One of the strongest themes of the UK Government Digital Strategy is the emphasis it places on digital collaboration —a goal pursued by all branches of the public sector. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Cabinet Office’s own Digital Strategy. As the lead organisation on civil service reform and cross-government collaboration, it aims to be “the exemplar of digital in action, ‘walking the talk’ and leading by example”.
In terms of collaboration, it intends to:
Provide systems for collaborative working within the department and with colleagues in other departments – empowering them with cloud-based systems that offer greater agility and interoperability.
The Cabinet Office wants to rely on these systems for many different purposes, ranging from data collection to policy iteration and seeking agreement. It also wants to see all branches of government embrace digital collaboration, using it to improve current ways of working and build better relationships with stakeholders.
So, if you’re in the public sector, digital collaboration will soon become a priority, if it hasn’t already. But what are the best ways of deploying it in line with the ‘digital by default’ agenda?
These are our top 5 tips, built around some of the priorities in the UK Government Digital Strategy.
1. Identify your stakeholders
Your first step is to identify who your internal and external stakeholders are. You may discover there are more people and groups you should collaborate with than you initially thought. This can lead to new relationships and new ways of working.
For more information on identifying your stakeholders, see our post on Communications tools for stakeholder engagement. This post will almost certainly give you fresh ideas for people and groups you can valuably collaborate with.
2. Decide why you want to collaborate
This is really about purpose – why do you need to collaborate with internal and external stakeholders? Is it to develop projects, to transform service delivery, to invite input on policy development, or to brainstorm new services? If there are activities you need to do with the input of internal or external stakeholders, consider whether digital collaboration can add value. And if you are unsure, just #GiveITaGo! There are many Government approved tools that you can try for free >>
Next, think about each stakeholder group in turn. Are there new opportunities to collaborate if you can do it digitally? For example, are new collaborations made possible if you can easily and securely share and comment on information online instead of struggling with emails and attachments or having to meet face-to-face?
3. Agree what you need from a collaboration system
You’ve decided why you need to collaborate. Now is the time to decide how.
Make a list of the capabilities you need from any software solution. For example:
- Share files securely
- Manage tasks and projects
- Control access using team membership
- Discuss ideas in online forums
- Use wikis or blogs to publish useful articles
- Survey, analyse and report on views
- Co-author documents
- Maintain registers of issues and risks
- Integrate the software with different digital channels
If you look at Communications tools for stakeholder engagement, you’ll also find a handy matrix that makes it simple to map digital channels and functions to stakeholder groups.
If at all possible, create a list of functions and channels you need for all the different kinds of digital collaboration you want to undertake – this will help you find a solution that you can deploy across your organisation, giving you greater economies of scale and interconnectivity.
4. Shortlist – and try before you buy
Not that long ago, procuring software was a highly technical task, and one that could take months to complete. On-premise installations were the norm (often, in part, because of security considerations), and you would have little chance to try out software before you committed to a potentially long and expensive contract.
The ‘digital by default’ strategy is pushing public sector organisations towards a new way of sourcing software. In particular, the G-Cloud CloudStore allows you to easily shortlist cloud software on the basis of the functionality you need, safe in the knowledge that some solutions are now pre-approved on the basis of security and suitability for public sector use.
If you find more than one solution that might meet your needs, then just give them all a go! The CloudStore allows you to put software through its paces often via the provision of free trials. Just test the collaboration services that interest you and get your colleagues to try them out in real-world situations.
5. Appoint digital champions – and encourage innovation
The real beauty of digital collaboration is that it can be flexible and agile. Organisations that have sourced online collaboration software to share and comment on files internally have soon found themselves putting it to other uses – as policy development workgroups, extranets for special interest communities, tender management workspaces and more.
So be sure to encourage your teams to innovate, and appoint digital champions to identify new ways of working via digital collaboration. If you foster this ethos of #GiveITaGo, you’ll quickly be in step with the ‘digital by default’ agenda – from improving the way you communicate to developing shared services and cutting costs.
Why not get started today? Draw up that stakeholder list, decide why you want to collaborate and then just #GiveITaGo. You’ll be surprised by the innovation that digital collaboration can unleash.