What is Public Sector Transformation?

What is public sector transformation

There’s real excitement and appetite for change in the public sector community, which has only been accelerated by the Covid pandemic. We’re witnessing a growing appetite for risk, willingness to implement new technologies, revitalised spirit of collaboration between agencies, and renewed understanding among citizens about what government really does. 

But while the concept of ‘transformation’ is exciting, it can also lead to confusion about what’s changing and why. At GovX Digital, we work with leaders in central government, local government, healthcare and related agencies who are making that change happen. This guide explains the key principles that can help everyone - whether they’re public servants or commercial partners - work in ways that deliver real impact for the citizens we’re here to help.

What you'll learn:

Watch: Why does Government Transformation Matter?

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What do Public Sector and Government Transformation mean?

When we talk about transformation, it’s essential to understand the organisations involved, the nuances in terminology and what’s really changing. 

  • ‘Government’ is typically a reference to the structures of central government - traditionally Whitehall and London-based but increasingly based in geographically diverse locations around the UK, though regional department hubs and the devolved governments and assemblies of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  • ‘Local Government’ refers to the regional tiers of government, principally Unitary Authorities, Combined Authorities, County Councils, District Councils etc

  • ‘Public Sector’ is a much broader term that covers the government bodies above but also includes the NHS and healthcare bodies, as well as organisations like emergency services, schools etc. 

  • Public Services refers to a wider ecosystem focused on delivery of outcomes - services provided by the public agencies above such as health, social care and education, but also via partners like voluntary organisations and subsidised services such as transport.

Understanding how these organisations are inter-connected allows us to build a clearer picture. The terms ‘Government Transformation’ and ‘Public Sector Transformation’ centre primarily around internal change within government department and agencies - 

  • Organisational structures 
  • Governance
  • Systems and processes
  • Technology
  • Skills and capabilities

While important in improving performance, they may not necessarily result in a noticeable change in the outcomes of services delivered to citizens or customers.

So Public Service Transformation is about delivering better outcomes for our communities, driven by input from those customers/users, as opposed to Public Sector and Government transformation which are really about institutions themselves changing.

Understanding Public Sector Transformation

Learn how 50+ public sector organisations are transforming - download the playbook

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What does public sector transformation include? 

Government and the public sector are hugely complex entities, made up of thousands of separate bodies carrying out hundreds of thousands of activities. But there are some fundamental areas where transformation most commonly plays out - these align to our own areas of strategic focus at GovX Digital and are the streams around which we build our content and events.

There’s a common misconception that transformation is all about technology and digitalisation. While the acceleration of digital government is a powerful driver of change, it cannot work in isolation. Strategy, skills, leadership, organisational culture and user-centred design are all powerful factors that determine the success or failure of transformation projects. 

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Transformation and Government Technology

Technology is an enabler to help public service transformation become a success - it’s not an end in itself. Government technology supports the large national systems that need to work in the most efficient, effective, safe and secure way for our government to deliver positive outcomes for end users and citizens. Example of technology supporting public service transformation include:

  • The National Air Traffic Control System (NATS) is one of the biggest projects over the last 30 years to create a single air traffic control system.
  • The launch of the Universal Credit system by the Department for Work and Pensions, involved transformation of its entire operating model underpinned by a completely new set of IT platforms.
  • The ongoing digitalisation of Land Registry records and processes to ensure easier buying and selling of property.
What is public sector transformation (2)

Government Data Transformation

Public sector organisations collect, analyse and generate huge amounts of data about citizens and customers. Rapid advances in areas like analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence are opening up new opportunities to generate data-driven government insights.

But the key consideration around government data is that of consent - understanding how much of it is truly government data and how much of it is actually citizens’ data, which the government has collected, with consent, to to help deliver services.

Data-driven public service transformation requires clarity about the need for consent, granting of consent by citizens, and earning of trust. As GovX Digital’s GM for Government, David Wilde, says: “Know what permission you need, and earn the trust to gain that permission, so that you can achieve what you want to achieve.”

How People and Teams impact government transformation

Any digital initiatives around data and technology can only succeed if we have the right people and skills in public sector organisations to execute them. Key challenges that public sector organisations need to address to support transformation include:

  • Building a culture of inter-agency collaboration
  • Ensuring the right digital and technical skills across teams
  • Building diversity of background and thought into the workforce
  • Recruiting a new generation of talent
  • Managing changing expectations about working culture
  • Adapting leadership styles to reflect the modern workforce
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What is public sector transformation (3)

How Inclusion and Diversity support Government Transformation

Inclusion and diversity are fundamental to both the way the public sector functions internally and how it delivers services for citizens. Key considerations around the impact of inclusion and diversity on public sector transformation include:

  • Ensuring public service design and delivery are accessible to all who need it.
  • Building more diverse public sector teams to drive innovation and improved performance
  • Creating greater diversity in senior public sector leadership roles
  • Moving government from Whitehall and increasing geographical diversity
  • Opportunities to recruit from the private sector to challenge existing practices

Transforming Service Design and Delivery

The design and delivery of public services brings together the best practice principles outlined above for technology, data, people and teams, and inclusion and diversity. 

  • Prioritising CX (Customer/Consumer/Citizen Experience) in service design and delivery
  • Harnessing the power of digital technology to improve delivery
  • Ensuring Internal processes project methodologies and technologies are secondary to the priority of user-centric design

How can my organisation start its transformation journey?

We create content and events all year round to help our public sector community adopt best practices in their transformation projects: