Q&A: Agilisys Director Richard Hanrahan discusses the digital transformation journey

Continuing our discussion about the digital transformation journey that the public sector is currently on, Digital by Default News asks Agilisys Director Richard Hanrahan for his views on leadership, the need for a clear vision, the opportunities shifting to digital brings and much, much more.

Q: How are leadership roles in the public sector evolving with the shift to digital?

Richard: The public sector is wrestling with many of the same challenges as the private sector when it comes to leadership and digital.

When “Digital” first became a significant organisational driver there was a significant void. There were not many people who knew what digital was or what to do with it and why it was important. Those people that understood “digital” and recognised that it was not a fad did not necessarily have leadership skills.

As a result, it was not easy to build momentum at the beginning and even where things started to happen there was often a hiatus where those with the skills lacked the leadership and those with the leadership positions did not understand the requirement for the skills. Over recent times that has changed. Leaders have recognised the need to educate themselves in digital and many digital natives are now acquiring leadership positions. As a result it is becoming second nature for leaders to think about how digital can help them achieve their objectives.


Do you have any tips for organisations looking to create a clear vision for digital?

Books and blogs are being written daily and weekly on how to integrate digital into an organisation and make it central to all that you do. But quite simply – you shouldn’t start with a digital vision, you should start with a vision, work out your strategy for achieving and decide how digital technologies and mind set can help you achieve your goals.


What events of 2017 will have the biggest impact on local government?

Brexit will have an impact, even if only in causing uncertainty. Local authorities already worried about funding will have additional concerns about legislative change, impacts on local growth and potential changes to European regional funding. Local government also has to focus on getting ready for the new Data Protection regulations which come into effect in 2018. This is no small job and will require focus right across the organisation.


Why might some organisations be struggling with the shift to digital?

Unbelievably some organisations’ leaders don’t believe that digital transformation can be of benefit to them. Within the organisations people can see the requirement and the opportunity but without the will to direct and lead change, organisations will flounder.

Another reason for organisations to struggle can be a determination to digitise everything, but without a clear strategy. This leads to lots of failed “digital projects” and a loss of confidence. Which leads us back to the importance of having a clear strategy and applying digital to it. Not trying to do everything digitally and shoe-horning it into a strategy.


What are the greatest opportunities for organisations going digital?

Digital unlocks the opportunity for total organisational transformation. The things that local government has talked about for years can be achieved on a previously unimaginable scale. Years ago people started to worry about reducing avoidable contact. Now the opportunity to proactively serve, identify failure demand before the customer is aware and fix problems without any inbound contact are all possible

Access to data and analysis of data to inform service design and improvement can lead organisations to make better decisions, faster.

Cloud technologies are unlocking cost savings and efficiencies that individual authorities and government departments could not realise on their own


How are citizen attitudes and expectations changing, and what does this mean for the organisations that serve them?

Citizens are becoming increasingly used to outstanding service delivery from the consumer organisations that they receive services from. Their expectation is that government will serve them in the same way.


Agilisys has partnered with Digital by Default News to run a short survey asking organisations for their vision for digital, the opportunities they see, the challenges they’ve faced, and crucially, how far they’ve come on their journey. Why run this survey now?

We can see that public services in this country are doing some fantastic work and adopting digital in some incredibly innovative ways. For example, in a recent workshop delegates were given details of an organisation using data to proactively inform employees what they should be focussing on and how they should be prioritising workloads. When given the details of the case study, delegates were asked to name the organisation. Everyone went for a Tesco or an Amazon type answer – the right answer was a small local authority.

We want to gather the data and inform the dialogue to enable more public service providers to be hailed as exemplars of digital transformation.


Tell us about your digital journey

As the year begins to draw to a close, we’re thinking about what 2017 will hold for digital transformation in the public sector, and wonder how organisations are adjusting their vision, but we need your help.

Working in partnership with Agilisys, we’re inviting organisations across the country to take part in a short survey to tell us about their vision for digital, the opportunities they see, the challenges they’ve faced, and crucially, how far they’ve come on their journey.

Complete the survey, and as a thank you, we’ll send you an advance copy of the resulting report to be published in the new year. There will also be an opportunity to enter a prize draw to win an iPad mini in time for Christmas. Don’t delay – the survey closes on Friday 16 December.


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