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UK Public Sector Predictions for 2021: Part 1

Public Sector Predictions 2021In this blog I’m exploring the issues that will guide senior leaders in Government this year as they continue their transformative journey towards digitalisation, remote work, cloud migration and a data-driven approach to public services.

2020: A year to remember

2020 has been a year of challenges for UK Government Departments. Faced with the pandemic, departments had to adapt and modernize like never before, embarking at full speed in the digital transformation of their services. Many moved quickly to fully digital processes for delivering citizen services and shifted from in-person to remote collaboration.

So, what’s on the horizon for 2021? Will these trends accelerate in government? Will the move towards digitalisation be reversed when we “go back to normal”? Spoiler alert: we don’t think so.

Today we’re looking at key trends for public sector leadership teams and in my next blog I’ll expand on our technology predictions.

The Four Leadership Predictions:

1. The digital transformation of public organisations will accelerate, despite familiar barriers

Covid-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the discussion around IT modernisation, including remote work tools, DevOps practices and Cloud migration.

As we know, two main factors drove further cloud adoption in government: first, the significant cost reductions it offers, and second, greater organisational agility.

In the UK, the Government continued to promote its ‘Cloud First’ agenda, showcasing, for example, how the Welsh Government and the Office of National Statistics had successfully managed their Cloud migration. 

So, I think we will see increased desire by leaders across government to continue to transform and reduce their reliance on legacy technology. The pandemic was a real-world proof of concept that cloud, and other technologies are critical to government.

2. Remote working is set to continue

While there is no doubt that Government offices will fill up again as soon as it’s safe to bring people back, this year-plus experiment in remote working will have lasting implications. For one thing, working remotely will be more common in the public sector. For another, it will change how leaders think about productivity.

In March 2020, most UK Government departments had completely shifted to remote working, with only a few exceptions. The UK Government had actually already taken steps to promote remote working before Covid-19, and we think this trend is here to stay. Teams in the Government Digital Service even took advantage of this change to try new working practices.

3. Re-skilling public agents will receive priority

The Data Age creates new roles and requires new skills. Clearly, building digital skills is a priority focus in Government. In 2021, there will continue to be a great focus on re-skilling and on-the-job retraining to help civil servants grow as their departments continue to modernise.

The UK is already at the forefront of this effort, having established the Government Digital Service Academy in 2014. For the past seven years, the GDS Academy has provided training courses to civil servants, local government employees and other public sector workers, covering a growing range of topics, including the use of data and Artificial Intelligence. In 2019, the GDS Academy had already trained 10,000 students!

So, it’s not just about teaching specific new skills to individual workers, making a few tweaks or updates. This is a major cultural shift and here’s still a lot of progress to be made in terms of data skills and data democratization.

4. Looking for partners rather than vendors

Going forward, public sector leaders are not going to need vendors as much as they’ll need partners. By this we mean organisations that provide more than just tech products, they provide real insight and assistance in driving success and improving outcome for citizens.

So, we think Government will be looking for partners who understand the critical nature of the times and the challenges we all face and can help them maintain operations, transform and move forward.

The Splunk public sector predictions for 2021 can be found here.

Next week we’ll be looking at our four technology predictions for the public sector in 2021. Stay tuned!

Gordon Morrison
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Gordon Morrison

I've tallied up 25+ years experience in the UK public sector and spent the early part of my career as an engineer and scientist in the Ministry of Defence, but subsequently worked in technical and senior management roles in the UK tech industry, mainly on National Security, Cyber and Defence programmes. 

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