Based on their experience working with governments, corporations and large public sector organisations, the Public Digital team has compiled a list of key characteristics that indicate good digital strategy. We believe much of this can apply to the NHS.
Signs of a good digital strategy
To succeed, digital transformation can't just be a bolt-on. Digital should be integral to system and trust-level strategies and business plans. It is an enabler for wider improvement. Croydon council's digital strategy explains how it will enable the council's corporate plan, supporting six key themes.
- User centred
Digital transformation should address the most important needs of patients, service users and staff. The NHS Business Services Authority's digital strategy has put users at its heart.
- Useful to teams
Digital strategies can't detail everything you're planning to deliver. Instead, focus on providing guiding principles to help people make the right decisions. The Royal Borough of Greenwich settled on six principles that guide all their digital transformation.
The best strategies are widely understood and widely adopted. Successful digital transformation in healthcare depends on close alignment across many teams, not just the IT department. In order to more effectively communicate their strategy, the Ministry of Justice published their digital strategy in the form of a blogpost.
It is important to build trust - many staff have experience of being let down by the promise of new technology. Talk about what you've already delivered and set realistic goals. The 2013 Government digital strategy is clear on the progress it intended to build on.
A good digital strategy is selective. Making trade offs is difficult but essential to free up the bandwidth required for digital transformation.
Our digital strategy is not defined by the services and the products that we deliver to millions of users every day. We don't mean a concentrated effort to deliver Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Blockchain across our services or any other hype tech of the moment. We may adopt some of these technologies, they may even be a by-product, but they are not our strategy.
We mean our culture, our practices and the processes we apply to create, manage and maintain our services. On the ground, this is 'lived' in how we talk about our services, how we behave and interact, the values that we work by and the thinking that drives our decision making when delivering services for our users.
Read more on the NHS Business Services Authority website.
Signs of a bad digital strategy
Digital transformation is enabled by technology, but to truly succeed it needs to be led by chief executives, not chief information officers. Good digital strategy focuses more on outcomes for patients and staff than technical changes.
Learn from other organisations, but focus on the context of your trust and system and the needs of your users.
- Focuses on unproven tech
Cutting edge technology like artificial intelligence has huge potential in healthcare. But organisations should first prioritise fixing the basics, and a good digital strategy should be open about this.
A digital strategy should set some clear, measurable objectives alongside a credible plan for delivering on them. The 'what', 'how' and 'when' - as well as the 'why'.
- Too long-term
Technology moves fast: there's not much point in trying to build a static 10 year digital strategy. Aim for a 1-5 year time horizon, aligned to your trust's strategic plan, with a constant review cycle built in.
- Reads like a wish list
Good digital strategy acknowledges that it won't fix everything at once and certainly can't solve everyone's problems instantly. It should be clear what is being prioritised, and equally what isn’t.