The public sector's transformational journey
Public sector digital transformation should be seen as a journey rather than a race, says Civica’s Richard Fiddis.
Public sector entities across Australia are at different levels of program maturity when it comes to the digital transformation journey. Most have embraced digital and understood the impact it will have on their organisations, recognising that ongoing technological advances mean the demands and expectations of citizens are continuously evolving. To keep up with all of this, government agencies and departments are increasingly looking at strategic partnerships and collaborations with external entities to accomplish successful transformation.
To get an outside perspective on how governments are achieving this and coping with the challenges of digital transformation, GTR spoke with Richard Fiddis, Managing Director of Civica International, a software and IT services company that works closely with public sector agencies all around the world.
GTR: How readily have governments accepted digital transformation as a necessity?
Richard Fiddis: Digital transformation has a top place on governments’ agendas. In the past few years, public sector agencies have shifted from the automation of low-level tasks to more strategic initiatives. However, not all digital adoptions have been successful. UTS and Civica have been tracking the state of digital transformation within Australia’s public sector through our Changing Landscape research series. According to the survey, some organisations lack clear digital strategies and are still not focused on emerging technologies and their potential for greater citizen engagement.
More than 30% of respondents believe their organisations only talk about implementing digital technologies, while some admitted to not being able to successfully implement digital initiatives. On the other hand, many see digital transformation as an opportunity and have clear strategies.
On a more global level, there is still a gap between digital transformation of government in Australia and New Zealand compared to where we see customers moving in other parts of the world, particularly in the UK.
GTR: Where are they getting it right, and where are they getting it wrong?
RF: Successful organisations have strong leadership with a clear vision. This, backed by a sound strategy, communication practices and an organisational culture that drives change, is closely associated with success. Our survey revealed that more than 70% of respondents believe their leadership has a clearly established strategy to become a digitally enabled organisation.
Sound leadership does not necessarily mean mastering every digital and technological innovation. It stands more for ‘digital congruence’, a strategy that aligns cultures, people, tasks and structures to deliver transformation. Strong leaders are digital enablers; they are agents of change that guide an organisation and community through massive technological changes.
There are a number of reasons why organisations fail to transform. According to our research, limited working budgets and organisational culture are key factors for lagging behind. In order to transform they need to learn from the success (and failures) of others that are undergoing similar processes. An aversion to digital change is dangerous as it can lead to the loss of high-performing staff and higher costs of service delivery.
GTR: What role can the private sector play in guiding these efforts?
RF: At Civica, we believe that a successful digital transformation project is best achieved via partnerships between the private and public sector. Private sector’s experience is invaluable to the public sector as there are strong parallels between the two. Our research participants have also identified that partnering with other public sector organisations and engaging external consultancy firms and other private companies is the best way to progress digitally. Our global digital experience has continuously shown that vendors can assist in guiding efforts to transform.
GTR: Will the digital transformation journey ever be complete?
RF: The process of digital transformation is an ongoing one — digital transformation is a journey rather than a race. It faces challenges such as technological advances, pressures on service delivery, citizen expectations and a competition for resources.
Technologies are evolving rapidly and government departments are adapting to these continuous changes. The industry is now talking about AI, blockchain, VR and AR and robotics. However, it will take time for the public sector to implement these technologies.
According to our research, the public sector looks at digital transformation as means to achieve more with less, meet customer expectations and achieve optimal service through partnerships and collaborations. Many strategic digital transformation plans are focusing on automation, analytics and other initiatives. What started as cost-saving initiatives have evolved to become ambitious large-scale digital transformations such as smart cities.
GTR: What’s the next step?
RF: Customer experience will be the focus for the public sector. For smart towns and cities to reach their full potential, they need to focus on the citizens living in them, not just the technology. Future governments will look at combining the best aspects of technology infrastructure and latest technology such as IoT, AI and machine learning, VR and AR to enable greater collaboration with its citizens.
Data privacy is and will continue to be a priority. Government entities will also try to leverage the power of linked data and APIs. However, for this to happen, they will need to rely on strong data and business analytics. So in the next few years big data and analytics will be an area of focus for most public sector organisations and AI in analytics will gain prominence.
GTR: How is Civica working with governments on their outcomes?
RF: There are a large number of projects across the public sector where we have helped local and state governments achieve greater efficiency and outcomes. We enable better teaching and learning environments by managing workflow and operations through teacher tools and portals. We have innovated alongside local and state governments to ensure efficient allocation of resources by deploying self-serve technologies, and offering systems that comply with regulations and automate key tasks. We work with Lake Macquarie City Council, Maribyrnong City Council, Department of Education Western Australia, City of Canning, City of Rockingham and others to help them achieve their transformation agenda.
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