Digital and technology skills

Digital leadership

Leading business and culture change to drive digital transformation.

Digital Leadership focuses on business strategy and leadership skills for today’s digital and technology functions.

Digital and Technology Leaders need to be familiar with all the other skills groups but should focus on Essentials for digital specialists, Commercial and procurement, and Agile delivery.

Some relevant roles: chief technology officers, chief digital officers, digital leaders, service managers, project, programme and delivery managers, other SCSs involved in digital transformation

Business alignment

Meeting business goals

This involves:

  • identifying cultural, strategic and tactical business issues
  • aligning digital and technology strategies with business goals for the organisation

Following the government digital agenda

This involves:

  • maintaining alignment between the digital agenda and the organisation’s business goals and strategy to ensure both contribute jointly to overall goals
  • being aware that this requires constant iteration in an environment of rapid technology change

Alignment with cross-government strategy

Understanding how work in an individual department contributes to the cross-government strategy and a shared vision of ‘Digital by Default’.

Transforming functions

Moving to new operating models

This involves:

  • leading change in the structure and organisation of digital and technology functions in departments by moving to new operating models
  • understanding that insourcing across government and the digital transformation agenda require the shape of digital and technology functions to change to:
    • meet user needs
    • deliver value for money
    • improve services

Driving business change

This involves:

  • enabling departments to deliver better services by changing their culture and approach to delivery (eg delivering value early and often to the user)
  • being able to successfully drive business change by inspiring and persuading, encouraging all to be part of the journey and to embrace change

Driving digital transformation

This involves:

  • driving the digital transformation within your departments and organisations
  • understanding the shifts (behavioural, operational, social) that the digital transformation is causing
  • translating these fundamental shifts into business impacts at the policy, organisation and individual level

Embedding open formats

This involves:

  • driving and sponsoring implementation of open formats for office productivity and integrated tools
  • understanding the user needs and benefits that implementing open formats will bring
  • understanding how to achieve a level playing field for open source and proprietary software and the opportunities this provides

Strategic planning

This involves:

  • creating and leading strategic plans, roadmaps and blueprints
  • finding ways to move from strategy development to implementation
  • understanding that, in the current transformation environment, these plans need to be responsive to user needs

Commercial and procurement awareness

Procuring in government

Understanding all relevant policy around procurement and commercial management in order to:

  • achieve the fastest, most appropriate routes to market
  • procure services from the relevant frameworks by using the Digital Marketplace

(See the Commercial and procurement skills group for more detail.)

Managing multiple vendors

Managing the interdependencies of multiple contracts and the associated risks (especially given the preference towards using shorter, 2-year contracts across many Small Medium Enterprises).

Understanding the digital and technology environment

Understanding technology

This involves understanding:

  • the end-to-end technology environment in your department
  • how it can support (or needs to change to support) the ‘Digital by Default’ strategy and digital transformation across government

Working with solutions

This involves:

  • working comfortably with a range of digital and technology services and solutions
  • having an understanding of how these solutions can be combined to meet user needs (especially in an environment of insourcing and a tower-based approach to technology and digital services)

Combining solutions

This involves:

  • understanding how to combine systems and services to provide an overall solution and meet user needs
  • knowing your systems and services within the internal and external marketplace
  • using this knowledge to implement solutions

Monitoring the evolving technical landscape and wider digital trends in the industry (eg disruptive innovation) and how they may affect government services or departmental goals.

Agile and multidisciplinary teams

Benefitting from agile and multidisciplinary teams

This involves:

  • sponsoring an environment of agile working and multidisciplinary teams
  • capitalising on the advantages these approaches bring
  • supporting collaboration
  • encouraging experimentation and innovation.

(See the Agile delivery skills group for more detail.)

Stakeholder management

Managing stakeholders

This involves:

  • communicating with both internal and external stakeholders
  • understanding business relationship management
  • understanding that insourcing and the new tower-based service model means there will be a greater diversity of external stakeholders to manage (eg suppliers), and the relationship with them will need to be closer, more transparent and open in order to create effective services

Risk management

Managing overall risks

Understanding and managing strategic risks arising from:

  • insourcing activities
  • shifts towards smaller, shorter government procurement contracts
  • the digital transformation agenda

Managing cyber threats

This involves:

  • advising on the risks associated with cyber security and information assurance
  • developing strategies to lessen those risks


Managing governance

This involves:

  • developing the right governance structures that support delivery
  • understanding that in more agile organisations, teams require a supportive culture and a safe environment in order to successfully deliver

(See the Agile delivery skills group for more detail.)

Skills transformation

Identifying skill gaps

Ensuring skill gap analyses take place to identify skills needed to enable the digital transformation (eg identifying skills gaps as a result of new department operating models and insourcing activities of formerly large outsourced IT contracts)

Addressing skill gaps

This involves ensuring that:

  • training needs for a constantly changing technology and digital environment are met quickly
  • training takes advantage of formal, informal and social learning using digital channels.

Budget and resource planning


This involves:

  • determining the appropriate type of funding (for example resource or capital spending)
  • being able to plan, manage and scrutinise budgets to ensure value for money


Determining the right resource model for the management and improvement of digital services. Consider the most important elements:

  • what capabilities will be in-house, what will be contingent labour and what will be bought as a service from suppliers
  • what the mix of suppliers will look like
  • how suppliers will be used
  • how people will be deployed
  • how we can avoid lock-in or dependency on certain suppliers
  • what the plan is to deliver these supplier changes

Digital take-up, digital inclusion and assisted digital

Increasing digital take-up

This involves:

  • using research and user data to create strategic plans in order to increase digital take-up to achieve agreed targets
  • profiling and monitoring progress over time and adapting to a changing digital landscape

Planning for digital inclusion

This involves:

  • identifying and planning for digital inclusion activities that help improve users’ skills so they can use digital services independently
  • planning to retire or downscale traditional contact channels

Providing assisted digital

This involves:

  • using research and user data to create strategic plans for providing good quality assisted digital support for those unable to use government digital services independently
  • understanding that these should include digital inclusion support where possible to reduce assisted digital provision over time
  • using agreed cross-government procurement processes for these

Social media channel management

Managing and monitoring social media

This involves:

  • ongoing social media channel monitoring and management (eg content creation and regular posting) in line with government and departmental social media policy
  • using tools for channel management that perform real-time tracking, organising and engagement
  • being aware of the central communication competencies found in the Government Communication Professional Competency Framework as they relate to digital

Learning resources:

The Service Design Manual includes:

Civil Service Learning offers management essentials, a wide range of learning opportunities (eg e-learning, workshops and resources) to help boost your management skills and plan your future development.

HMRC’s People Impact Assessment is a series of tools to help civil servant managers involved in change to:

  • think through the implications for their people
  • identify actions to make change less difficult
  • minimise any negative impacts of change on performance and motivation

Watch this TED talk on digital leadership, which focuses on how the need for innovation and rapid decision-making in the digital age requires less control and more empowerment of employees.