Deciphering Digital in Local Government: Beyond the Technology

1st October 2018
by Sara Peake

By Stephen Wanless

This Thursday, I will be giving a talk at the LLG Annual Governance Conference on How Lawyers are championing Digital First in Local Government. What the opportunity to speak on this has really highlighted for me is that the digital transformation process can seem quite daunting. Engineering a successful digital transformation can require some big changes for any organisation, and local authorities face their own unique set of challenges.

Ahead of my workshop on 4th October, I thought it worth highlighting a few of the objectives outlined in the Government’s Digital Strategy and share some thoughts on the best ways to mitigate the challenges associated with implementing a digital strategy and successfully transforming your department.

What is the government’s digital strategy?

Since the government’s strategy was released in 2017, the discussion around digital transformation has been gaining momentum. One of the government’s objectives is to modernise public services in the UK and to support in-house teams in achieving their own digital transformation.

Bearing in mind the government’s strategy document is over 100 pages long, I won’t go into too much detail here, but in a nutshell the document sets out the following 7 key objectives:

1.   Connectivity – building world-class digital infrastructure for the UK

2.     Digital skills and inclusion – giving everyone access to the digital skills they need

3.     The digital sectors – making the UK the best place to start and grow a digital business

4.     The wider economy – helping every British business become a digital business

5.     A safe and secure cyberspace – making the UK the safest place in the world to live and work online

6.     Digital government – maintaining the UK government as a world leader in serving its citizens online

7.     Data – unlocking the power of data in the UK economy and improving public confidence in its use

So…What are the benefits for public sector lawyers?

The traditional legal office has historically been fairly paper-based. Like a library, the ability to access the right information has been dependent on being in the same physical location as your files. Now, with digital technology, these same lawyers can build their own remote “library” with software platforms to help them securely access everything they would normally use in the office from any location. Many legal departments that Iken support have been implementing their own remote working policies, adopting our technology with great success and enjoying the benefits flexible working can deliver.

Ensuring your busy team can collaborate and work effectively from different locations, while achieving an appropriate work-life balance is key to a successful flexible working policy. We have seen several cases where senior lawyers live many miles from their office – the option of remote working means teams can now recruit from further afield and more easily retain their best staff.

What are the priorities when making the transition to digital?

Imagine you buy the latest iPhone XS – which supports everything from wireless charging to water resistance – but you only use it for texts and calls. This is actually very similar to implementing professional software. You can buy the best system in the world, but if your people don’t know how to use it effectively in their roles – and you do not invest in regular training – then it will go unused and you will not reap the benefits.

Once you’ve drawn up a digital strategy, you have to dedicate time to supporting staff in implementing it: make it easy for the organisation to transform. My recommendation is regular, continuous training on the technology you rely on. As a company, we have many clients who attend quarterly refresher training, as they seek to utilise more and more of the functionality on offer. Superusers of Iken’s platform attend our regular masterclasses so they can pass on their new-found expertise to colleagues on their return.

I have every faith that this digital transition will succeed, as I am witnessing every day how public sector teams are leading by example, operating at the very forefront of digital adoption. I look forward to meeting even more innovative teams at the LLG conference next week and discussing their organisations’ digital strategies in more detail.

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