In this blog, we discuss the importance of digital skills within public sector organisations. We explain ways of retaining digital skills and closing the gap to support your digital transformation.

Published 5 December 2022

Last updated 5 December 2022

Digital transformation has gained enormous momentum over the past decade, and has accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The future delivery of public services will rely heavily on digital platforms and channels that broadly reach UK citizens efficiently. 

The demand for skilled people in the digital industry is higher than what the market can provide, which is challenging for public sector organisations. This has led to organisations investing significant effort in internal skill development initiatives, whilst recruiting from a decreasing external talent pool. Many organisations are in a continuous cycle of resource issue management, increased delivery timescales and rising costs. 

If a public sector organisation fails to develop and retain digital skills, their digital transformation journey will slow, increasing costs in the longer term. Having a digital skills workforce strategy needs to be a priority and we can help support that.

What are digital skills?

Our public services rely on information technology (IT) which requires digital skills to design, implement, operate and support. The UK government has encouraged a standard approach to defining these skills, based on the global framework standard, Skills For an Information Age (SFIA). This has been adapted into the Digital, Data and Technology Profession Capability Framework (DDaT)

By defining the capability and competence of each of the digital skill and role types, it helps an organisation to easily assess their digital skill maturity and identify areas of weakness or lack of skills. They can then develop a response to minimise disruption to digital transformation. 

How does an organisation retain digital skills?

In a competitive market, where demand for digital skills is high and supply is limited, retaining existing skills is important for an organisation. The development of a workforce strategy is essential to provide individuals opportunities for:

  • career progression
  • challenging and interesting work
  • bringing new technology concepts and skills training
  • encouraging innovation, setting challenges for teams to solve together rather than individually. 

Additionally, IT leaders need to:

  • develop an IT neurodiversity talent strategy with human resources
  • look beyond typical IT functions, where business, functional, and service owners can become part of your digital skills workforce

Insourcing of digital skills

Insourcing of digital skills is an effective way to improve existing capability and provides greater flexibility in responding to varying business and service demands. You can achieve this through a variety of commercial engagements and approaches.

Contingent labour 

Individual or team insourcing of specific resources which integrate into existing teams. Whilst they may fill gaps, it tends to be at junior levels and more generic in capability. This approach has significant benefits in terms of flexing the existing workforce but it can lead to reliance on external labour. This can result in increased cost and ineffectiveness due to high staff turnover and the continuous onboarding of new staff. Our Public Sector Resourcing agreement can help you source suitable contingent workers.

Digital specialists

For specific digital skills and competence where more senior capability, specialists are needed. Working either individually or as a project team, digital specialists can be used to enhance or bridge a gap in digital skills fundamental to a successful project or service delivery. Our Digital Specialist and Programmes (DSP) agreement has a capability tested set of suppliers, capable of providing resources aligned to the DDaT framework. This gives you the ability to develop strategic partnership relationships with suppliers to improve services through longer term contracts. 

Digital outcomes

The use of a third party to achieve an outcome is often used where a business problem can be clearly identified. Outcome based contracts still need to be managed carefully in terms of scope, cost and change management. However, it has the advantage of transferring delivery responsibility to a third party. Our Digital Outcomes agreement provides access to a large market of suppliers, capable of delivering these services. 

Digital services for public health

Development and operations (devops) services are available for public health and other social care organisations, looking for ongoing minor improvements of live services using the Digital Capability for Health agreement. This also gives you data management services for performing data collection, data processing and analysis and management of data and services.

Off-the-shelf solutions

Similar to outcomes, but the skills gap can be dealt with by off-the-shelf solutions. These solutions are often provided as a service, meaning they can be scaled and bought in sufficient quantities and with enough flexibility to meet the requirement. These solutions will provide the digital capability to perform certain DDaT functions where you may not wish to invest further. Examples include finops, cloud monitoring and management and service management. Agreements such as G-Cloud, Cloud Compute, Crown Hosting and Technology Product and Associated Services can all be used to procure these types of solutions.

Artificial intelligence and automation

Supporting the UK’s National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy, we have commercial agreements that you can use to access AI and automation services that are compliant with industry standards and guidelines. There are component services and solutions which can reduce reliance on digital skills and increase business value and improve service quality. These include:

  • AI consultancy
  • research and support
  • augmented decision making
  • automation
  • natural language processing
  • imaging and computer vision

However, multiple skills are needed to develop, validate and deploy AI systems. The commercialisation and product journey can also be longer and expensive. A workforce strategy will also need to be in place to develop or augment these skills.

Let us help you with your digital skills requirements

Our dedicated commercial specialists have deep category knowledge and can help you to understand your organisation’s requirements. They can provide appropriate buyer guidance to support your digital workforce strategy. 

To find out more about how we can help you start or move forward on your journey to developing digital skills, get in touch: