Securing buy-in & proving the case for digital transformation

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In today's fast-paced digital world, it's more important than ever for public sector organisations to undergo digital transformation – whether that be to improve public experience, cut costs or improve internal processes. However, decision-making units (DMU) in these organisations can be hesitant to invest sometimes, often due to a lack of understanding of the benefits it can bring. In this edition of Hot Topics, we’re taking a closer look at internal buy-in with top tips from NDL Business Manager, Seb Clancy.  

Put change into perspective

One of the first steps towards DMU buy-in is clear demonstration of benefits. And, while we can sing about all of the immeasurable impacts of digital transformation until the cows come home, we need strong evidence to back it up. A really powerful way to achieve this is through the voices of public sector peers – letting your DMU know that other healthcare, local authorities, police, housing and higher education organisations are already ahead of the game and reaping impactful benefits is a great way to prick up ears.  

Sharing case studies and attending public sector led events are the easiest ways to achieve this. Choosing case studies that are relevant to your organisation or proposed project(s) is key – for example, if you’re looking to implement RPA to complete a mass data migration within a local authority, projects like Conwy County Borough Council’s WCCIS migration (saving 2,000 working days while migrating 12 million records) speak for themselves. Similarly, events led by peers provide the opportunity to not only learn about these projects and their benefits, but how organisations overcame challenges just like yours. Demonstrating what’s been made possible in similar environments can help DMU’s to see what’s achievable in your own organisation. 

Align with wider business objectives

Assuming you already have a specific project in mind, it’s imperative to ensure your digital transformation proposal aligns with the current goals of your DMU. While all public sector organisations share the overarching goal of providing excellent services to the UK population, plans on how to achieve this vary from organisation to organisation – and even the departments within them.  

Find out what makes your specific DMU tick. If your DMU is focused on freeing themselves from legacy systems, you might want to plan a migration first, rather than the starters and leavers process you had in mind. If your organisation is looking to streamline processes to improve efficiencies, you might want to look into synchronisations that eliminate rekeying. Your DMU might not have a specific pain-point in mind – like at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, who simply wanted to see the power of RPA overall before further investment, leading the team to choose five smaller projects to start with to secure that final stage of buy-in.  

Choose your supplier carefully

It’s important to remember that the outcomes and ROI delivered by your projects are greatly impacted by the tools and suppliers you choose. Costs, services, support, capabilities – these all differ between platforms and suppliers. It’s up to you and your team to decide which supplier or product is best for you. But you need to choose wisely – picking a supplier that doesn’t fit your needs can really impact willingness to invest from your DMU.  

Think about your digital transformation needs as a whole: will this be an ongoing initiative, or a one-off project? Do you need a corporate licence, or a limited one? Will you need a helping hand transforming your processes, or do you have all the skills and knowledge required in-house? Are you looking for one specific technology, or are you looking for an end-to-end platform? Once you’ve got a checklist in mind, inviting suppliers to present and propose their individual approaches is a great way to gauge who can provide the best products and services for your organisation specifically.  

Create a solid proof of concept 

Perhaps the most important step of all is creating a fully comprehensive proof of concept. Depending on the requirements of your DMU, this document can look slightly different from organisation to organisation, but the fundamental inclusions remain the same – demonstrate your objectives, let them know how you’ll get there, and calculate ROI. Especially within the public sector, it’s so incredibly important to provide solid financial statistics and estimates. When it comes to spending public funds, ROI must be outstandingly clear.  

It's also important to clearly define what success looks like. Creating these benchmarks not only sharpens the vision for your project as a whole, but provides you with a clear goalpost to aim for. Let’s not forget, securing buy-in isn’t a onetime thing – you might need some further investment for your next projects, and having a previous success in the bank will make that process a whole lot easier.  

Let them see for themselves

Never underestimate the power of a good demo. This might fall under your proof of concept, where you use the tool included in your proposal to demonstrate exactly how that process would work. It might come before your proof of concept, demonstrating how the tool works without any particular process in mind. Wherever it lands in your buy-in process, a live demonstration is a fantastic way to really put the transformation you’re proposing into perspective. 

Think back a few steps – you should know by now exactly what piques the interest of your DMU. Let’s imagine you’ve chosen the perfect project that really resonates with your DMU. Perhaps they’re concerned about data security in your organisation, so you’ve decided to replace some paper-based data collection with a fully integrated eForm. But now they’re worried about developing them – maybe only a single person on your team has the coding capabilities needed to keep eForms afloat and they’re worried that, should that person leave, the whole investment was pointless. The live demonstration is your opportunity to put those secondary concerns to rest. You choose a low-code eForm builder, and show your DMU that you can pull an eForm together with a few clicks, drags and drops.  

Put the “what if’s” to bed 

We’re nearly there. Your DMU is onboard with the project you’re proposing, and the transformation approach you want to take going forward. They like your tool and your supplier. They’re confident about ROI and they know what success looks like. But now they’re worried about transformation regression. What happens if we invest the time and money needed to make a real difference to your chosen process, but things slowly start to move backwards? We implement all of these fantastic technologies to make life easier, but your users prefer the ol’ pen and paper method? Or they’re worried the new RPA bot is so good, it’s going to take their jobs? 

We’ve spent so long worrying about DMU buy in, we’ve forgotten about end user buy in. And if the end users don’t buy in, we’re heading right back where we started. And the DMU knows that. So, we need to make our intentions of keeping end users involved and engaged throughout the development process known, and make sure our new solution represents the needs of our users. We’ll follow the necessary steps to avoid transformation regression before our projects go live, so that when they do, everybody sees their value – and is excited to give change a go.  

Ready to tackle your first project?

NDL is backed by over 40 years of experience in public sector digital transformation. Our end-to-end digital transformation platform, NDL Evolve, is designed specifically for the public sector – bringing RPA, eForms, mobile apps, workflow, web services and API connections together in one low-code package. To learn how Evolve could benefit your organisation, get in touch to arrange your free demo. Like we said, public sector stories speak for themselves – so be sure to take a look at our library of real-life success stories, and come talk to the NDL Community at one of our upcoming online or in-person events