Table 2

Lessons for running digital transformation programmes

Reconciling national, regional and local priorities and functionsThere is a need for strategic national goals while allowing local ownership and flexibility to tailor efforts to local needs. There is an ongoing discussion on which functions should be conducted regionally and which centrally and there are trade-offs with each approach that need to be considered. Some specialist functions may best be undertaken centrally (eg, oversight of markets), while some kinds of specialism may best be maintained by a system wide division of labour (eg, procurement) but could be done through a matrix of regionally located stakeholders. Other kinds of functions that require knowledge of local organisations and population demographics may best be done locally (eg, population health).
Digital transformation requires a long-term vision and supportIn the GDE Programme, the long-term stable national vision was not clearly articulated from the start. It was unclear what defined a ‘successful’ GDE and what would happen when GDE status is achieved.
Digital transformation requires an understanding of the existing policy and organisational landscape (a birds eye perspective)Clear understanding of the policy landscape and existing incentives and risks/costs and how these impact on different stakeholder groups is important when implementing digital change initiatives. Digitally enabled transformation requires a clear understanding is needed so that the change initiatives/programmes can make use of incentives and manage risks.
Digital transformation requires long-term funding and flexibilityAnnualised budgets complicate long-term strategy. Additional funding for digital transformation is often only available for a year.
There is an urgent need to address the problems of revenue funding. All digital projects have revenue implications in terms of both depreciation of the system purchased and in maintaining it. Many provider organisations find capital funding, traditionally available for ‘equipment’, constraining with the increasing salience of licencing and per user charges (software as a service model) thus digitalisation is essentially a revenue commitment.
Changes in policy and priorities, and associated shifts in direction, were disruptive to those on the ground. A balance needs to be achieved between developing new initiatives and continuing earlier ones. National programme managers are acutely aware of this, but see these features as part of the political landscape that are unable to change, and therefore develop strategies/workarounds to manage and mitigate these instabilities.
Addressing the digital divideThe GDE programme has created beacons of excellence, but there is now a policy focus on levelling up digital maturity across organisations.
There may be scope in twinning organisations (especially on the basis of co-location or common platforms) in a more structured way going forward building on the success of GDE/Fast Follower partnerships.
  • GDE, Global Digital Exemplar.