Solace launches digital leadership drive

Written by Colin Marrs on 8 December 2014 in News

Council chief executives have been asked to fundamentally examine whether investment in digital will help transform their services in a letter from their representative body.

The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace) has written to its members calling for a discussion on improving digital leadership within local authorities.

It has called for comments on a new draft policy on how to improve digital expertise at the very top level of councils.

The letter to members said: “Digital is too often considered to be an end in itself – after all, bells, whistles, flashing lights and functionality are wonderful.

“But in leadership terms, digital must be about utility, outcomes and the positive differences that can be made.

Solace said that the consultation is aimed at testing the “hunch” that investing in digital will support the transformation of local services.

It said: “Do we have a clear articulation of why local government needs to be digital by design or is this something that evangelists believe and everyone else is trying to ignore? Or as ever is the truth somewhere in the middle?” it said.

The key priorities in the emerging digital leadership policy are:

  • Digital as enabler of economic growth, prosperity and liveability in our places;
  • Digital as catalyst for world-class public service transformation;
  • Digital as vehicle for the radical re-definition of the relationship between the citizen and the state;
  • Digital leadership skills, capacity and capability for the future;
  • Digital by design/default – infrastructure and inclusion

The document also asked chief executives whether local government should adopt a “Silicon Valley” mindset towards technology.

This would involve “thinking beyond apps and websites and spend time getting ahead of the new technology trends” including wearables, 3D printing, and driverless cars.

The discussion document said: “If we don't take time to understand this highly citizen-centric technology now we will find ourselves behind again within a couple of years.”

Solace also called on Solace members with the interest and capacity to join the Solace Digital Leadership network to assist the development of digital leadership policy.

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John Popham (@j... (not verified)

Submitted on 10 December, 2014 - 13:42
If Chief Executives are to provide any kind of digital leadership, they have to demonstrate that they are themselves enthusiastic users of digital technology. All too few do this. There are far too many, even in 2014, of the "my secretary prints my emails for me to read" brigade running organisations. And digital is not just about tech. It is about using tech to transform the way people and organisatons work. It is about being social, open and collaborative, and about working outside the constraints of traditional hierarchies. Are CEO's ready for this?

@johnarudkin (not verified)

Submitted on 9 January, 2015 - 19:48
Digital Leadership has a very different set of requirements, knowledge and skills than might seem to be implicit in the ICT leadership of the past. The speed of change among the population has now outpaced many incumbent experts, and unless they have been open minded, widely experienced and willing to believe that the ICT industry is not beholden to them, they are lost in space and time. I cannot agree marabout the "Silicon Valley" mindset, but I'd define that as a willingness to explore possibilities. That hasn't always boded well for ICT Departments that are tied to the notion that what is needed is what has always been needed. The audience has changed.; it has become more demanding; it has grown worldly wise and now demands that services they engage with will be well designed and genuinely save them time, money and effort - or let alternatively, they have to do things better. It isn't always ICT's fault, but ICT can help lead by being an exemplar of best practice. Those Departments who think that the cheapest, least user friendly solution set is "good enough" need to be told that they are wrong and need to change. My experience of recent public sector Digital Leadership is very heartening, but too many pockets of foot dragging Managers and Officers need a kick up the pants. Is this something the Local Authority Chief Executives can do? Of course it is, but some will refrain from over riding strong, static ICT leadership. They need the sort of thing Solace is suggesting. Suggest no more. An open minded, CEO and team willing to learn; willing to act and willing to see past threats of doom and despair are what we need. I worked for one such CEO over 8 years, and persuaded him to be open to new ideas. Alas, he never used the advantages he had to change things across the Council; We had many a conversation about the way technology was going, and how it could - applied correctly, minimal risk - permanently change things.......but ICT simply couldn't see it. "XP forever" was the route they took. Yes, doubt their migration will be fun now.

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