The year 2024 marks a pivotal moment for the UK’s public sector, with the anticipation of a general election and increasing demands to reduce costs while increasing customer experience and navigating the realm of digital innovation.
Sarah Luxford, Partner in our Digital, Data & Technology division at GatenbySanderson, shares her insights on the major DDaT trends 2024 will bring to the fore, focusing on their implications for leaders and digital leadership across the public sector.
DDaT trends 2024:
The rise of the digital citizen
Empowering a digital future
Reliability and resilience are paramount
1. The rise of the digital citizen
In the UK, we’re riding the crest of a transformative wave in public services, powered by the dynamic emergence of the Digital Citizen. This revolution is reshaping the way services are delivered, marked by a relentless pursuit to elevate customer experiences to meet ever-escalating demands, all while steadfastly guarding privacy. Central Government’s OneLogin programme and NHS’s appointment of a Director of Digital Citizen are prime examples of this shift signalling a bold and much-needed move towards services that are not only digital-first but also revolve around the user, blending efficiency with digital prowess. It’s an exciting era where technology and citizen needs converge, redefining the essence of public service.
This evolution however brings new responsibilities in managing digital identity ecosystems and also now demands a holistic system-wide approach. We see this in action, for example, within healthcare, where there is the rise of ‘Collaboratives’ between NHS Trusts engaging with Integrated Care Boards, local authorities, education providers, social care and the “centre” to optimise services to the communities they serve.
In addition to identity and authentication, accessibility also remains critical. Taking out the socio-economic-political issues that affect digital literacy (a whole further post can be written on digital poverty…watch this space!) our public sector also has to craft a digital environment that’s universally navigable, where accessibility isn’t an afterthought but the heartbeat of technological advancement. Arguably we are seeing that with emerging technologies like NLP, AR, VR, auditory analytics, and intelligent search – all of which have the potential to bridge accessibility gaps and transform service interfaces.
2. Empowering a digital future
Digital transformation can be a doorway to a future where public sector staff are not just equipped but empowered with the right data, tools, and digital capabilities to redefine what’s possible in their jobs. Increasingly across the public sector leaders are addressing the potential of automation, GenAI, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and enhanced connectivity. Whilst also driving leaner operations, these ‘new’ technologies also help reduce time on administration and free them to tackle the strategic and complex challenges that truly need their human touch. Continuous learning and adaptation will continue to be key, where staff are not just users of new technology, but active participants in its evolution, ensuring that the public sector remains agile and responsive to the ever-changing needs of the society it serves.
3. Reliability and resilience are paramount
Cybersecurity stands as a crucial foundation, guarding against evolving digital threats to ensure the safety and confidentiality of critical data – not a month goes by without some breach whether intentional or not appearing in the news. Meanwhile, the role of platform engineering and enterprise services is indispensable, crafting a harmonious digital ecosystem that scales efficiently with changing demands. Additionally, the transition from cloud to quantum computing marks a significant leap, promising to revolutionise data processing with unparalleled speed and capability.
What does all of this mean in the context of leadership?
There is now a pressing need for leaders who champion collaboration and influence, fostering partnerships that enhance service delivery. It’s about making relationships count and driving interoperability within and beyond organisational boundaries. This calls for a new breed of leadership, adept not only in sector-wide partnership but also in synergising local and national efforts.
For executive leaders, curiosity and agility become indispensable traits, necessary for harnessing the potential of emerging technologies while balancing risk with innovation. Such leadership demands creativity, collaboration, and vision across organisations and the wider ecosystem, all the while navigating the complexities of governance and regulation. With digital transformation impacting every role and function in business, understanding and engaging with these changes, including regulation, is vital. This was even evident in events like CES, where sessions like “Conversation with a Commissioner” highlight the growing intersection of technology and policy.
Data, AI, Robotics, Virtual Reality – there isn’t a day that goes by when there is news of some type of ‘new’ technology appearing in the news, accompanied by the fear of job losses. These rapid tech advancements require leaders to engender trust as that visionary whilst balancing with a healthy dose of reality/integrity of knowledge whilst they continue to drive strategic clarity as they navigate ambiguity to a clear way forward. Take AI – organisations today must be prepared for a future where AI is increasingly integrated into all aspects of business — both in the way organizations operate and in how they interact with customers and meet their needs. They must also understand AI’s potential benefits and risks, and boards in particular need policies and procedures in place to govern its use.
This year promises not just change, but a profound redefinition of leadership. Are you ready?
For more information about how we can assist you and your team on your leadership journey, or to get in touch please reach out to us here: Digital, Data & Technology – GatenbySanderson
Many of the behaviours, traits and skills discussed here are drawn from our Altitude model – our extensive data set that has been used to profile and compare the leadership skills of over 5,000 senior leaders in the public sector. The Altitude model helps us see where there are opportunities for improvement and identify areas for growth at role function, seniority or sector level. We use this information to help groups or individuals learn how they compare against the public sector population, develop their skills across the Altitude competencies and learn from the expertise of other sectors.