Headlines: August 25th, 2006

TRANSFORMATIONAL AGENDA NEEDS MORE MINISTERIAL SUPPORT

 

The transformational agenda, launched at the start of 2006 to follow on from the e-government agenda, is unlikely to achieve its potential without greater support from the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues. Sir Nicholas Montagu, former chairman of the Inland Revenue, speaking to Public Sector Forums, said that the very highest levels of Government were paying lip-service to the ‘T-Government’ agenda without contributing much personally to bring it about. He said: “There is no evidence of a real, deep understanding or interest.”

The main drivers for transformation are the desire to use technology to operate in completely new ways, to change the customer experience and to use scarce and valuable resources more efficiently.

Sir Nicholas also questioned ministers’ grasp of the issues, commenting that their whole approach showed “lack of bravery, lack of strategy and lack of understanding”, while at the same time suggesting they “weren’t briefed at all” by their civil servants. To drive through real reforms, ministers need to be bold enough to start educating the public that at some point in the future, doing business with Government online will be “non-optional”. He added that: “I certainly don’t get the feel that, for all the rhetoric on better public services, the Cabinet, collectively, really understands the fantastic potential for modern technology to achieve real transformation.”

Concern about the ‘T-Government’ agenda in relation to local government was expressed in a Socitm report published earlier in the year. Research showed that if transformation is to take place, there must be leadership from the top of the organisation, not least because change associated with transformation inevitably meets resistance. It says people may fear for their jobs and in some cases, the organisation might simply fail to understand the transformational potential of ICT.

The Socitm report suggests there is no simple formula for success but that transformation demands imagination and innovation. That can mean challenging long-held assumptions or practices and even cutting corners. The mix might also include importing radical ideas from elsewhere and adapting and applying them for local circumstances.