The Digital Debate - Politics is ripe for disruption

Last month we held the Great Digital Debate with invited MPs to discuss the issues that they as politicians need to understand if they're going to create policy that supports our ongoing technological revolution.

It was an interesting debate and we could have carried on all night; as it was we only managed to ask a few of the questions that we'd hoped to cover. Some of the things we discussed resonated for me as being equally appropriate for CIOs to consider.

For example, there was a lot of discussion around GDS and Ed Vaizey raised the point that it's all around the user need and making it as easy as possible for people to interact with it.

As we know, putting the customer at the centre goes well beyond government services and more and more this responsibility is falling to CIOs. It means that CIOs need to take the opportunity to become a leader for the organisation and not just for technology. This chimes with our call to see CIOs on the board; we've been saying this for many years but it's much more pressing now and also much more likely as technology continues to move from its back office role to driving the business. Of course, once you have a seat at the board you must be able to provide value.

To get to the board in the past, some CIOs have concentrated on implementing other people's strategy really well - they have achieved 10% more with 10% less. But I don't think this is going to be enough to save enterprises which will be disrupted by technology driven market innovators and new entrants. The skill set as we have discussed is to have the capability to disrupt yourself before someone does it to you. This is what value looks like on the board: saving the company.

The digital by default agenda within the public sector centres around an understanding of the user need so that they can supply products and services that people, you and me, will choose to use. Commercial organisations should build what customers want, rather than what the organisations wants. CIOs should be able to communicate this need so as to be able to build an alignment. GDS talks about the unit of delivery being the team – this requires no translation for a commercial audience and we must become skilled in building complementary teams across hierarchies and not be limited by structure.

So the MPs have a view on public sector delivery in the digital age, but what of policy making? As discussed last time, we know we can build consensus on single issues but when are we going to have representative parliament unhindered by legacy systems, as represented by the Palace of Westminster.

While we still have analogue politicians in the main, just as in the commercial world we should make an effort to meet them half way. If government truly wants to satisfy the user-need, it might find that the current political landscape is ripe for disruption. If you were to design government now, from scratch, what would be the minimum viable product - one person one click?

Enterprise has to constantly evolve to meet the changing nature of the market and the consumer or customer. Government has largely stayed the same and has been satisfied to ignore whole demographics that neither vote nor engage with the political process. Companies die if they adopt the same tactic, digital allows us to manoeuvre to survive, in government, digital may hasten that disruption. No bad thing?

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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