What is Keeping the Government From Going Digital?
Deloitte’s recent report, “The Journey to Government’s Digital Transformation”, shows that the public sector is lagging behind in the journey towards digital maturity.
While we may normally associate digital innovation with private enterprise, there is no particular reason why public bodies should struggle with technology – after all, the Internet itself started out as a taxpayer-funded military project. So what is the problem?
Deloitte’s research identified several issues, including:
Surveys show that staff in many domains do not have faith in the ability of leadership to react to digital trends. These are vital areas of the public sector: defense (over 50 percent), healthcare (89 percent), and legal and justice (85 percent).
In fact, it often seems like there is no leadership at all. Only 51 percent of organizations have a single person or department responsible for managing digital transformation. Within that group, only 25 percent are managed by a C-suite level executive.
Change of this nature needs to be managed from the top. There needs to be a single vision and a clear path to success. In both the public and private sector, this means that the uppermost layer of management must be accountable for transformation.
Lack of strategy is the biggest obstacle for organizations in the early stages of digital maturity. Of digitally immature organizations, 14 percent say that they have a coherent digital strategy; among maturing organizations, that rises to 86 percent.
Without goals and a clear strategy, it is impossible to decide where to focus resources. Indeed, the Deloitte survey that digital mature organizations have a better understanding of why technology is important: only 34 percent of early-stages organizations say that their objective is “fundamental transformation of organizational model”. With digitally maturing organizations, this rises to 81 percent.
When asked about the main barriers to digital transformation, 37 percent of respondents blamed insufficient funding. Of course, the public sector cannot generate revenues and has to work within its allocated budget. Most public bodies already struggle to offer their core services within that budget, so it is impossible to find money for improvement projects.
Which is why leadership and strategy are so important. Digital transformation will allow public organizations to provide better services while spending less public money, but leadership needs to be able to prove this. If leaders can demonstrate the benefit of investing in technology, then the funding argument is flipped on its head, and the cost of not investing becomes an issue.
Both public and private sector organizations are struggling to fill the skills gap. At a time of great opportunity and transformation, there is an enormous demand for talented people who can help make the leap towards digital maturity. Within the public sector, the six most-need skills are:
- UX Design
- Agile development
- Entrepreneurial spirit
- Collaborative working
- Business acumen
- Technological awareness
This blend of skills seems to indicate something of a culture change. There is a growing understanding that you don’t need to be in the private sector to think like a startup and that public bodies need to create and innovate if they wish to make the most of a digital environment.
Many of these issues also affect digital transformation projects in the private sector. So how do we overcome them?
Next: Making Progress in Public Service Digital Transformation