The idea that digital transformation will ever be finished is an “illusion” and government should focus on establishing long-term leadership to ensure evolution at a more organic pace, a Capita director has said.
Under construction: Organisations need to ‘end the illusion that big digital programmes will ever be finished’ – Photo credit: Flickr, William Warby
According to Catherine Howe, who directs solutions development at the company, said that all too often the answer to how to do things differently is to “go agile” – but, she said, that is “not enough”.
Writing in a blogpost for TechUK, Howe noted that, although agile isn’t new, it has become increasingly popular in the public sector, which has been helped in part by the fact the Government Digital Service has championed the approach.
However, she added that adopting agile on its own is not enough. “One of the most important things to understand about agile is that it’s more than just a development process – done properly it’s also a change in culture, governance and decision making,” she wrote.
“This makes the interface between agile and your mainstream decision making crucial, creating a new model of working.”
This new model means accepting that big digital programmes will never be finished – something she describes as an “illusion”.
Instead she said there needs to be a shift to an organisational model that can have bursts of activity on a specific project while retaining “a digital capability that can continue to evolve the project at a more organic rate”.
Howe said that one way of achieving this is to embed product owners into the programme. They will be responsible for the interface between technical and non-technical teams, the roadmap for the product and the detailed prioritisation between that vision and the needs of the wider programme.
“Big transformation programmes can feel unwieldy and inflexible to the agile practitioner but product owners can bridge the gaps between old and new ways of working,” Howe said.
“They can translate the needs of the business to the technical teams and translate back the fact that technology projects don’t always travel in a straight line.”
For Howe, this “small change” will ensure that, even after the agile part f the programme has ended, there is a responsible person embedded in the business with a deep understanding of the digital tools it relies on.
She said that the best product owners will come from the core business area, adding that Capita had been working on this approach with local government partnerships and were “beginning to see tangible results”.
“By approaching large scale transformation with a digital mindset and not just a list of digital tools these big programmes can be a route to real organisational transformation,” she said.