Guest blog: Building a digital-first mindset: What can leaders do?

We are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and disruptive technologies like cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence are reshaping the UK economy. In fact, digital industries are now worth £130bn to the UK alone. We've seen incredible innovation in the corporate world with businesses utilising these emerging technologies to provide consumers with a personalised digital experience at every step of the customer journey - and driving customer loyalty as a result.

Public sector departments are now facing the same expectations. Today’s citizen is more connected, more digitally savvy, and more demanding. In fact, residents expect the same level of service from their local council as they get from a global online retailer - that's a big ask!

Governments across Europe are responding to these rising expectations from their citizens. According to Capgemini, governments in Europe have made more than 50% of their services available via mobile devices. I see a strong focus on this in UK plc's as they look to drive a digital-first mindset across their organisations. It's not a simple task but the potential impact for the UK is huge - it can mean better services for UK citizens and huge cost savings for government.

Start-up state of mind

The government departments that I've seen drive successful digital transformation programs have one thing in common - they adopt a start-up mentality. Not always something associated with big government departments that are built on legacy IT systems. But that's exactly why it's so important. You need visionary leaders who are not afraid to be agile in their thinking, test new technologies and keep continually moving forward with a citizen-centric strategy.

It's never going to be possible to change overnight but continuous incremental change can have a huge impact. Just look at the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency (DVLA) who have embarked on a transformation of their contact centre. Advisors can now use a single platform to answer queries via the telephone, email, web chat, and social media - which has in turn led to increased customer satisfaction.

The right technology and a start-up mindset will get you so far but department leaders also need to make sure that their workforce is armed with the right skills to get the most from the technology.

Ongoing learning encourages ongoing innovation

The UK government’s GDS advisory board has found that the internal skills of employees has proved a stumbling block to moving away from legacy IT systems simply because the skills aren’t there.

It's not just a government issue - we see this in the enterprise and we all have a responsibility to make sure that we are up-skilling our current and future workforce.

It's the collective responsibility of business, government and education bodies to work together to tackle the skills gap in a sustainable manner. Only then can we ensure employees in both the public and private sector receive the lifelong learning needed to hone fundamental skills for the future workplace. At Salesforce, we’re playing our part with our own free online learning platform called Trailhead, which helps people learn through a range of digital skill and management trails for everyone. The programme covers a breadth of topics ranging from API basics or collaborative forecast configurations, to business-orientated matters including Drucker School MBA Essentials, Google Analytics and cultivating equality.


Technology lies at the heart of what is an incredible opportunity to better serve UK citizens. The opportunity is there to drive real change to millions, and this can help the public sector attract some of the top talent out there. Young people today are striving for roles with social purpose. To attract and retain this talent, government departments adopting a digital-first mindset are leading the pack in transforming government's image for the digital native worker of the future and, in turn, creating real societal impact.

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