Successful Digital Transformation in Government

Digital transformation is not simply having the newest technology – it’s a cultural understanding. It is less about the specific technology and more about the organizational culture’s view of how they adopt new technologies. Of course, keeping technology up to date is the main idea of this mission, however, the attitude, behavior, and environment of the government entity is what drives it, and will ensure its success.

A key factor in digital transformation, that is often overlooked, is the users. Users are those groups and individuals, both internal and external, that regularly interact with the systems of an organization. By putting them at the center, the solutions that are put in place will be designed with a logical, business process-like flow. This is different than your typical technology modernization initiative. Think of it from the outside looking in – how will constituents or external stakeholders interact with the agency? What does their experience look like? What problem are they trying to solve or what information do they need? By asking these questions at the forefront, digital solutions are designed to meet the specific needs of the users effectively.

Leveraging the best technology for users is just one part of the overall strategy to digital transformation. The people involved, processes created, and the measures of performance are additional factors to be considered while planning a government entity’s digital transformation strategy.

The People

The people with an innovative mindset and a hunger for continuous improvement will be successful in accomplishing digital transformation. The team. The leadership. The stakeholders. Everyone needs to be on board with this “innovation culture,” but it has to start with the leadership. When organization leaders can inspire their staff to take risks, to think outside the box, to be innovative– magic happens. Leading by example and communicating transparently puts everyone at ease and allows them to foster their entrepreneurial spirit fearlessly. The other side to that coin is setting the right expectations upfront. Make it clear that failure will not be met with punishment but seen as an opportunity to learn something firsthand. Repeated mistakes on the same issue should not be tolerated but learning through new experience produces purposeful growth. It begins with leadership creating a risk-tolerant atmosphere and having everyone on the same page of understanding.

Complete agreement on everything is not a requirement for success. In fact, differing ideas and perspectives lead to stronger results. This is the beauty of collaboration. Poking holes in ideas and challenging others determines the strength of the idea to see how it will hold up. Ask questions about a proposed solution. Contest the capabilities of a new software. If you disagree, speak up; you might raise a point of which nobody else has thought. Share information on digital trends and let others debate with you. After all, you can’t create fire without a little friction.

The Processes

The processes supporting digital transformation look different depending on the organization. However, be assured that the processes put in place allow for the collaborative, risk-tolerant nature established by government leadership. They must be flexible enough for some experimentation while simultaneously be disciplined enough to establish standards. From his article “The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures,” Harvard Business School Professor Gary Pisano makes the point,

“A willingness to experiment, though, does not mean working like some third-rate abstract painter who randomly throws paint at a canvas. Without discipline, almost anything can be justified as an experiment.”

While thinking of the current and future process, consider the users. How are different roles involved in each step? What would be the effects of an upgrade to the internal and external users? Consider collaboration with the external affairs and communications teams. When strategically involved in the department’s digital transformation initiatives, they bring a wealth of insight and an important perspective. They have the pulse on external stakeholders and understand how the outcomes meet their expectations. Based on this knowledge, adjustments should be made that will re-envision how the needs of constituents can be met.

There should be an understanding that the processes in place today will be improved upon in the future when newer, more efficient opportunities present themselves. We are seeing a shift away from traditional, colossal enterprise systems towards smaller, flexible applications that meet specific needs. This allows for rapid implementation and updates without compromising the system as a whole. Agile procurement processes will complement these swifter solutions.

The Performance

With the right people and processes in place, it is time to get to work. Begin by developing a clearly defined digital strategy with a focus on the needs of the constituents and external stakeholders. With these goals in place, the next consideration would be what exactly the agency is going to accomplish. Develop strong productivity and innovation benchmarks to measure performance.

Government organizations can supplement their strategies by leveraging digitally available tools to evaluate the results of their performance. There are a number of out-of-the-box solutions that incorporate robust reporting capabilities and dashboards to display important metrics. Using these tools is a simple, and necessary way to make data instantly available in a useful manner and watch for trends over time.

In Conclusion

With technology constantly buzzing and updating, it feels like the world is moving more quickly than we can keep up. And yes, these days feel like they’re flying by faster and there is the pressure to get things done by yesterday. Digital transformation is helping meet these expectations by providing better, faster solutions, however I caution any reader to remember to take the time to completely think through decisions. Remember, digital transformation is not a destination; it is not a place you reach and stop. It is a journey; something to continuously improve upon and transform.


About the Authors

Prashant Mehta, Vice President, Corporate Collaboration Center
For over 18 years, Prashant has partnered with agencies and understands the unique challenges that government employees must conquer each and every day. As a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s program for Digital Transformation in Government, Prashant learned how to navigate and implement the digital changes that the government wants and their citizens are requesting. Not only is he a government advocate, but he also has strategic and tactical leadership, planning, and management experience in full-life cycle IT projects related to regulatory, natural resources, transportation, and general government operations. Prashant earned his Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. He is also a certified PMP and an alumnus of Harvard Business School.

Olivia Linton, Marketing Manager
As an experienced Marketing Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry, Olivia helps government agencies understand that there are simple solutions to complex issues. She earned her bachelor’s degree focused in Marketing from Florida State University and is a graduate of Florida TaxWatch’s Citizenship Institute, which invites policy leaders and business executives to demonstrate how state and local government policies impact communities and business. She is currently pursuing Master’s in Management from Harvard Extension School.

Editor

Rebekah Dorworth, President
Rebekah uses her knowledge of the political landscape and her past marketing experience to digitally transform government regulatory systems by communicating innovative opportunities to our clients and partners. Prior to Kyra, she worked in the executive and legislative branches of Florida government and has developed expertise in the transportation field. She most recently worked in public affairs for the Florida Department of Transportation, where she served on the executive leadership team at Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise. Rebekah helps move government forward by advancing state cyber transformation, improving interactions among the government, its citizens, and their businesses. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Political Science from Florida State University and holds her MBA from the University of Florida.


Originally published on January 30, 2020 on LinkedIn.

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