Designing the Future of Digital Experience for State and Local Governments
The goal is true and lasting business transformation and an underlying opportunity to build your people culture.
In this post-pandemic world of rising citizen expectations and increasing workforce challenges, public sector organizations are focusing a critical eye on system and service enhancements that will help them address the perennial issue of “doing more with less,” while continuing to be trusted stewards of taxpayer dollars. Digital transformation is a proven path forward, but it must be a comprehensive transformation to be effective.
Except perhaps in the case of a true public emergency, government leaders must be careful not to rush to implement singular solutions to an immediate problem without understanding and evaluating the long-term or strategic impacts. In addition to collaborating with trusted software partners, governments must also be prepared to adopt and embrace the cultural change that comes with digital transformation if they hope to capture the strategic value offered by such enhancements. Transformative technology projects will not be successful without a concurrent cultural adaptation across the organization.
As a government leader, you have the power to ensure success by preparing your organization to embrace the changes that come with digital transformation.
1. Executive Sponsorship and Governance
Any major transformation project must incorporate an executive sponsor. He or she doesn’t need to be a technology expert but should understand and represent the business value of the solution and be able to articulate the value in such a way that the other key decision-makers in your organization will acknowledge, understand and embrace the change. The sponsor must also have the authority to participate in milestone development, and goal setting and he/she must possess the organizational clout to be the “final say” on critical decision points. Where feasible, many governments adopt a governance board of organizational leaders to help drive key decisions and strategies before, during and after implementation.
A successful implementation project starts with someone who can build a powerful and coherent business case, and tell the story of how the technology will lead the team into the future. Make sure to build a clean case, one free of business jargon and ambiguity. And make sure they can communicate it clearly, in a way that helps the whole team understand the plan and why it will ultimately work. Accountability, a clear road map and operational continuity are vital.
2. Business Process Review
Over time, business processes tend to grow organically around legacy systems. Any transformation project is a golden opportunity to conduct a critical review of existing processes. New technology systems can find and automate mundane and repetitive business processes, through tools like robotic process automation (RPA). Take a close look at automated tools that facilitate the discovery of better process alternatives and provide quantitative and qualitative metrics to support the need for change.
Then you can tap into the expertise of your team to understand your “as is” processes and have them ask the critical questions about their value. This will prevent the “we’ve always done it that way” complications from gaining a foothold in your new system. Define and document your ideal “to be” processes. Work with your software partner on integrating industry best practices to simplify and streamline workflows ahead of the implementation. To avoid “analysis paralysis,” be sure to incorporate tight parameters around scope and time frame into these exercises.
3. People Change Management
Change resistance is always one of the biggest dangers during a technology implementation. That’s why you need leaders who can truly lead change. But it’s also about transforming employees across your organization into transformation allies — and, ultimately, they become the drivers of change. This builds the foundation of your digital transformation culture
Using insights from a comprehensive business process review, it is critical to establish a program that defines the roles and expectation of key personnel, along with the associated tasks and time frames. Identify your “change champions” and communicate a philosophy that can be shared with your organization to help prepare them for the anticipated (and presumably more rapid) pace of system change. Establish a change management leadership role accountable to the executive sponsor, self-service training options, virtual or in-person office hours and workshops, proactive and frequent communications, and wherever feasible, involve the users in the decision-making and configuration processes. Throughout the implementation process and after go-live, use unfiltered surveys and evaluations to gauge the workforce sentiment and adjust your plans and communications accordingly. An effective people change management approach will help your internal customers feel that something is being done with them and for them, rather than being done to them.
4. Fiscal Planning
Successful digital transformations are predicated on strategic investments, ones that will deliver value both today and in the future. In most cases, these digital transformations mean transitioning from historical on-premises systems to the modular, cloud-based systems of today. In our new software-as-a-service world, you can jettison the capital-heavy investment in technology infrastructure that requires you to surf the peaks and valleys of replacement cycles. Instead, you can optimize spending using the more predictable allocation of the recurring subscription-based cost model.
This transition to cloud-based systems means that your organization will be more nimble, more responsive to citizens demands, and you will achieve value faster than with traditional technology funding methods. As you make this funding transition, keep in mind other finance-related areas that could impact your project success, such as accounting for associated contingent workforce needs, determining the approval process for a long-term operational funding investment, etc. This change is a cultural shift from the way state and local governments have traditionally funded major initiatives, so clear, consistent and advanced communication with your legislators, finance and organizational leaders is critical for a successful transition.
5. Risk Management
There will always be some level of unpredictability and risk when it comes to a large transformation project. In these days of volatile economics and workforce challenges, preparedness is more critical than ever. As a result, risk must be managed at both the strategic and operational levels throughout the process. This must go beyond just addressing risks inherent in an individual business transformation project; you must account for the complex interdependencies that can take shape as well.
Ask yourself — what could possibly go wrong? Where are the weak points in culture, politics, process, finances, etc.? Be creative in your “disaster” scenarios. Enlist your colleagues to identify potential points of weakness and then develop contingencies to prevent and mitigate. In short, there’s no benefit in pretending it’s all sunshine and rainbows — be clear about the potential challenges and prepare accordingly.
Digital transformation in the public sector is critical. The goal is true and lasting business transformation and an underlying opportunity to build your people culture. This mindset is increasingly prevalent among your peers in state and local government and within school systems and universities across the country. But don’t be fooled — this is not merely a problem to be solved by the IT department.
Digital transformation is organizational transformation. Along with ensuring that you’ve aligned with a proven software partner, these five components above are essential to the success of your transformation. By proactively addressing these areas you will help ensure that all areas of your organization, from your fiscal practices to your workplace culture, will rise to the challenge and reap the full benefits of an effective digital transformation.