We were recently delighted to host our first Digital Leaders Salon event, further cementing our partnership with the DL team. The topic was Driving Value in Public-Private Consultancy Partnerships, and featured discussants from both sides of the table, resulting in some lively and engaging debate. Whilst the detail of the round table will remain with the attendees, there were some over-arching themes that appeared again and again, and the word that we kept coming back to? Culture. Whether its private versus public sector, or digital versus non digital (or even agile versus waterfall), balancing and managing cultural differences is the key to success in any major project. This is amplified with Government, of course, as there are a multitude of contrasting cultures from department to department, and a regular shift of policy.
The public sector has long relied on the use of external consultants to help supplement their delivery. With a more deeply embedded work force and less turnover of talent, many would argue that there is a noticeable skills gap problem in government, particularly when it comes to digital transformation. A more traditionally focused workforce who are used to doing things a certain way makes the ship harder to steer, and attracting that fresh ‘digitally native’ hot talent into the civil services is an ongoing challenge. This is where the use of consultants can help bolster projects. A ready supply of talent and knowledge working at the cutting edge of technology is an essential piece of the puzzle if the Government is to deliver the change required and keep up with the increasing pace of transformation. Consultants bring much needed expertise, specialist skills and innovation to the table. They provide both knowledge and capacity to help deliver the often complex and time critical projects associated with digital transformation.
Whilst we can complete analysis on the number of projects that have been delivered via consultancy frameworks, or the amount spent with SME’s each year, the real measure of success is not in the data but rather in the outcomes of those projects delivered via consultancy partnerships.
Focusing on and understanding the project outcome is what will bind disparate cultures together. Making the outcome a shared goal and vision for all involved helps to smooth out culture differences (be that public/private or digital/traditional methodology). In reality, changing culture is really what transformation is all about, and rather than getting bogged down by the detail of a specific delivery against KPI, the much harder-to-measure culture acceptance and ‘buy-in’ is what will help a project stand the test of time (not that we should forget the KPIs, of course).
The downside to the way projects are set up and briefed in a framework/tender environment is that much of that essential probing and understanding of the cultural nuances is left until well after the deliverables are established, and this is where the consultants need to use their expertise to ask the right questions. The work briefed may not always be – upon further understanding – the work that is required. Only by developing long-term open partnerships, where challenges can be openly discussed from all sides of the table, will outcomes be properly established and potential headaches dealt with long ahead of time. Partnerships over suppliers, and people over technology is the key to consultancy partnership success.