Barriers to Digital Transformation in 2022

Digital transformation in the public sector, on which the government is estimated to spend around £20 billion each year, sees improved working methods and vital services streamlined for citizens.

However, the process is not always straightforward. The December 2021 House of Commons Committee report, Challenges in implementing digital change, highlights the impact that complex, large-scale digital programmes can have on government services and taxpayers’ money if they fail. It cites the Home Office’s programme to replace the police national computer, which has been delayed by at least five years, resulting in an associated cost overrun of more than £400 million. 

The report highlights barriers to successful digital change, including a lack of specialist digital, data and technology skills, unreliable legacy systems, and leaders who don't possess the level of understanding and capability required to lead such projects. Here, we examine some of these roadblocks and how public sector organisations can best approach and overcome them. 

Leadership direction and buy-in

The Committee report states that because most senior leaders are generalists, they don’t possess the operational and technical background required to make the best decisions that drive digital change. It outlines that the absence of specialist knowledge has contributed to the unrealistic scope of several programmes and a lack of lasting results when redesigning and transforming public services.

There is a requirement for senior leaders to think more strategically about future opportunities and how technology and data can help to unlock them. Recommendations to overcome this hurdle include The Cabinet Office developing a certifiable digital business change education process for ministers, departmental boards and senior civil servants, with certification a prerequisite for taking these roles. 

Even organisations with dedicated change and transformation leaders must define clear goals, which should be effectively communicated, with information disseminated so that all relevant users and stakeholders fully understand the reasons behind the change and the outcomes that can be expected. Key considerations include: 

  • Precisely what the organisation is trying to achieve

  • What the organisation is prepared and capable of doing to achieve it 

  • Whether current capabilities will facilitate the transformation

  • What success looks like, and how it will be measured.

Lack of diversity 

To meet the evolving needs of citizens and deliver value, organisations must reimagine their approach to technology and build new processes that streamline and enhance experiences. Such action requires nonlinear, agile and innovative thinking, which can only be accessed through diverse thought and approaches. 

When building their teams, organisations that take action on diversity & inclusion (D&I) are better positioned to unlock the innovation they need to achieve their goals. Leaders are encouraged to tap into these opportunities and build transformation teams that are fully inclusive regarding gender, race, age, experience, education, perspectives and even interests.

In the public sector, this extends further. Public services are at their best when designed and implemented by teams that reflect the nation's diversity. Teams with a more comprehensive understanding of public needs are ideally positioned to deliver better services that work for everyone. 

Skills shortages

For a digital transformation to succeed, organisations require high-performing technical specialists with skills in application architecture, software integrations, data migration, cybersecurity and data migration, to name a few. 

The House of Commons Committee report states that the government has been heavily reliant on outsourcing talent and has failed to retain sufficient in-house capability. However, it acknowledges that the rise in demand for digital skills across both the public and private sectors has led to a highly competitive recruitment market. Plus, it points out that specialists can earn more money in the private sector, making it more difficult for public sector organisations to attract and retain the skills they need.

While correct, the appetite to transfer skills from the private to the public sector is at an all-time high. The team at Global Resourcing has found that senior professionals are actively seeking fresh challenges and new environments, with job satisfaction a top priority. Public sector digital change programmes aim to make a positive difference to the communities they serve, which plays into the emerging desire that today's professionals have to make a positive difference. Instead of focusing on salary differences, the public sector must explore ways to elevate their digital success stories in a way that captures interest and appeals to those outside of the sector. 

Committed to transformation

Global Resourcing partners with public sector and non-profit organisations across the UK, connecting them with the specialist data, digital and tech experts required to deliver their strategic goals. To find out more about how we can solve your diversity and talent challenges within digital, data and technology transformation, contact us on +44 020 8253 1800 or send our team an email

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