Our response to the 2024 Spring Budget: Overcoming established delivery challenges will be key to achieving returns

Great to see digital transformation featuring so prominently in the Budget, but overcoming established delivery challenges will be key to achieving returns

If we were playing a game of technology buzzword Bingo, Jeremy Hunt’s Budget speech certainly hit the jackpot; with AI, digital transformation, apps and even drones making an appearance. But Word Bingo aside, the fact that digital transformation featured so prominently in a Budget speech is a reflection of the government’s ambitions to bring systemic change to the way the public sector operates. That can only be a good thing. But I can’t help but feel we’ve heard it all before…

It is true the ‘digitisation’ of outdated processes can result in both improved public services and cost savings which far exceed the initial investment… benefitting both the public at large as well as the Chancellor’s coffers. The chancellor went as far as to claim that doctors wasted 13 million hours every year as a direct result of old IT, and his aims to digitise the NHS would create the world’s largest digital healthcare system in the world (if this sounds familiar, Hunt had previously promised to deliver a paperless NHS by 2018 back when he was health secretary in 2013). Policing was also mentioned, with police officers apparently wasting 8 hours per week on unnecessary admin – the elimination of which would free up the equivalent of 20,000 new officers.

These examples, while laudable aims, should come with something of a health warning (no pun intended). It is great to allocate £umpteen billion to achieve x, y and z longer term, but can we, the public, place any degree of faith that the definition of requirements, the standing-up of such programmes, and indeed the quality control of the finished product(s) at point of deployment will ultimately deliver these benefits to the public in the end? Releasing the equivalent of 20,000 new police officers without the cost of actually hiring any more officers is a bold ambition, but there is so much work involved to get us from the initial idea through to execution, that the savings can often be hard to prove, let alone achieve. There is the development of the business case, defining the requirements, the readiness of the organisation to make the necessary changes, process mapping / engineering / change, service transition, testing…the list goes on. All these changes are necessary if we are to deliver digital public services fit for the 21st century. The question is, is the public sector prepared to put the work in?

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