Digital Transformation for the Public Sector
Considerations for use in the public sector
After taking the path of “e-government” and digitisation of paper-based processes, many governments have now shifted focus to a whole-organisation approach to digital—or at least recognised the need.
In many cases, a digital transformation project is likely to implicate many other processes and systems, requiring that digital be considered closer to organisations’ core functions and improve its ability to quickly reconfigure itself. This change is often seized as an opportunity to partially if not integrally redefine the organisation’s main goals, its unique public value, to sunset obsolete and habit-sustained roles and functions and cope with new levels of demands coming from service users and the public.
A specific challenge regarding public sector’s digital transformation involves the ability to hire new types of talent and integrate digital related tools, methods, strategies and culture not only into strategies and plans but also in daily habits. This ability is challenged by the scarcity of talent in specific fields: data analysts and data scientists are often recruited by private companies with more attractive wage offers. The need for new profiles exceeds strictly digital-related jobs, and have to do with new ways of designing and delivering services: from user experience and user interface experts to ideation and strategic vision catalysts, a wide array of skills and expertise play a role. None existed when public administrations appeared; most did not exist five years ago.
Typical methods and tools for public sector
Beyond the cultural challenges, organisations face major technical challenges of migrating from legacy systems, many of which involve critical data or perform essential functions. The disparities in adaptive capacity and “technology debt” can be quite large between startups and large organisations.
In addition, governments are also coping with how to address emerging technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence. The challenge for governments is three-fold: how might governments incorporate these new technologies for their own public purposes, how should governments address the use of these technologies in the private sector; and how do these new technologies affect the functions, expectations upon and role of governments in societies that are transforming. “Disruption” is often associated with digital transformation and emerging technologies since they can affect integral organisational infrastructure, create extreme disparities between organisations, impact human and organisational relationships, affect markets, set new implicit rules and create entirely new forms of value.
Methods and tools for digital transformation can vary widely depending on the depth of the organisational interest. For improvements in service delivery, digital service and product design methods work well. For digital transformations that affect an organisations core functions or have the ability to impact public purpose or offerings, organisational and strategic design methods should also be considered.