Written by Tom Taylor
COVID-19 has forced many of us to move much of our lives online. Whether for work, socialising or accessing basic services, technology has been increasingly important to keeping our society functioning.
This digital shift has not gone unnoticed. In January the Welsh Government announced a £4.9 million investment in digital public services to drive more innovative and user-friendly services across Wales. The investment is aimed at supporting specialised training programmes and digital squads, helping to drive up public sector digital knowledge and improve online services.
This is a fantastic initiative which could produce huge benefits for the Government, public services and citizens alike. We’ve already seen how digital transformation, accelerated by the pandemic, is enhancing the NHS — and applying this to more areas of the public sector will certainly go a long way to improving other citizen services and opportunities for Wales.
However, while this investment into digital services should be welcomed, it will take more than just money to maximise the benefits of new technologies and to ensure staff know how to produce results. There have been examples where organisations, both public and private, have bought in new digital solutions with the best intentions and it has not gone to plan, so the Welsh Government needs to make sure they learn from these to implement successful digital transformation of services.
So, how can the Government ensure that this investment pays off? Firstly, if new technologies such as AI and Machine learning tools or cloud platforms are going to be brought in and services are going to be focused online, upskilling the workforce must be central to this goal. Introducing training programmes is a good first step, however, ensuring these are continuously adapting and up-to-date is vital. Technology isn’t static; solutions are constantly evolving or upgrading, and if staff aren’t aware at the earliest point of changes, then the Government risks missing out on the benefits of these platforms as no-one will know how to use them effectively.
Secondly, while training current employees is important, the Government must also create new positions internally dedicated to managing solutions. Positions such as product managers play an important role in ensuring that someone is in place who has the right expertise in understanding what users of a platform need to get the most out of it and ensure it is helping the organisation achieve its goals. This will also have the added benefit of creating new jobs and opportunities for the people of Wales, meaning the positive effects of digital transformation are felt as widely as possible.
To help train staff and understand what new roles will be needed, the Welsh Government should look to their delivery partners for support. When bringing in a digital provider to implement new platforms, this relationship should not be one of a company simply coming in, putting in place new technologies and then leaving. Expanding this relationship to include options such as co-working on implementation will produce the additional benefit of upskilling internal teams during that digital transformation journey. Harnessing providers’ first-hand experience of platforms will mean that once completed, employees will have the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively use solutions to drive better decision-making and produce outcomes that positively impact the country, while also allowing them to teach other team members and even take on new roles should they be required.
Digital providers can also advise the Government on recruitment and job creation. Some companies have years of experience developing and working with the products they are putting in place. This external experience should be embraced and guide decision-making on what roles will be needed once the technology solution goes live.
Digital transformation is happening all around us and this investment from the Welsh Government will go a long way to bringing it to the country’s public sector, potentially producing huge benefits for society in the process. Through working with its digital partners to upskill staff, create new roles for local people and support its training programmes, the Government can ensure everything is in place to produce a prosperous digital future for Wales going forward.
About the author
Tom Taylor is the South West and Wales Market Principal for public sector technology delivery experts Made Tech