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New strategic management framework enables flexibility

10-01-2017 News UK

With the launch of the common public sector digital strategy 2016-2020 the Agency for Digitisation has, in close collaboration with the other parties to the strategy, given the strategy organisation and management an overhaul.

Need for centralised coordination and flexible framework

The portfolio steering committee is the top public sector body that makes decisions regarding the common public sector Digital Strategy 2016-2020 across its many initiatives. At the first meeting of the portfolio steering committee in August 2016, the first item on the agenda was to establish a new and more flexible framework for how decisions regarding management and follow-up of the strategy should be made in the coming strategy period. 
According to Louise Palludan Kampmann, Head of Division for the Agency’s Digital Strategy Management Division, the finalisation of the former strategy period showed that the governance structure needed an overhaul.
”In the previous strategy, too many decisions related directly to a specific project were made by the portfolio steering committee,” said Ms. Kampmann. ”As a consequence, projects could not be immediately adapted to accommodate any unforeseen challenges and the committee was inundated with casework. The objective of the new framework has therefore been to give as much decision-making capacity as possible to the owners of the initiatives in the strategy.”
On the one hand, because the strategy includes many initiatives that involve central, regional and local government, coordination at central level is vital. On the other hand, analyses will be completed during the strategy period that will help the authorities understand in which direction digitisation of the public sector should be heading. Moreover, due to the speed with which technology develops, in the course of the strategy period, new opportunities may emerge that authorities need to be able to grasp. Therefore, the new management framework must balance the need for focused coordination efforts with flexibility, innovation and good opportunities for decentralised decision-making.  

The portfolio steering committee sets the course

The primary responsibility of the portfolio steering committee will be to ensure the strategy’s overall progress and to make decisions regarding adaptation of the strategic course. Decisions will be based on quarterly status reports about, e.g., the financial situation of individual initiatives, milestones, risks and deliverables. 
According to Ms. Kampmann, the portfolio steering committee will also be responsible for ensuring consistency between the strategy’s many initiatives, especially with regard to dependencies across initiatives or authorities: 
“The portfolio steering committee is responsible for implementing the digital strategy,” stressed Ms. Kampmann. “Therefore the committee must, among other things, ensure appropriate risk management, for example of the dependencies between several of the initiatives that are critical for reaching the main goals of the strategy. This could for example be standards for sharing data or dependencies between deliverables in the big tender projects NemID, Digital Post and NemLog-in” (NemID is the Danish digital signature/eID solution for authentication. Digital Post is the Danish digital letter box provided to all citizens and businesses for written communication with public authorities and NemLog-In is the Danish public sector single sign-on solution).
A number of sub-committees, working groups and other forums are responsible for the day-to-day decisions about the individual initiatives. 
“This gives the authorities that are responsible for the actual implementation of the initiatives of the strategy more flexibility and decision-making capacity,” said Ms. Kampmann.

Focus on results and effects

The digital strategy 2016-2020 presents a number of ambitious goals regarding digitisation. For example, digitisation must contribute to a more efficient and coherent public sector that creates economic growth, while at the same time securing the confidence of the Danish people in the digital society. However, defining goals is not enough. The public authorities must also be able to demonstrate that the strategy has led to visible results. 

“It’s a common public sector responsibility to ensure that the targets of the strategy are met and to deliver visible results,” said Ms. Kampmann and continues: “To achieve this, the public authorities and sectors must work together and focus on achieving the common goals. The new management framework is a good starting point for achieving this.”