Clarity in strategy

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9 March 2015 | 0

This sounds a little vague and general, but language of the document makes clear that governance and control are nowhere near what is needed and if a shared resource approach, enabled by data is going to succeed, then strict controls, informed by policy and best practice will be vital. “As part of the new Civil Service Management Board, an opportunity exists to increase collaboration and establish a Public Service wide ICT‐focussed governance to agree and prioritise government objectives.”

The final strategy point is around increasing capabilities overall, and this focuses especially around skills. The document says that there is a need to “Ensure the necessary ICT skills and resources are available to meet the current and future ICT needs of the Public Service”.

Going into detail, the document recommends that “a central core competency of ICT expertise is made available under the OGCIO which together with the significant ICT experience that exists in Public Bodies, will support small and medium sized Public Bodies in designing and delivering ICT solutions to address their business challenges”.

Risks recognised
The document shows that the Office of the Government CIO (OGCIO) is fully cognisant of the risks involved. In a table of opportunities and challenges, it acknowledges that ICT has heretofore been delivered “on a standalone basis with limited sharing of infrastructure and services”. It says that a “challenge exists to create a model where services can be delivered on a shared basis within the existing developed structures while meeting the required service levels”.

Under the heading of digital first, the document recognises the challenge that is the change to the digital mindset. “For all organisations, changing culture, managing changing customer expectations and capitalising on the benefits of digital will require careful change management and planning over the longer term.”

The data challenge too is stated, identifying the need for “new legislation as well as a robust, secure and standardised method for data transfer, data management and governance”. Again this will require “a mind‐set change and willingness from Public Bodies to share data when a valid business need exists and within the confines of statutory obligations”.

Overall, this is a very pragmatic document that while acknowledging the potential benefits of shared services, integrated data services and the benefits of new digital technologies and means of engagement, does not lose itself in cloudy images of utopian government and hyperbole. The document is carefully worded, identifying real measures and approaches that have the potential to form the basis of a new public service operation and engagement model that can be built upon for the future.

There is no shying away from current deficiencies, but also there are good examples of success in various areas that support the assertions. With a clear matrix of what needs to be done next, from a comprehensive review and analysis of current spending, capabilities and skills, to the development of a strategic implementation plan and defined phases of implementation, as a strategy document, there is little to criticise. But what shines through is strength of the vision and the clarity of purpose, often lacking in previous documents in this area.

McGrath and his team are to be commended for their work in this and I fervently hope that the implementation plan retains that clarity and focus that so characterises this document above so many others.

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