NAO publishes damning digital transformation report

Findings of this report show a consistent pattern of underperformance on technology change

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The National Audit Office has published a document highlighting a “consistent pattern of under-performance” across 25 years of attempts by the UK government to implement digital business change.

The findings - which were made available this week – in part lay the blame for this on decision makers “fixing on technology solutions before fundamental aspects of projects and programmes are sufficiently thought through.” The organisation also found that only a small proportion of senior government officials have had first-hand experience of digital business change, and therefore may lack “sufficient understanding of the technical and delivery risks for which they are responsible.”

Stating the “urgent need” to learn from past mistakes,” the report demands improvements in areas such as the understanding of aim, ambition and risk, alongside the engagement of local partners. Other areas for improvement outlined in the document include the approach to legacy systems and data, funding mechanisms and the choice of delivery method.

Speaking of the findings, a spokesperson for the NAO said: “[We] recommend that the Central Digital and Data Office, along with the Government Digital Service and the Cabinet Office, reviews and applies lessons learned from past failures and successes to improve government’s delivery of digital programmes.

“They should revise existing training programmes to better equip decision-makers who are responsible for digital transformation programmes. Individual departments and public bodies should ensure that senior digital, data and technology colleagues have greater influence on digital change programmes.”

Head of the organisation, Gareth Davies, said: “Whilst digital leaders bring much needed expertise to the public sector, they often struggle to get the understanding and support they need from senior decision-makers, who lack knowledge in this area.

“There has been a consistent pattern of underperformance in delivering digital business change, often resulting from decisions on technology being taken too early, before the business problem is properly understood.”

The report - titled ‘The challenges in implementing digital change’ – was published this week.

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Philip Mason

Managing Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio, Mark Allen Exhibitions

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