For the local public sector, the pandemic has been a digital transformation reckoning. It’s tested IT infrastructures and accelerated plans that were once long-term. For public sector chief information officers, one thing has become clear: modernize now or risk reaching citizens in the most critical times.
As vaccination numbers grow and the world slowly returns to a version of normalcy, it will be up to CIOs and IT leaders to determine what lessons they’ll carry over from 2020. How can the challenges of the past year inform more effective digital transformation strategies? And how can these strategies put organizations in a better position to weather the next crisis?
The Pandemic Unearthed Unique Challenges and Opportunities
Digital transformation within the public sector has been incremental at best. And the pandemic compounded existing barriers to digitization. In the last year, citizens have looked to their local governments for everything from infection mitigation to tackling the immense economic and societal repercussions we continue to experience. From school and childcare statuses to unemployment assistance and COVID-19 testing, virtually every facet of local government faced surging demands:
- Digital citizen services saw increased demand with people needing 24/7 access to critical services and information. What was once considered more of a “nice-to-have” became an absolute necessity. With some normalcy returning, local governments must maintain this momentum toward modernization with digital citizen services at the forefront of their digital transformation plans.
- Remote work in the public sector increased efficiency, cost-savings and led to more empowered and engaged government employees. A survey found remote government employees 16% more engaged, 19% more satisfied and 11% less likely to leave their agencies than non-remote workers. Much like the private sector, when deciding on what a post-pandemic workplace looks like, local governments need to consider a hybrid environment and continue providing infrastructure and support for remote work.
- Advanced cybersecurity is far from a new priority for local governments. But the rapid digitization of the public sector over the past year -- increased digital services and data, mobilization of the workforce, cloud migration, and more -- made cybersecurity an even bigger focus. By working with partners from service providers to other agencies, local governments can employ the best tools and practices to secure their infrastructures.
Taking Digital Transformation from Plan to Reality
IT projects in the public sector are six times more likely to experience cost overruns than comparable projects in the private sector. The number of stakeholders and complexity of driving initiatives in local government make it critical to develop a robust execution plan. Below are crucial considerations for digital transformation execution:
- Identify key stakeholders: CIOs must obtain stakeholder buy-in from the top down, including administrative leaders such as city managers, county managers, municipal administrators, department heads, and executive directors.
- Tie modernization to ongoing initiatives: CIOs need to outline how digital transformation ladders up to broader organizational objectives and how it will benefit stakeholders and constituents.
- Build an effective team: Digital transformation requires a blend of technical expertise, such as cloud architects and data engineers, and soft skills, such as institutional knowledge and robust internal networks.
- Find the right partner: A trusted, experienced provider specializing in the public sector can offer tailored solutions and an advanced platform to ensure successful and secure execution.
- Capture value: Initiatives should be tracked and measured regularly to ensure fiscal and operational benefits don’t get lost.
Generating and Maintaining Digital Momentum
Digital transformation within the public sector may be daunting, but it’s also never been more critical. Not only do local governments need to act with a community-first approach, but the pandemic brought new emphasis on the need for agile and resilient IT infrastructures and operations. CIOs need to take the lessons and experiences from 2020 and infuse them into a comprehensive, long-term digital transformation strategy.
Through initial tactical planning, CIOs can overcome obstacles unique to local governments. Part of this preparation should include exploring strategic partners to help make digital transformation a reality. Outside partners can also help fill any technical skill gaps critical to successful digitization. A trusted, experienced partner can offer support and invaluable counsel throughout each stage of the digital transformation journey -- helping to deliver greater government transparency and technology capabilities that once seemed impossible.
As Head of Product Management at ACTIVE Network, Byron Carroll helps drive the company’s mission to make the world a more active place. Throughout his career, he has helped organizations across industries digitally transform. Before ACTIVE, Byron focused on data center technology at Sterling Commerce (an AT&T subsidiary that IBM later acquired), productized co-created services at Infosys, and oversaw internet booking at Sabre Airline Solutions. Byron received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from UT Dallas and resides in Dallas with his wife and two adorable (seriously) children.