Civil service staff take Digital Skills Gap into own hands

26 June 2017

Despite enthusiasm for digital transformation, Whitehall workers are becoming frustrated by a lack of support and clear leadership, a Sopra Steria survey reveals. Civil servants are increasingly taking matters into their own hands, in the absence of effective training that addresses their Digital Skills Gap.

Digital transformation consultants Sopra Steria, who provide a range of professional services advice to private and public sector clients across Europe, has published a revealing insight into the inner strains of the British Civil Service administration at Whitehall.

The firm’s updated Government Digital Trends Survey, a report analysing three years’ worth of feedback from civil servants engaged in delivering the digital transformation agenda, captured nearly 4,500 responses. The results unveil a startling lack of support for civil servants, who have been forced to take concerns surrounding a persistent, growing skills gap into their own hands, despite governmental enthusiasm in digitisation.

Majority feel Digital is changing the way they work for the better

Researchers, building on surveys in 2015 and 2016, also highlighted striking impact of digital transformation across central government in the three years since. A vast majority of 88% of civil servants surveyed now agree that “Digital” is changing the way they work. Despite the challenges and disruption inherent in change at this scale, a growing majority of 64% feel their job has benefitted from the move to digital. However, this increasingly engaged and informed workforce, is becoming more aware of the scale of the challenges ahead, and raising concerns about the need for better training and leadership.

The head of the civil service, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, had previously declared he had “no doubt at all” that the civil service was “well equipped to deliver all of this government's priorities – including the UK's exit from the EU,” despite the government facing increasing criticism regarding the amount of public money being spent outsourcing policy implementation to the private sector.

Insufficient Training

In contrast to Heywood’s opinions however, at 43% almost half of the civil servants surveyed by Sopra Steria still do not feel their training has been sufficient. With the increasing demands placed on the service following almost a decade of austerity cuts and the added strain of implementing Brexit, this sentiment has led to civil servants frustrated at the government’s inaction taking training into their own hands. 

Skills training increase, but growing number feel it is still insufficient

Although 35% of workers in 2017 said their digital skills training had increased meanwhile, over a third of respondents said that they had taken to self-directed study in their own time to ensure they have the digital skills for their role, a number which has grown from 24% in 2015 to 36% now. This means a large portion of those feeling better trained were not beneficiaries of work-place training, but had spent their own time and resources to improve their digital skills for their employment.

The largest number of respondents also said that ‘informal best-practice’ sharing is a primary means of building digital skills, with 44% stating this had been their mode of training. Most worryingly, only 8% said they received digital skills training as part of their formal induction to the civil service, while 29% said they still have not been given any training in the digital skills needed for their role.

Civil servants consistently list a lack of resources as among the top barriers to change, with 20% of those interviewed stating they consider it the most significant issue – and the paper notes that the challenge of resources will not ease in the near future as while the 2015 spending review allocated a total of £1.8 billion to digital projects across government up to 2020, departmental budgets were again cut. Civil service employees are due to remain frustrated therefore, as they see government as spending big on outsourcing work to the professional services industry, rather than prioritising the long-term development of its in-house employees.

What has been done to ensure you have the digital skills you need in your role?

Resources diverted

The picture that civil servants paint strikes a stark contrast with last year’s revelation by the National Audit Office that government spending on private consultants and temporary staff had risen by between £400 and £600 million since 2013. The NAO also exposed government spending on consulting in excess of £1 billion in 2015, with the largest suppliers being the Big Four firms PwCDeloitteKPMG and EY, as well as UK headquartered PA Consulting Group and American strategy giants McKinsey & Company and The Boston Consulting Group.

In a statement following the release of the Sopra Steria’s paper, the firm’s Government Sector Strategy Director, Philip Craig, commented, “It’s encouraging to see that despite both internal and external pressures, enthusiasm for digital transformation in government services is so resilient.”

However, in the days following a surprise general election result, in which massive Conservative losses saw a hung Parliament, Craig also warned that effective strategies in addressing a Digital Skills Gap and transforming government services revolve around strong political and managerial leadership. With a faltering coalition between weakened Prime Minister Theresa May and Northern Ireland’s hard-line DUP looking increasingly unstable, the robust governance needed to implement a coherent strategy for digitisation and staff development seems to be evaporating.

He concluded, “Our survey is being released just as a new government is being formed, one whose first tasks will be ensuring it has an effective strategy to address major reforms presented by an EU exit. This Government will, of course, be looking for the best return on its investment, an earnest focus on developing and sourcing digital skills and capabilities is a sure bet.”


Four ways digitalisation is transforming car brands and dealers

16 April 2019

From changing expectations from the customer to new stakeholders entering the industry, the digital transformation of global automotive industry means it is facing the wholesale transformation of its business model. In a new white paper, global consulting partnership Cordence Worldwide has highlighted four major digital trends that are transforming the relationships between car brands and dealers with consumers.

With digital transformation drives booming across the industrial spectrum, automotive groups are no different in having commenced large digital transformation programmes to improve productivity, efficiency, and ultimately profitability. Falling sales figures mean the automotive sector is facing an increasingly difficult road ahead, something which means companies in the market are even more hard pressed to find new ways to improve their bottom lines.

While it offers major opportunities, the industry’s move to digitalise is not without complications. It has triggered a series of major internal changes, which have presented automotive entities with the challenge of becoming a “customer-oriented” industry. A new report from Cordence Worldwide – a global management consulting partnership present in more than 20 countries – has explored how automotive companies are navigating the rapidly changing nature of digital business.

New business models

The level of change likely to be wrought on the automotive industry by digitalisation is hard to overstate. Automation could well lead to significant reductions in the number of accidents, higher vehicle utilisation and lower pollution levels, while leading to a $2.1 trillion change in traditional revenues, with up to $4.3 trillion in new revenue openings arising by 2030.

As a result of this colossal opportunity, it is easy to see why almost all automotive groups now have digital departments, with generally strong communication within the digital transformation and the customer approach. The changes to society which this may have are potentially distracting automotive firms from the change it is leading to in its own companies though, according to Cordence’s paper.

The automotive market is dead, long live the mobility market

Because of this, the sector’s business model is set to transform over the coming decades. With digitalisation speeding up the appearance of concepts such as car-sharing, a subscription package model will likely become more palatable. At the same time, car and ride-sharing models will cater to the sustainability criteria of millennials, who will rapidly become one of the automotive market’s leading consumer demographics in the coming years.

Antoine Glutron – a Managing Consultant with Cordence member Oresys, and the report’s author – said of the situation, “These ‘old school industries’ are now working on creating new opportunities, but in so-doing are facing challenges and threats: new jobs, new technologies, new ecosystem of partners, necessary reorganisation, different relationship with customers, and even new businesses. The customer approach topic is in fact a real challenge for car companies as it implies changing their business model and adjusting their mind-set to address the customer 4.0: from product-centric to customer-centric, from car manufacturer to service provider.”

Digital customer experience

In the hyper-competitive age of the internet, even top companies face an uphill challenge when it comes to holding onto customers through brand loyalty. Digital disruption has resulted in changes to consumer behaviour, which is forcing a range of marketing strategists to reconsider their old, possibly out-dated strategies. As modern customers wield an increasingly impressive array of digital tools and online databases, they and are now able to quickly and conveniently compare prices, check availability and read product reviews.

The automotive sector is no exception to this trend, according to the study. In order to adapt to the needs of the so-called ‘customer 4.0’, car companies will increasingly need to change their business model and move away from product-centric companies to customer-centric ones, from car manufacturers to service providers.

Glutron explained, “As an automotive company, you can no longer expect customer loyalty simply with good products; you must conquer and re-conquer a customer that “consumes” your service. The offer now has to be global, digital and personalised. Your offer has to be adapted to this customer’s needs at any given moment. A key issue related to data control is to build customer loyalty by creating a customer experience 'tailored' throughout the cycle of use of the 'car product': purchase, driving, maintenance and trade-in of the vehicle.”

One way in which the sector may be able to benefit from this desire for a tailored experience is via connectivity. Consumers are generally positive about new connective features for automobiles, and many are even willing to pay upfront for infotainment, emergency and maintenance services. Chinese consumers, where the connected car market is set to hit $216 billion, are already particularly interested in paying a little more for navigation and diagnostic features in their future new car. This can also enable automotive companies to exploit a rich vein of customer data, enabling them to rapidly tailor their offerings to consumer behaviour.

New automotive segments

Digital transformation has also brought with it the rise of completely new application areas. As mentioned earlier, the most well-known example is the autonomous or self-driving car, where the last steps forward were not taken by major automotive groups but by technology companies such as Tesla. While this may have given such firms the edge in the market briefly, a number of keystone automotive names will soon be set to take the plunge into the market themselves, leveraging their car manufacturing prowess and huge production capacities to their advantage.

Before companies rush to invest in this market, however, it is worth their while to remember that the readiness and uptake for such vehicles differs greatly geographically. For example, following a study published in 2018, 92% of Chinese would be ready to buy an autonomous car, compared with only around 35% of drivers in France, Germany and US. Meanwhile, the infrastructure of different nations will also be significantly less accommodating of the new technology.

Use digital for steering thr activity

Elsewhere, Cordence’s analysis has suggested that hooking the cars of tomorrow into the Internet of Things is also likely to see a rapid change in the business model for car maintenance, providing real-time diagnostics for problems. This presents chances for partnerships to improve the connectivity of cars, especially with tech companies; for example, PSA partnered with IBM for a global agreement on services in their vehicle. Meanwhile, data could also be sold to other parties with an interest in this data, such as the government, which could use it to manage traffic levels, or ensure that only adequately maintained vehicles take to the road.

Glutron added, “With the increase in the amount of client data and connected opportunities, the recommendation is to set up data-centric approaches. The value is now in the customer data. The general prerequisites are to rework the data model and the Enterprise Architecture and generally build up a data lake including data from all sources (internal and external, structured and unstructured).”

From automotive to mobility

Relating further to the idea of connectivity, the report claimed that automotive firms must now adjust their models in line with the provision of end-to-end mobility, rather than treating the sale of a car as an end point in their relationship with the customer. In order to realise this transformation, transformations are likely to become more and more important.

A network of partner companies means automotive firms can provide a global mobility experience. As the vehicle is increasingly connected to its environment, new partners can also be cities, governments, and other service providers within the global mobility services industry in which the car brands want to take part.

According to the study, the target is clear. Companies must look to a holistic transport service, offering to move customers from A to B in a unique and pleasant way – otherwise they might as well take public transport. At the same time, they should extend the services reachable “on-board” (especially the enhancement of the connectivity between the car and smartphones or other connected devices), and reach high standards in terms of user experience (online sales, online payment, customised experience during and after the use of the car).

Concluding the report, Glutron stated, “These mobility market transformations could be considered a threat for the car manufacturers. Quite the opposite: if they take up the challenge and review their business model so that they become the service provider – communicating no longer to a driver but to a ‘mobility customer’ – they can then take advantage of their expertise and their position as a historical player. The most convenient means of transport are cars, and building a car is highly-skilled work.”