Are we in Danger of Confusing Digital Transformation With Digitization?

Digital Transformation has been at the top of the priority lists of Public Sector CIOs for some time now. Yet, Deloitte research has shown only 41 percent of Public Sector leaders are satisfied with their organization’s current reaction to digital trends. Perhaps, part of the reason for this under-achievement can be found in Gartner’s study of public and private CIOs that put digitization as top of their priority list. With a focus on digitization, we may be in danger of missing the truly transformative potential of digital technology.

Let’s not understate the importance of digitization though. There are great cost and efficiency benefits from converting paper-based to digital-based processes. Deloitte report into the Digital Transformation efforts in Australia found that a paper-based transaction was over 3000 times the cost of an online transaction. But, when the OECD countries signed its recommendation in July 2104 that ‘government’s develop and implement digital government strategies’, the organization made explicit that digitization was only a first step. An OECD report states:

“The challenge is not to introduce digital technologies into public administration (digitization), it is more transformative, to integrate the use of digital technologies into public sector modernization efforts (Digital Government)”.

For me, the danger in digitization lies in an over-emphasis on the citizen experience to the detriment of the operational and process improvements inherent in Digital Transformation. I agree with Rick Howard, Research VP at Gartner when he says: “digital government is currently being deployed as an extension of earlier e-government initiatives, which largely preserved existing operational or service models”.

Famous examples of Digital Transformation in the Public Sector – like in the UK and in the US – demonstrate just some of the benefits of digital service provision. The more that e-government moves beyond digital information provision to end-to-end digital process the more benefits Public Sector organizations will achieve through customer engagement, targeted service provision and efficient business operations.

The UK – currently the world’s leader in e-government according to the UN – has put in place a policy of ‘digital by default’ for all new services. The UK government sees success as multi-dimensional. It stated:

“Making a success of digital government means getting more people to do their business with government online, which means more and better online services – for example, providing a single, joined-up online service to register a new baby, rather than asking parents to navigate the boundaries of local and central government and the National Health Service (NHS). It also means improving the services that run behind the scenes so that manual processing becomes a thing of the past – so Child Benefit claims, for example, do not take up to 12 weeks to process. These types of changes could lead to big savings – we estimate between £1.3 and £2 billion by 2020″.

Perhaps some early Digital Transformation programmes have been framed from the citizen to the government agency rather than from the agency out. So, we have looked at the interfaces and channels for good citizen engagements and not spent enough time on the back-end stuff.

However, there is evidence that Public Sector organizations are increasingly turning their attention to the systems and processes needed to support Digital Transformation. The 2017 NASCIO survey of the technology priorities of US state CIO’s place system consolidation/optimization and legacy modernization in second and fifth places respectively. To fully reap the benefits of Digital Transformation, Public Sector organizations have to move beyond a closed business system model to introduce a platform that extends across and beyond the organization.

Gartner’s Howard neatly sums it up by saying: : “In government, the system business model’s function is to deliver value isolated to the citizens within allocated jurisdictions, budgets and risk tolerance. In contrast, a platform provides the business with a foundation where resources can come together — sometimes very quickly and temporarily, sometimes in a relatively fixed way — to create value that may extend beyond budget and jurisdictional boundaries”.

Implementing an Enterprise Information Management platform provides such a foundation for government agencies to re-engineer their business processes while creating the secure citizen engagement across channels that characterises effective digital government services.

Carol Brock

Carol is the Industry Marketing Strategist for the Public Sector worldwide. An Information Governance Expert by education and training with 20+ years of experience in federal and state government, she is passionate about facilitating digital government to provide electronic services to citizens. With initiatives such as digital first, open data, and smart cities, there is much to talk about.

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