A Cabinet Office team is looking at skills implications for the civil service. The aim is to ensure the necessary awareness, policies and actions are initiated to address all the skills needs identified. Its approach and policy is to:
- Classify IT-related skills using a ‘skills map’;
- Identify appropriate delivery vehicles for addressing needs and solutions; and
- Maintain high-level co-ordination and drive through the Central Information Technology Unit and Civil Service Corporate Management unit in the Cabinet Office.
IT-related skills needs have been grouped into seven main types:
In this context, leadership skills are not the prerogative of senior managers. The strategic need here is to embed these skills across the public service.
All are important, but one of the most challenging is that of the strategic understanding of the role of information systems and IT in policy making and service delivery, with clear links to the business programme. That understanding has five aspects.
- Understanding how IS and IT can improve efficiency of policy making and services;
- Understanding the scale of the impact that new policy initiatives can have on existing and planned IT investment;
- Informing innovation and policy making that defines the next generation
- Understanding how to prepare organisations for that future; and
- Understanding the human impact of technology-supported changes.
Business system development
The business management of information systems developments and IT-enabled business change projects are skills at the boundary of the IT world. They embrace the skills associated with the function of the ‘intelligent customer’ or ‘informed partner’. High-level project management skills and management skills stand out.
The ability to apply e-commerce principles to government business and design new processes is a talent that is both crucial and rare. Acquiring this set of skills presents some of the biggest challenges, and will be an early focus of attention in further work.
The management of the acquisition of new systems and services goes beyond procurement to a range of skills for finance, deal-making, relationship management and channel management.
End user skills
Practical IT skills must be distinguished from information skills.
Practical skills training covers how to use Microsoft Word or a web browser. Information skills training covers how to use the various shared directories of a network, save documents using keywords, search against keywords, and search the web.
In practice, often more of the former is done than the latter, partly as many organisations do not have well-developed approaches to document management. Given the tools available the standard of practical and information skills will need to be greater than a basic level.
Specialist user skills
Specialists – accountants, statisticians and so on have for decades been using IT in advanced ways. But e-government, and the use of the internet and intranets, presents them with new opportunities for the way they work. For example, the government Secure Intranet (GSI) will provide a platform for communities to develop an online forum, to share research across government, or to manage government finances online with the Treasury.
At present most information professional roles are fragmented across government, but in an e-government environment are increasingly inter-related. There may be scope for addressing skills across the groups.
IT professional skills
A massive amount of systems development and engineering work will be needed to make this work. It will be done by a mixture of public servants and private sector organisations. It is a fair assumption that the skills needed will be similar to those in the past, but probably in different quantities and applied in different ways. They will be very similar to those needed in commerce and industry generally.
The major area for focus and action lies in the recruitment, and development of personnel, especially in areas like e-commerce.
There is a range of vehicles available to address of the skills needs as part of wider change initiatives.
Source: based on Cabinet Office paper; Skills for information age government
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