Digital Leaders Toolkit

In a recent analysis, Kevin Cunnington, the former chief of digital in the UK, outlined seven major obstacles that the civil service faces in utilizing technology. Cunnington compiled pain points and solutions from various leaders in the digital government space from around the word and identified three viable approaches to tackle each of these challenges. We’ve summarised this to help unlock the full potential of digital and data.

An example of changing the way government works

Finding 1: Producing effective digital strategies


  1. In producing your strategy, focus on shared development and ownership
  2. Develop performance metrics with muscle
  3. Create a strong central unit – but use your powers carefully

Finding 2: Strengthening digital ID and data management


  1. Focus on building a customer base, not delivering a policy
  2. Build trust by putting citizens in control of their data
  3. Create a ‘single source of truth’ for key datasets

Finding 3: Improving capital investment


  1. Emphasise legacy systems’ vulnerability to cyber attacks and IT failures
  2. Help everyone onto your new platform – or risk wasting your investment
  3. Adjust financial and appraisal frameworks to suit digital technologies

Finding 4: Reforming finance and governance


  1. Create a digital marketplace, building an SME supplier ecosystem
  2. Adapt funding and project approval systems to support Agile methodologies
  3. Innovate in commissioning, and commission for innovation

Finding 5: Managing the digital workforce


  1. Develop cross-government workforce management and career pathways
  2. Put diversity and equality at the heart of your offer to digital professionals
  3. Establish a digital academy serving civil servants in every profession

Finding 6: Building the digital leadership cadre


  1. Introduce pay flexibilities for senior digital leaders
  2. Create non-management career paths for technical professionals
  3. Establish secondment programmes with businesses – and governments?

Finding 7: Engaging departmental and elected leaders


  1. Reform appointment and performance management systems to select and incentivise the right behaviours
  2. Ensure that organisational leaders benefit from digital training and coaching
  3. Appoint an influential minister for digital

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