Digital Leadership & the Northern Ireland Civil Service

Written by Caron Alexander, Director of Digital Services for the Northern Ireland Civil Service

I commenced my (somewhat daunting) new role as Director of Digital Services for the Northern Ireland Civil Service at the start of January. The job covers a wide portfolio with focus clearly on making NI public services better through digital transformation.  Easy to say however not nearly so easy to deliver!

I’ve had to put my leadership skills into overdrive to develop and take control of a Digital Transformation Programme, build my team and provide them with clear direction to drive the programme of work forward.

This is a very exciting challenge (which I believe strongly is the right thing to do), and one which has needed me to work closely with many senior service owners to get their buy-in and commitment to meet the very challenging delivery targets for new services through www.nidirect.gov.uk.

With financial pressures in public sector getting worse, digital transformation of public facing services will reduce the cost of service delivery whilst improving the service and giving citizens access when, where and how they wish.  This pressure bizarrely could have a positive impact in getting more traction on the NI programme with a recognition that changes must happen to continue to deliver some services at all. The time for leadership in digital service delivery is now.

One of the biggest changes which I’ve driven is being ‘Agile’.  This is a step change with the citizen placed firmly at the centre of service design. My team work collaboratively with service owners and suppliers to take projects through Discovery, Alpha and Beta phases before full Live service deployment.

It’s important to break down organisational boundaries for true transformation, and I fully support my team and do the difficult conversations with service owners when needed highlighting the benefits of shared platforms, shared data, consistent services and reuse at every opportunity. The NI Digital Transformation Programme excites me as it has a real value, and seeing early results which would not be possible using traditional waterfall methods of delivery makes my job very satisfying.  I’m passionate about this programme and look forward to its success…. watch this space.

By Caron Alexander, Director of Digital Services for the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

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