In its recently published report, Digital Government – Turning Rhetoric into Reality, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) made a number of interesting observations. Some of these are familiar, others less so.
The main conclusion of the report is that governments across Europe are getting better at delivering digital services but most countries (including the UK) are not moving nearly as quickly as users would like. Many are “overwhelmed with complexity and slowed by bureaucratic scepticism.”
This latter observation is interesting as it reflects my own experience working within government. Although there is a clear strategy, and support from within the Cabinet Office (in the shape of GDS), progress is still slower than it could be. Progress is held back by inappropriate contractual models, a lack of experience of digital engagement and existing processes that are not able to support change effectively.
In the report, BCG points to five actions that governments need to take to be successful. These are: focus on value; adopt service-design thinking; lead users online; keep users online; demonstrate visible senior-leadership commitment; and build the capabilities and skills to execute.
It is interesting to see from BCG’s research the various degrees to which these have been achieved within the UK. Although there are areas of success, few departments have achieved excellence in all five. Conversely, all agencies have made progress in each, and this is something we should recognise and applaud.
However, there is still a long way to go. The report discusses a number of common failings, and these again are thought provoking. Among them are: the services which users are least satisfied with are often the ones they consider most important; 18-34 year olds have a higher expectation than older people; and governments need to design services that work across different platforms and devices. The latter of these clearly present a challenge.
One of the most interesting conclusions of the report is possibly its most surprising: that governments generally compare well with the private sector. In a time when we spend much of the time beating ourselves up, we should perhaps take some satisfaction from this.