Public sector delivery is different: the delivery chain often involves alliances of public sector, commercial organisations and increasingly the third sector. The core partners are usually pre-determined for example specific health trusts and councils need to work together to deliver social care within a geographical area and the commercial partners may also be fixed due to long term delivery partnerships set up between individual public and private sector organisations. Yet it is vital that these partnerships work effectively. Difficulties in collaborative working are a contributory factor to many public sector project failures.
The Connect Digitally programme led 174 councils in England and Wales, 6 central government agencies and worked with over 40 commercial suppliers to successfully deliver resilient and sustainable digital services to millions of citizens. Online school admissions, delivered across 152 councils included a shared service for the 33 London boroughs. Online free school meals, included a shared eligibility checking service for all 174 councils in England and Wales, enabling real-time data checking against HMRC, DWP and Home Office data. Connect Digitally also provided tool kits for development of services online payments and cashless catering. Crucially the programme secured commercial partner endorsement without specifying software solutions. This was achieved through collaboration, clarity and communication with both the commercial partners working directly within the programme and with the extended network of suppliers, who were the delivery partners for councils and central government agencies.
Connect Digitally’s governance structure included supplier representation so commercial organisations were involved from initiation and helped shape service delivery. Suppliers providing shared leadership, specialist and technical support and assistance in key areas to the programme team, included Atkins Management Consultants’ Caroline Bimson, now Director of Education at Atkins, Paul Russell, lawyer and AmberLights’s User Experience team. The expertise of these suppliers were critical in delivering success, supporting continuous improvement and developing a strong ‘can do attitude’. Close and trusted collaboration with both internal and external suppliers led to:
Connect Digitally agreed objectives, functionality and outcomes with a representative group of suppliers and communicated these across the wide and diverse supplier population to ensure national transformation.
Connect Digitally provided:
In summary where suppliers often work together in alliances or competition, transformation of public service delivery requires different ways of partnership working. Digital leaders understand and utilise the enabling power of technology but without collaboration, clarity, and communication we are left only with clever technology but an unachieved vision.
Connect Digitally was open and transparent and developed a shared understanding to clarify required outcomes, outline challenges, realise benefits and importantly identify potential disbenefits. Clarity for commercial suppliers was achieved through agreement on:
Amanda was the Programme Director for Connect Digitally which successfully delivered 3 consecutive national programmes providing digital services to citizens.