Public sector chiefs are ‘holding back digital revolution’

Public sector bosses should not stand in the way of technological progress to transform the way public bodies and local authorities operate, according to the director of the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing.

Stephen Curtis, who heads up the government organisation tasked with the job of promoting collaboration between agencies, councils and other public sector organisations, said that the use of technology is less critical than the vision and leadership of management teams charged with driving transformation.

Curtis was speaking at the Civica Expo held in Manchester at a seminar entitled “Tackling the challenges to information sharing in multi-agency working”. The seminar focused on how public organisations are driving towards more integrated services, to deliver better outcomes for people at lower cost.                   

He said that technology, information governance and people must work “hand-in-hand” to become a powerful enabler for information sharing, but the “people aspect” is often neglected. 

“The potential for technology to make public sector services work better for the general public is clearly huge but in order to do so we must first transform organisational cultures. In particular, the willingness to share data across organisations must come from the top and be instilled across all pillars of an organisation to have a real impact,” he said.

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During the conference, a number of themes emerged, according to Civica. First, management teams must “create an organisational culture and structure that supports and drives transformation, with leaders empowering their employees, welcoming innovation and investing in digital services to succeed in the years ahead”.

Change has also become a “way of life” for public sector organisations with the pace of change and expectation accelerating, the conference heard. These organisations were urged to “embrace the opportunities that this brings to restructure services and improve delivery”.

There must also be a focus on core strengths, according to Civica. This meant that organisations that are not best placed to deliver a service should line up a strategic partnership to meet this need. Technology must also be embraced to deliver better services with a focus on managing and analysing data to create real consumer benefits. 

Wayne Story, deputy chief executive of Civica, said that making small changes was no longer an option.

“It is about completely re-adapting the way public sector organisations think. A more strategic commitment that is driven by technology and sensitive to cultural nuances is the only route to success in this digital era. This wholesale change must come from the very top to stand any chance of success.”

Colin Marrs

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