Why & How Government Agencies are Digitally Transforming

September 18, 2020

Why & How Government Agencies are Digitally Transforming

Digital transformation is an industry-fluid term -- organizations and companies all over the world have taken this step, and it’s now time for governments to take this step, too. 

As we’ve watched many countries shift their government to 100% digital and achieve extreme success throughout the citizen experience, many other governments have yet to take the leap. So why should governments contemplating the digital transformation take the step toward digitization, and what are the costs and benefits? 

What is Digital Government Transformation? 

Digital transformation is the integration of new technologies and solutions within a business’s operations, intended to address the organization’s challenges. 

This might look like transferring to a cloud-based software rather than to outdated on-premise legacy systems, or replacing spreadsheets and manual data entry with an automation solution.

For the public sector, digital transformation takes the form of e-government: using technology to drive access and delivery of government services to improve resident, businesses and staff lives by the virtualized distribution of government services with cloud computing. 

Current State of Digital Transformation in Public Sector Agencies

Wondering what digitally transformed government looks like? According to Deloitte, it’s: 

Government reimagined through digital so as to improve processes, engage talent across the organization, and drive new and value-generating service models for citizens.” 

Deloitte’s research found that 76% of public sector leaders perceive digital technologies to be disrupting the public sector, yet only 41% of those are satisfied with their organization’s current reaction to digital trends. 

And this trend is consistent, regardless of origin -- from New Zealand to Malta to the UK and the US, digital transformation has taken a back seat due to competing priorities, such as the coronavirus pandemic, and insufficient strategy -- an unfortunate deprioritization given the power and benefits of digital technologies.  

Despite considerably slower technology adoption compared to other industries, increasingly, governments are looking to modernize operations and improve service delivery through digital transformation. Outdated on-premise systems can no longer keep pace with demands, hinder innovation, and most often result in dissatisfied residents and staff frustrated by inefficient processes and services. 

Embracing digital technologies can solve many of the issues governments face as a result of paper-based processes, and offers significant benefits to not only agency staff, but businesses and residents too. 

So, what are some of the benefits you can expect as a digital government? 

1. Improved Citizen Experience

When interacting with residents and businesses, providing a positive citizen experience is important to resident satisfaction and building trust within government. Now, municipalities, states and countries are turning to digital tools that improve interactions (such as voter registration and tax returns). 

From the time-consuming trips to government offices and long permit turnaround times, digital services make the citizen experience one of transparency, trust and confidence. Digital permit portals make applying for and checking on permit statuses easy and accessible; online payment cards rid the need of in-person transactions; and most importantly, process automation provides agency staff with more time for work, making for happier and more productive employees. 

2. Quicker Internal Processes

With the digitization of any industry, operation or function, there’s time, revenue and resources returned from the automation and productivity that software creates. When considering what to digitize first, focus on the high-volume, labor-intensive and expensive processes that need change the most. 

Software and other digital tools have many benefits in themselves, so we won’t get into that here. But keep in mind that the common misconception that technological innovation is replacing jobs isn’t true -- it’s simply creating new ones. For every process you improve or problem you mitigate through digital tools, you’re not replacing your employees -- you’re simply reallocating their capabilities somewhere new. 

And in the age of COVID-19, finding new and innovative ways to provide jobs and income for your community members is essential. In Boston, organizations are examining how workforce programs can consider specific jobs available in the market and design curriculums that give people the right skills for those roles, equipping them with the tools to succeed and close the skills gap. 

3. Data-Backed Decision-Making

Municipal employees and organizations understand the impact of their decisions. And while many private and social sector organizations have realized the benefits of centralized data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, governments have been slower on the adoption curve. 

Data analytics can impact many aspects of government procedures -- from resident safety, healthcare, or public transportation, the application of analytics can identify industry benchmarks, understand performance on a micro- and macro-level, and pinpoint areas for improvement. Over time, this will lead to large-scale reform and efficiencies that create effective, scalable processes built to stand the test of time.

Automation can take care of the menial, data-based tasks so employees can focus on more important tasks that are often pushed aside due to competing priorities and lack of time. Government digitization is one small step toward becoming a smart city, prepping for the rest of the 21st century, and ensuring scalable, secure governing. 

4. Unified Data and Resources

As noted above, digital transformation provides opportunities for process optimization and understanding the implications of data - none of which would be possible without transparency and data centralization within the organization. 

Data centralization doesn’t just benefit the municipality, though -- transparency can strengthen the public’s trust in government, increase civic engagement, and provide easily accessible information to the public. Data sharing is also on the rise, bringing new possibilities for collaboration and problem solving between countries, towns, or states. Yet, given the historic secrecy of public sector operations, this may take longer than the digital transformation itself. 

5. Augmented Planning and Strategy

Digitization allows organizations to plan for long-term and big-picture events. Forecasting tools and historic data allow governments to model what-if scenarios, understand the future implications and allocations of resources, and even track asset lifespan. Cities and states are beginning to use digital tools to plan budgets, build campaigns, transition, and create strategy; while simultaneously giving users real-time insight into performance and more easily adjusting to fluctuating demand.

6. Better Organization and Accountability

States can assign responsibilities across municipalities, or municipalities can delegate responsibilities among staff -- either way, added transparency and accountability leads to productive, collaborative improvements. Using technology in this way also tracks progress toward quarterly or yearly goals, and allows you to invest in attracting and retaining top talent. Because in the end, a company with technological advantages will always win.  

7. More Effective Leadership

Digital platforms allow for two-way communication and collaboration between leadership, talent and culture within a community. 

Leaders can push governments to mobilize technical workers and implementation specialists by investing in human resources and external support, and governments are increasingly developing programs and fellowships that attract the digital talent needed for the next generation. 

8. Long-Term Scalability

Technology transforms at an exponential rate, and outdated technology today will look drastically different 1 year from now. It’s crucial to stay on top of the technological landscape and developments that benefit governments, and understand that investing in the right digital tools can generate prosperity for a government and its residents in the short- and long-term. 

The right digital tools should not need maintenance on your end but should be fluid and evergreen; always performing at their best. Finding the right digital tools for your government isn’t easy, and that’s ok. It’s a big decision, and there are many resources to help. 

Digital Transformation Plans Have Many Competing Priorities

The shift from legacy systems to a digital maturity is challenging for many public sector organizations. 

Based on survey findings from Deloitte, government agencies can be classified according to digital maturity in 3 stages: Early, Developing and Maturing. 

With each stage comes different challenges and bottlenecks: the majority of public sector organizations (60%) responded that they’re in the Developing stage of their digital transformation, hindered by too many competing priorities, insufficient funding, security concerns, lack of organizational agility and overall strategy. 

However, even organizations in the Maturing stage of this transformation are still bogged down by competing priorities, suggesting that bandwidth and funding are two pitfalls for government agencies when considering the leap. 

Government Digital Transformation Source: Deloitte University Press

Next Steps for your Government Agency’s Digital Transformation 

To implement a successful digital transformation strategy, government agencies must align strategy, people, user focus and culture. 

Having the right strategy is critical to a successful project, regardless of complexity or time-frame. When considering your digital transformation strategy, outline a roadmap that addresses the key elements of your digital transformation journey. Then, develop a concrete action plan that moves beyond efficiency to focus on the fundamental transformation of your critical citizen services. 

The right leadership is also critical for digital transformation. Without a team that understands and values new-age digital trends, technologies and benefits of this shift, the organization’s digital transformation may falter and slow to a stop if it’s not a high priority. 

User focus is a cornerstone of digital delivery because this transformation is about your residents and citizens. Without the proper plan to attract and engage your residents, the platform or tools will go unused, and with it benefits go unrealized and the digital transformation’s impact is lessened. 

You must also build a culture that allows room for risk-taking, collaboration and innovation, while also encouraging constant learning of digital trends and technologies. A culture that values and capitalizes on digital trends will be more likely to succeed in the long-run. This belief and support will likely reinforce itself and create a flywheel effect, giving you momentum for future development. 

Lastly, a digital transformation strategy will not succeed without proper workforce development of your internal agency employees. Digital transformation requires re-skilling and re-allocating members of your workforce, while also looking for new sources of talent that can build up a workplace environment aligned with the aspirations and goals of your community. 

Regardless of what stage your government agency is at in the digital transformation journey, every organization in the world must make this leap one day, or face obsoletion.


For more on how you can accelerate operations and improve service delivery through digital transformation, contact sales@claritisoftware.com. You can also learn more about Clariti's government permitting and licensing software for any use case below.

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