Analyst view – Digital government folk in danger of becoming a cult

Those working in digital functions in government need to be wary of coming across as a ‘cult’ and need to market themselves better, so that they can convince existing teams to tackle projects that go beyond the ‘low hanging fruit’.

That was the view of Gary Barnett, head of advisory at analyse house GlobalData Technology, who spoke at the recent Think Digital Government event in London.

Barnett gave an overview of the progress of digital in government in recent years – particularly in reference to the changing nature of the Government Digital Service (GDS).

The approach of the GDS old guard was to use more stick than carrot, in an attempt to force departments to change, by imposing limits on spending and implementing digital standards. However, in recent years, and under new leadership, the central digital function has adopted a more conciliatory approach, following accusations that it was isolating departments and charging ahead on its own.

The recent Transformation Strategy, for example, has a strong focus on skilling up the civil service and targeting back end systems, hand in hand with department leads.

Referencing the perception of GDS, Barnett said:

So, what are the challenges? What are the things we have learned about digital transformation? The most important one for me is, those of us who do the transformation, we’re not actually Hermione, we can’t go “transformio digitalio,” it’s not magic.

We need to give up our belief in our own magical powers, and this is really, really important because we are all always in grave, grave danger of becoming a cult. Digital transformation people, agile people, enjoy the reaffirming that they get from their [echo] chamber, and we can tend to assume that people who don’t get digital transformation are just muggles.

We need to get out there, we need to accept that in fact we don’t possess magical powers. And, equally importantly, the technology that we’re using doesn’t possess magical…

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