Taking a Different Approach to Digital Transformation with the “2022-2025 Roadmap for Digital and Data”

Heather Cover-Kus, head of Central Government Programme at techUK looks at the government’s latest digital strategy

Another day, another strategy?
In the past five years, the UK government has created many strategies to guide its approach to digital transformation in UK public services. Indeed, there have been three digital strategies released in June 2022 alone. While the old adage advises that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, the saying “too much of a good thing” also comes to mind. As each new strategy quickly follows the previous one, they seem to lose a bit of shine along the way. It is only natural to wonder how impactful these new plans will be in delivering meaningful results.
    
The “2022-2025 Roadmap for Digital and Data” was launched by the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) in June. However, far from being another plan to add to the growing pile, CDDO claims that “this roadmap is designed to be different”. In fact, the strategy starts by acknowledging the mixed success of previous attempts at digital transformation in government – claiming they have lacked specificity, cross-government endorsement, and clear lines of accountability and business ownership. With this recognition of some of the obstacles to a meaningful strategy, the roadmap for digital and data seems to already set itself up to potentially avoid those hurdles and deliver results.
    
So, what can we expect from the strategy, and more importantly, is it okay to feel hopeful?

Something for everyone
The 2022-2025 Roadmap for Digital and Data aims to transform public services, creating a more efficient digital government that provides better outcomes for everyone. It has identified six missions to meet those aims: Mission One – Transformed public services that achieve the right outcomes;  Mission Two – One login for government; Mission Three – Better data to power decision-making; Mission Four – Secure efficient and sustainable technology; Mission Five – Digital skills at scale; and Mission Six – A system that unlocks digital transformation.
    
Beyond these general themes, how will the strategy impact its key stakeholders, namely members of the public, tech suppliers, and civil servants?
    
For members of the public, the pandemic has changed our expectations of service delivery. Whether it’s buying groceries, checking our bank account, or seeing a doctor we want to be able to do it quickly, easily, and from our mobile phones. Missions One and Two seek to make our interactions with government a lot smoother, easier, and closer to what we expect of service provision. On the surface, the mission to “transform public services to achieve the right outcomes” seems to fall into the trap of lacking specificity and being too vague to be meaningful. However, the strategy identifies the government’s top 75 services (ranging from claiming state pension, to using the travel advice service, to applying for a provisional driving licence) which it aims to move to a great standard of service performance.
    
For tech suppliers, there is much to be pleased about as well. The strategy speaks to the critical importance of technology in delivering modern, effective, and customer-centred public services. In particular, Missions Three and Four speak to how data and technology will be used to transform the delivery of public services. For example, under Mission Three, “all departments will have access to a data marketplace bracket (including a data catalogue, standards and governance models) to rival best practice across public and private sectors”. Likewise, under Mission Four “Government will systematically identify and capture opportunities arising from emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain add quantum computing”. The strategy clearly embraces the use of innovation and new technologies.
    
The roadmap also seeks to address the digital skills gap for civil servants with Mission Five’s digital skills at scale. The strategy aims to upskill current senior civil servants on digital and data essentials, reduce DDaT vacancies, and develop a plan for introducing diversity in the DDaT workforce.

The case for being hopeful
The true difference in this strategy lies with Mission Six - a system that unlocks digital transformation. This final mission of the roadmap is a big reason to be hopeful that the other missions can be achieved as it crucially aims to create an enabling environment for digital transformation. Under this mission, “CDDO will work with HMT, Finance, Commercial and IPA to address systemic barriers to digital transformation including financial processes, business case and impact tracking challenges. CDDO will support departments to fully implement these.” Efforts to remove the practical obstacles which make it difficult for government departments to procure and use innovative technology can make a positive difference in delivering the aims of the strategy.
    
For both suppliers and government departments, Mission Six underpins the successful delivery of the other missions of the strategy by supporting more thoughtful project design and enabling smoother and more effective procurement.
    
Helping to further make the case for being hopeful that this roadmap can deliver results is the fact that the strategy was developed in collaboration between CDDO and central government departments, making it truly a cross-governmental initiative. Additionally, accountability and leadership are baked into the document. Each mission is sponsored by a different permanent secretary who is set to provide leadership for and commitment to its delivery. Progress against the commitments of the roadmap will be measured at Quarterly Business Reviews chaired by CDDO and HM Treasury with a view to understanding both progress and obstacles.
    
Finally, the roadmap comes on the heels of the DDaT playbook, which seeks to make tech procurement easier and more effective. Developed in consultation with tech suppliers, the playbook sets out guidance on how digital projects and programmes are assessed, procured and delivered in central government departments, arms-length bodies, and the wider public sector.
    
While the 2022-2025 Roadmap for Digital Transformation is yet another government digital strategy, there is still much to be hopeful about as it sets itself apart from its predecessors. This road map not only embraces innovation and new ways of delivery, it also addresses the practical barriers to change and seeks to create an environment that allows digital transformation to take root.
    
Technology suppliers are supportive of the strategy and want to see it succeed. Moreover, they are crucial stakeholders in the UK’s digital transformation and are important partners in its success. techUK will continue to support engagement between the tech industry and central government departments to facilitate positive outcomes for everyone.

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