Re-live Fulfilling your Digital Potential in an Evolving World – Exchange & GovNews Edinburgh event

GovNews, in collaboration with leading technology partners, Exchange Communications, returned to in-person events in Scotland on 10th March 2022 for ‘Fulfilling your Digital Potential in an Evolving World’.

Held at COSLA Offices in Edinburgh’s Haymarket, and hosted by the COSLA’s CDO, Douglas Shirlaw, the forum event inspired discussion by leading figures in Scotland’s public sector to tackle all things digital – how to support public sector organisations to embrace digital models with the outcome of removing inefficiencies, reducing costs, accelerating innovation, improving user experiences and service delivery.

With ‘hybrid working’ being a key topic on the agenda, it was fantastic to have physical attendees joined by online attendees across the country from Argyll and Bute to the Isles of Shetland watching the discussion unfold live, posing questions to the panel and giving valued contributions to the event.

Meet the public sector panellists

We were joined by an exciting, engaging and thought-leading panel* of public sector experts whose valuable work is paving the way for Scotland to become global digital leaders:

  • Martyn Wallace – CDO, Digital Office, Scottish Local Government
  • Anne-Marie Gallacher – CIO, NHS 24 Scotland
  • Stuart Laws – Defence Innovation – Assistant Head, Ministry of Defence (MOD)
  • David McNeil – Director of Strategic Development, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)
  • Douglas Shirlaw – CDO, COSLA (Facilitator)

*Joy Bramfitt-Wanless, Head of Scotland’s Public Sector Digital Transformation Programmes in the Scottish Government and our CEO, Tom Sime, unfortunately could not attend the event.

Inspiring important conversations

The Scottish Government’s Digital Strategy, ‘A Changing Nation: How Scotland will Thrive in a Digital World’ published in March 2021, set the ambitious precedent for Scotland to become pioneers of digital and inclusive opportunities for public services, staff and citizens alike; the strategy provides valuable context and insight into the event discussion.

Achieving digital change means tackling challenges surrounding people and culture, skills and budgets, hybrid working, digital accessibility and exclusion, and strategy and planning. These themes are not new to the public sector – they have been huge talking points for some time propelled further by the impact of COVID-19 – and as anticipated, there was a lot to cover. Read key quotes from our panellists below:

“We have to look at sustainability capabilities. Our mileage has been vastly reduced across the whole team. I think there is also the green agenda in terms of rural communities and staff actually being able to work remotely and commute only when they need to, so getting to that hybrid working model. You have to look at inclusivity. We’ve performed more events online now than face-to-face because we can reach a larger audience across the whole of Scotland. We also have to look at diversity as well – diversity of the workforce – because we’ve got a massive challenge of attracting digital skills and talent to our workforces just now, so if we’re using hybrid working and we’re using unified communications we can employ anybody worldwide to work with us. It doesn’t have to be Scotland-centric.”

  • Martyn Wallace –CIO, Digital Office, Scottish Local Government

“There is a better experience for colleagues in that we can connect. Certainly, across all the general health boards in the NHS we are all more connected because we are all sitting in the same Teams environment. It has been a very positive experience – unified communications have made quite a difference in the positive aspect of communicating and sharing and collaborating and also seeing a reduction in costs.”

  • Ann-Marie Gallacher – CIO, NHS 24 Scotland

“How do you identify who it is you need to collaborate with? For us, we made a lot of assumptions, particularly before COVID around how that would work and what we’d have to do. Then, under COVID, having to revisit those assumptions and spend a bit of time figuring out what we didn’t know. The first question is how do we work out what we know, and then what don’t we know, and what we didn’t know we didn’t know? That then leads you to different communities. Defence, on the whole, doesn’t really have the public engagement that a lot of other departments do. We don’t deliver public services in the same way, but we support the delivery of those services… it’s building that narrative and that collaboration to make sure those things happen in the best way.”

  • Stuart Laws – Defence Innovation, Assistant Head, Ministry of Defence (MoD)

“Over the course of the pandemic there was a story… it’s all about service design and understanding your customers and delivering public services for the most vulnerable, who are least likely to be comfortable with technology. One thing that illustrates it quite well is how we deliver services quite differently. It was pre-pandemic: a drug and alcohol charity tried delivering more of its services online (online counselling and online services). What they found was it was a completely different user that attended the online sessions than they did in real life. What they got in real life was fairly high tariff heroin addicts with complex and multiple needs. What they got online was the Monday or Tuesday morning surge of essentially middle-class cocaine users who regretted their behaviour over the weekend who were looking for help or support to get rid of that addiction. What that meant though if you looked at stats, engagement was high. But actually, they need to consider where they put their resources because they don’t have resources for everybody. The online audience and online service was a very different target group to the in-person service.  It is about really understanding who is engaging with what services and why which is crucial.”

  • David McNeil, Director of Strategic Development, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)

Missed out? Access the recording

Hear more from our panelists and watch the recording of the virtual stream. Fulfilling Your Digital Potential in an Evolving World_2 ( For helpful reference when watching, view the agenda of part one and part two.

To find out more and to start you on your Digital Transformation and evolution journey, contact transformation specialists Exchange Communications on 0800 008 7600 or visit

Leave a Comment