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Entering digital transformation’s bold world

Written by: Joanne Cumper, head of digital at Penna
Published on: 23 Jan 2020

Digital transformation has long been the driver of change for business and Government alike. As technology is applied to all aspects of a service or business, stakeholders see a positive shift in efficiency and accessibility by user groups.

Within the public sector, according to a survey by Deloitte UK, there seems to be a great deal of appreciation of the advantages that technological transformation can bring. In the same survey, only 19% of respondent felt they were aligned to or ahead of the private sector. The perceived barriers being budget, cost and skills shortage.

Digital has impacted the world in which local government operates. The effect has been positive in information, technology, communication, education, transformation, international relations and economic development. Citizen demand is forcing the hand of Government to move towards a new operating model that is digital and mobile- first. Budget cuts have compelled senior local government figures to turn to digital for help to drive efficiency.

According to the World Economic Forum, there are three core barriers to digital transformation:

·         Strategy

·         Workforce

·         Culture

The forum saw those organisations that were able to re-imagine their corporate strategy with the citizen at the core – a citizen centric digital strategy – have been those to enjoy the strongest and most positive impact of digital transformation on their organisations.

Culture is a dramatic area of change and development – the digital organisation operates in a manner counter-intuitive to the risk-averse world of local government, where perfection is the prerequisite for release, and failure is an anathema.

Digital fails and fails fast; it then learns and moves on. How to insert this pace tempo into a legacy organisation is a challenge the public sector faces?

Digital is an exciting opportunity to inject a more agile method of development, looking to the likes of the US to co-create public sector applications and crowdsource ideas.

Finally, the workforce is seen by public servants as a key barrier to moving forward with their digital transformation aspirations. Hiring the right workforce, or investing in upskilling your current employees, will help enhance the adoption of the right culture, bring with them a more collaborative and civic-centric approach to problems, as well as a more digitally savvy, entrepreneurial business acumen.

There are perceived issues with creating this workforce through retention and retraining as well as attraction and securing new talent.

Considering the first issue of retention and training, the public sector workforce is reported to feel a sense of being ‘left behind’ and a lack of investment, with training left in the main to self-organised and on-the-job training.  From my observations in the private sector, this is a good start to build on.

Commercial organisations are accepting there is a need to upskill the workforce through reskilling their current workforce – leading digital Dutch bank ING has set up its own digital academy to train and develop otherwise potentially retrenched staff.

Facebook is taking graduates from non-ICT backgrounds from core under-represented minorities and offering them the opportunity to gain a computer science degree. Helping the disadvantaged get on is something the local government sector is known for.

Penna has too-numerous-to-mention contacts that have been able to flourish and stretch their potential through employment with the company’s fantastic clients. Learning agility and a variety of experiences, with one or many organisations, is an advantage on a digital CV that Penna looks for.

Training and reskilling are also tools to bring in indviduals who have experienced non-linear careers or are looking to career switch. This approach has been adopted by leading firms, such as major international defence contractors, Disney, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, to name a few.

At Penna, we developed a gamified recruitment process to source coding talent for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory – which discovered a stay-athome mum who was self-taught in coding.

One of Penna’s family friends is an autodidact entrepreneur, successful in Jersey, and now travelling the world to help communities set up digital training colleges.

Finally, finding, exciting and securing talent from the commercial world or from competitors is seen as a massive hurdle in the public sector. The underpinning issue is money. It ought not to be.

Digital talent is driven by more than just the bottom line. It is driven by factors the public sector can offer in abundance – opportunities to learn, interesting and challenging work, meaningful work, flexible work, investment in training and development as well as collaboration and co-creating solutions.

We would welcome the opportunity to talk to you further about how we have secured talent to help clients create citizen-centric digital-first organisations. 

To find out more, contact Joanne Cumper, head of digital at:, or visit our site: