Three ways digital leaders can operate successfully in local government

in The Guardian: “The landscape of digital is constantly changing and being redefined with every new development, technology breakthrough, success and failure. We need digital public sector leaders who can properly navigate this environment, and follow these three guidelines.
1. Champion open data
We need leaders who can ensure that information and data is open by default, and secure when absolutely required. Too often councils commission digital programmes only to find the data generated does not easily integrate with other systems, or that data is not council-owned and can only be accessed at further cost.
2. Don’t get distracted by flashy products
Leaders must adopt an agnostic approach to technology, and not get seduced by the ever-increasing number of digital technologies and lose sight of real user and business needs.
3. Learn from research
Tales of misplaced IT investments plague the public sector, and senior leaders are understandably hesitant when considering future investments. To avoid causing even more disruption, we should learn from research findings such as those of the New Local Government Network’s recent digital roundtables on what works.
Making the decision to properly invest in digital leadership will not just improve decision making about digital solutions and strategies. It will also bring in the knowledge needed to navigate the complex security requirements that surround public-sector IT. And it will ensure that practices honed in the digital environment become embedded in the council more generally.
In Devon, for example, we are making sure all the services we offer online are based on the experience and behaviour of users. This has led service teams to refocus on the needs of citizens rather than those of the organisation. And our experiences of future proofing, agility and responsiveness are informing service design throughout the council.
What’s holding us back?
Across local government there is still a fragmented approach to collaboration. In central government, the Government Digital Service is charged with providing the right environment for change across all government departments. However, in local government, digital leaders often work alone without a unifying strategy across the sector. It is important to understand and recognise that the Government Digital Service is more than just a team pushing and promoting digital in central government: they are the future of central government, attempting to transform everything.
Initiatives such as LocalGov Digital, (O2’s Local Government Digital Fund), Forum (the DCLG’s local digital alliance) and the Guardian’s many public sector forums and networks are all helping to push forward debate, spread good practice and build a sense of urgent optimism around the local government digital agenda. But at present there is no equivalent to the unified force of the Government Digital Service.”