Our authors from EG1: Richard Ruttle, Board Advisor and Qing Mak, Head of Market Intelligence
Consultants can play a key role in supporting government departments and the public sector as it continues along its data and digital transformation journey. But in which areas could consultants challenge themselves to step up and add more value?
Four key areas emerged from our independent research:
- ESG/digital sustainability. Clearly, ESG and in particular the path to Net Zero carbon is a huge focus for government, the civil service and other public sector organisations. At the same time, cloud migration is a priority to modernise systems, lower costs and reap the benefits of agility and scalability. But the recognition has grown in recent times that the path to Net Zero will inevitably involve some trade-offs between cost savings and reductions in carbon emissions. This is where consultants need to step up to help clients in their pre-migration assessments and planning. Are they designing the most sustainable cloud architecture possible? What features can be reduced or turned off to reduce emissions? Is the organisation aware of – and willing to make – the trade-offs required? Ensuring internal alignment around this is obviously critical too. Between the ‘triangle’ of cloud providers, external consultants and Defra/Star, clients need guidance and support on how best to put the pieces together.
- Convergence. The second area that emerged was around the convergence of systems in order to modernise, streamline and digitise. As with ESG and cloud, there has to be a clear holistic strategy at work here, and this is where consultants can bring powerful perspectives. It can’t just be about layering new things on top of old things. It’s got to bring real benefits – greater efficiency, simplification, clarity. Consultants need to help clients see the bigger picture, looking strategically and holistically, not opportunistically and piecemeal.
- Future of data. The intelligent use and analysis of data is key to transforming the customer and user experience. But our research revealed that many consultants feel the focus has fallen too much on advising government and public sector clients on the safe migration of data whilst maintaining business as usual – rather than really homing in on what data will be game-changing in the new digital landscape. This needs thinking about earlier in the process. Once identified, consultants can then help clients around how that data will be collated, managed and made accessible so that its full value can be realised. In our survey, it seems that some of the really small, start-up consultancies may be doing this best – but they lack the scale to meet public sector requirements. More partnerships may therefore be needed.
- Digital skills gap. The digital skills gap is a very real issue for the public sector. There are around 20,000 digital and data positions in the public sector and civil service, a figure that has increased by 60% in 12 months. That sounds (and is) very impressive – but when you consider that there are 3,800 unfilled digital and data vacancies and that these positions represent only about 4% of the civil service workforce whereas in the private sector it would be 8-10%, the position doesn’t seem so healthy. There is no doubt that digital skills shortages are holding the public sector back and urgently need bridging. The government has a roadmap to achieve “data skills at scale” – but nevertheless, this is an area where consultancies need to step up. Yes, firms will fill clients’ skills gaps with their own people and resource them for specific projects – but they need to do more to help the public sector develop and upskill their own people and create new effective pathways for talent to come in, such as apprenticeships. If consultancies can step up effectively here, government departments and the public sector would be better able to meet the other three priority areas too.
Our research has thrown light on some key areas of public sector challenge. We hope it will help consultancies develop and prioritise the ways in which they support government departments, civil servants and the public sector as the UK continues on its digital transformation journey.