How to craft your digital strategy and avoid common pitfalls

Leaders in the public sector have a lot to contend with when it comes to digital transformation, from updating unfit-for-purpose legacy systems to managing complex bureaucracy. And this can create resistance.

Yet the stakes are high. Institutions of all types must engage with digital transformation to thrive in the coming decade.

In this article, you’ll learn a no-nonsense approach to implementing a digital strategy. We’ll also talk about the main pitfalls to plan for.

The imperative for digital transformation in the public sector

Why is the need for inclusive, sustainable digital evolution so urgent in the public sector?

In essence, it comes down to maintaining services in line with what is now possible in terms of quality, cost savings, enhanced accessibility, improved security and better crisis resilience.

And this holds true in spite of common objections like budget, complexity, bureaucracy and lack of immediate results. Although this might be a controversial point, it is vital to tackle the “old guard” mentality of resistance within established systems.

The simple reality is that a whole range of public sector institutions, including our clients at Waymark, have effectively implemented cutting-edge digital strategies with significant long-term results.

Defining your digital objectives: Goals and red flags

At Waymark, we recommend keeping the following three principles in mind when defining digital objectives:

  • Align with your public service mission: Ensure that digital objectives directly contribute to and enhance your core public service objectives and values.
  • Account for budgetary constraints: Set objectives that are financially viable, factoring in both initial investment and long-term operational costs.
  • Don’t take an all-or-nothing approach: Adopt a phased or modular implementation strategy, allowing for flexibility and adjustments as needed.

Common pitfalls in digital strategy development

Here are five of the most common pitfalls to look out for when developing and implementing your digital strategy: 

  1. Lack of customisation: Adopting generic solutions without tailoring them to specific public sector needs can lead to inefficiency and low user satisfaction.
  2. Taking a copy-and-paste approach: Replicating strategies from different sectors without considering unique public sector challenges can result in ineffective or inappropriate solutions.
  3. Underestimating resource requirements: Failing to allocate sufficient budget and human resources can lead to subpar execution and a whole host of issues associated with maintenance.
  4. Ignoring stakeholder input: Overlooking the feedback and needs of key stakeholders such as employees, citizens, and other government bodies can lead to a disconnect between the infrastructure and its users.
  5. Inadequate training and support: Not providing enough training and support for the new systems can hinder adoption and effective usage by both staff and public.

Building a robust digital infrastructure: Best practices and navigating bureaucracy

At Waymark, we apply the SAS framework to assess the viability of digital infrastructure. We ask, “Is this solution simple, affordable and sustainable?” We recommend keeping this benchmark in mind at all stages of the process. 

Here is our client-tested six-step plan for building a robust digital infrastructure:

  1. Assess current infrastructure: Conduct a thorough review of your existing legacy system to identify its limitations, strengths, and areas needing improvement. This assessment should guide the whole digital strategy.
  2. Define clear objectives: Establish specific, measurable goals for your new digital system, with a focus on improving public service delivery, resource efficiency, and user satisfaction.
  3. Plan for user engagement: Engage with users, including both public service employees and your end-users, to understand their needs and preferences. 
  4. Account for bureaucracy: Ensure conversancy with UK public sector regulations to ensure compliance. Establish communication with government bodies for insights on policy change and maintain thorough documentation for audit trails and transparency. You should also conduct regular training to ensure your team is up-to-date in these areas. 
  5. Develop and test the new system: Regular testing and quality assurance guarantees that new digital platforms are user-friendly, secure, and capable of handling required tasks. Rigorous testing is crucial to identify and rectify issues before full-scale implementation.
  6. Implement and train: Wherever possible, roll out your new system in phases to manage the legacy transition smoothly. Provide comprehensive training to all users, ensuring they are comfortable and proficient with the technology.
  7. Monitor and iterate: Continuously monitor the system's performance and gather user feedback. Use this information to make iterative improvements, adapting to evolving needs and new technology.

Measuring success and adapting to change

At Waymark, we place analytics-based monitoring at the heart of our clients’ infrastructure and recommend it as the only proven approach for consistently achieving high-level goals.

Track the following metrics during and after the implementation of your digital framework:

  • User satisfaction rate: Measure the level of user contentment through surveys and feedback forms.
  • Digital adoption rate: Track the percentage of target users actively using the digital services. This metric reflects the effectiveness of the strategy in encouraging digital uptake.
  • Service downtime: Monitor the amount of time digital services are unavailable or not functioning properly, with lower downtime indicating higher reliability.
  • Cost savings: Calculate the reduction in operational costs achieved through digital initiatives, a key indicator of the financial efficacy of your digital strategy.

Conclusion 

Public service organisations face a daunting task. They are under significant pressure to implement the latest digital technologies in spite of sizable budgetary and bureaucratic hurdles.

However, leaders that spend time developing and testing their digital infrastructure and approaches now will find themselves in the best possible position to thrive in the coming years and decades, no matter how tumultuous they prove to be.

Book your free strategy session with Waymark

Are you responsible for the digital evolution of your organisation? Book a free Xploration with Waymark to learn how to quickly and affordably implement the most cutting edge technology, refine your digital infrastructure, and track your results.