To thrive in the internet-era, every organisation needs to be good at technology and data. Your trust's approach to this can make-or-break your digital transformation. That means as a leader, you need to be comfortable with making decisions about technology. This doesn't require a technology background, but you should at least be aware of the wider considerations. 

Here are some pointers to guide your approach to technology:


  • Use of technology should be meeting clear outcomes. No technology decision is ever perfect - there will always be pros and cons. The clearer your understanding of your users' needs the better your technology choices will be.
  • It is possible to test whether it works. It is better to test the system with your users live before financially committing for the long term. Be sceptical of vendor demonstration theatre.
  • Prioritise switching things off. An excellent test of a successful digital strategy is whether you have been able to retire your legacy technology.
  • Make sure that every tool has a team. Even when you are not building services but are buying commoditised tools it's important to: understand users, establish feedback loops, understand the market, and ensure the tool is meeting needs. This requires ongoing product management and support on the business side (as well as supplier).

Building or buying

One of the most common decisions to make as a leader is how to source your technology. Here are some quick views on when each approach should be considered. Most organisations end up doing a blend of both build and buy.


When to build When to buy

High levels of uncertainty around user needs

When needs are well understood

More control needed e.g. over user experience or data 

When products are highly commoditised with low variability 

Point solutions e.g. specific solution needed for specific problem

Vibrant market - easier to switch suppliers 

Few market providers - risk of lock-in 


Impact outweighs potential costs of ongoing support



Lack of inhouse skills is often the main reason why buy decisions are made. However, this lack of capability can also prevent you from being an intelligent customer for technology services. Our previous guide, Building and enabling digital teams, set out how trusts can develop the inhouse digital capability they need.


Further reading

  • 18F the digital delivery unit for USA's federal government has produced a guide for executives who are overseeing technology projects and providers best practice for budgeting and overseeing technology projects
  • There are many frameworks for guiding choices on technology. Perhaps the best known in the UK public sector is the Technology Code of Practice: a set of criteria to help government design, build and buy technology
  • Wardley Mapping is a technique to help you make technology choices
  • Every tool needs a team - why even commoditised tools need ongoing support