the UK Government’s newly unveiled Transformation Strategy, there was little in the way of a general reaction to it. Since then, the Right Honorable Ben Gummer, the Cabinet Office Minister in charge of rolling the strategy out has made a few points that relate to the challenges facing such a transformation that are applicable to the wider business world.

It isn’t about kit: it’s about culture

 “There’s no point having a pretty shop-front if the mechanisms behind it correspond more with the late 19th century”

Ben Gummer, Cabinet Office minister

Gummer publicly acknowledged that relations between the Government Digital Service (GDS) and other departments that have their own (siloed) solutions has hindered the progress of digital change. Major departments, such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), had lobbied furiously for the influence of the GDS to be reduced or diminished to an advisory role. But he said necessity means the situation is improving.

“There’s no secret about it. It has been difficult for the next transformation to begin. Why is that? There’s nothing wrong with GDS or with the departments they work with. We’re asking for profound cultural change – where we’re getting to now with digital transformation isn’t about kit, it’s about the way that we operate,” he said.

“This is a challenge that faces all incumbents. If you’re lucky enough to be a startup you can design this from the bottom up. But when you’re a large bank, government or a supermarket, you’re talking about significant cultural change. By any measure, five-and-a-half years is quick to achieve that cultural change.”

And neither is it just about savings

“This not just savings for savings’ sake, nor is this transformation for transformation’s sake – this is to change the nature of government, so we are serving the public who we seek to serve, and [with a government] that they desperately wish to feel served by,” Ben Gummer continued.

Build a service, not a silo

For business, going down a path towards digital transformation translates to not just building products but building digital services that are useful for their users. If you reduce the users’ costs and increase the rewards of doing business with you, you will become more attractive. Create APIs that users, developers, and others digital services can access and build upon, enabling your services and products to be promulgated throughout the Internet. Above all, as the GDS found with the DWP, don’t build a silo: build a service.

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