Less than half of local authorities employ a chief digital officer

Less than half (49%) of UK local authorities currently employ a chief digital officer (CDO), digital director or equivalent responsible for overseeing the organisation’s digital transformation, according to new research from Citrix.

The new figures were obtained following a freedom of information request issued to over 400 local authorities, with 234 responding.

The findings indicate that councils are divided on the requirement for c-suite level digital technology leaders, with less than 2% (four councils) yet to hire a CDO or equivalent but are budgeting for the role in the future.

Inconsistent measurement of success of digital technology among employees

Councils are seemingly equally undecided on the value of actively measuring employee engagement with digital services.

Measuring engagement might be in the form of conducting a regular staff survey or hosting meetings to discuss whether employees are set up with the right IT to perform their job roles.

Only 47% of councils were doing this when the request was submitted and a further 12% had plans to introduce the initiative within three to six months at the time of writing, with two in five (38%) not having any process in place or disclosing plans to do so.

Alongside this, the vast majority (81%) of local authorities also do not measure employee productivity linked to IT and/or digital investment.

Less than one in 10 (8%) are doing so currently, with the same number (8%) planning to do so within the next three to six months.

Commenting, Citrix’s Regional VP for UK and Ireland, Mark Sweeney said: “When it comes to putting strategic digital deployments at the forefront of their delivery models, councils still appear to be at a crossroads.

“From the employment of a chief digital officer to the measurement of staff engagement and productivity through technology, there doesn’t appear to be a clear consensus on the pathway forwards in terms of deploying digital technology in a strategic way and measuring how it is enabling real change.”

Capital outlay on IT nearly equalling annual operational spends

In the last financial year, councils spent an average of £1.3m each on capital IT investments, as part of a total outlay of over £81m across the 63 authorities responding to this question.

Operational IT spend in the same time period averaged £1.45m per local authority, with a total of £53.8m spent across the 37 councils which provided this data.

An average of £776,403 was spent on ‘subscription IT’ (e.g. SaaS cloud services, application subscriptions, etc.) per authority.

This is based on a total spend of over £60m across the responding 78 local councils.

Mr Sweeney added: “There is also a risk that, despite years of investment in transforming their digital services, as well as fostering a more flexible working model, without proper staff consultation around technology, they could lose talented employees to other organisations.

“In today’s post-Covid landscape, citizens are more accustomed to digital-first services than ever before, so it is imperative councils continue to innovate and improve service delivery.

“Retaining digital skills within the organisation, as well as employing senior digital leaders, will be a critical component to do so.”

PSE will be hosting a Digital Transformation Virtual Festival on 14 October. Join us for the full day event by registering here.


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