• Adrian Clamp, Partner |
3 min read

As government departments and public services look to digitise and create a new era of smart government, a number of challenges present themselves.

Systems need to be modernised; more interoperable and connected, taking advantage of the scalability, agility and efficiency of the cloud. Data needs to be unlocked from its silos to obtain a 360 degree view of the citizen and services made more user-centric. And to do all this, legacy IT must be replaced, rationalised or integrated alongside the rest of the modern estate.

Approaches to deal with legacy

This was the focus of the fascinating working group we hosted with techUK recently as part of a series of events focussed on how we can achieve the vision of ‘Building the Smarter State’.  

So many valuable learnings and insights surfaced during this session. It was clear– and very encouraging –there is an absolute recognition at senior levels of government and civil service that digital is a core capability to re-imagine and re-define public services. The transformation of systems and services one underpinned with smart, digital foundations is viewed as mission-critical.

Another key recognition was  replacing legacy IT has to be step-by-step incremental change rather than overnight revolution. Get a full understanding of the estate and map out a clear schedule of work and then proceed in stages. Crucially, allow time for stabilisation after each one before moving on to the next step.

A further important point is that not all legacy is bad. In architecting the modern enterprise, part of the challenge is recognising which parts of legacy work well and can stay. Some legacy applications can be hollowed out and left with a very precise core that functions effectively within a modern digital ecosystem. Identifying those to create a targeted transformation strategy is another essential step.

Skills, collaboration and knowledge sharing

Inevitably, the question of digital skills and resourcing was a recurring point of conversation. Skills shortages affect the public and private sectors alike. There is intense competition for data scientists, cloud specialists, software engineers and other key roles. The public sector often feels at a disadvantage because it simply doesn’t have the deep pockets of some big commercial businesses. Systemic solutions like more apprenticeships and links with universities could ease these shortages – but these take time to bear fruit. In the shorter term, this makes collaboration and knowledge sharing all the more important, internally and externally.

There have been some encouraging examples of stakeholder forums to share and learn best practice. There is a wealth of knowledge across public departments and their IT teams – but this needs to be joined up and tapped into better.

 It is also about reframing legacy IT by working together across departments and wider teams to better understand user needs and objectives so that the schedule of work is really focused on specific value-adding outcomes.

Externally, the public sector needs to rely on strategic partners for innovation to help drive things forward. In a good partnership relationship, significant knowledge transfer takes place which strengthens internal capabilities on a sustainable basis. 

Connected, powered, trusted

At KPMG, our ethos is all about helping government and the public sector become what we term ‘connected, powered, trusted’. Connected through a modern digital backbone; powered by the capabilities that new technology brings; and trusted because systems are resilient, secure and reliable.

We look forward to continuing to support departments as they move towards a smart government and progressively address the problem of legacy IT. We’re also keen to continue to take part in the conversation and knowledge sharing around the issues and challenges – so do join us at the next techUK Building the Smarter State workshop taking place on the 16th May where there will be a particular focus on digital skills. You can find details about that here .  You may also be interested in attending techUK’s annual Building the Smarter State conference that’s taking place on the 28th September.  To register your place please click here.