Bringing Digital Tools to the Public Sector

Fashionably Late

Digitalisation encompasses not only digitising information (digitisation), but also utilising technology to enhance processes. For organisations, digitalisation is the equivalent of maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine: ‘pain now’ to avoid ‘pain later’. Specifically, the adoption of new digital tools can trigger change aversion that results in an immediate, negative effect on productivity.

Still, the long-term outcomes are widely evidenced and accepted, meaning that adequately pacing and managing this change can be key in maximising improvements on current ways of working. Once any appropriate digital tool or method has been accepted and internalised, an organisation is better off.

Throughout my experience in working for both the public and private sector, I’ve noticed that the public sector is slower to consider, propose or attempt to adopt digital tools and approaches or more generally digitalisation transformation. The public sector is a late adopter. In contrast, the private sector is relatively quicker to considering and actioning these changes.

What’s the hang up?

There are several reasons as to why public sector organisations may be slow to experiment with new digital tools and options. Just like a healthy diet, integration of new tech takes time and the benefits can be incremental or indirect. Be it a better way of filing, storing and retrieving documents, improved reporting and control panels, or easier-to-use operational tools, value for money often comes through in the form of soft cost avoidance.

This is at odds with the functioning of the public sector, which often requires leadership to demonstrate effectiveness, efficiency, and ultimately results in short periods of time. Digital technology cycles and election cycles, for example, are sometimes at odds with each other, disenchanting buyers.

Demonstrate Impact

It is paramount for the success of digital projects in the public sector, that leadership can demonstrate immediate benefits, tangible advantages, or measurable impacts in the short term. 4OC offers a range of such insight tools and we can work with you to identify the best mix according to your needs.

Protect Sensitive Data

Another aspect to consider is the cybersecurity risk. Private information getting leaked is a threat that can tip the balance against digitalisation for any organisation. And this is much more of a risk for the public sector given the breadth and quantity of information they hold—if public service organisations cannot protect sensitive information, public trust will drop sharply. But as with any other risk, there are steps, mitigations and mechanisms that can be employed to ensure the safety and safe handling of sensitive data.

Integrate Systems

Success for any transformation project—and even more so for tech-oriented, digital projects—relies heavily on integration. Going back to our analogy, it is not enough to start a diet or a workout routine. Taking steps in isolation can only get us so far. To really ensure success, one needs to do both.

In a similar fashion, starting a project to implement new digital tools will not yield all the benefits promised if introduced in isolation. The organisation as a whole needs to be ready for the change. Adequate communications, timescales, plans and contingencies need to be prepared.

Mitigations for potential risks, assurance and onboarding are necessary to integrate the product fully and maximise its potential—just like the carrots in the back of the fridge that fail to make their maximum nutritional impact without proper heat and preparation (or that lettuce uneaten in the back of the fridge).

We can help

Luckily, public service delivery organisations need not be solely reliant on their over-extended teams to manage the risk and drive the change—4OC’s mix of Digital team and Operations accelerators is here to help.

If you’d like to chat more about the hurdles you’re facing when it comes to tech, or how 4OC can support you, please reach out to me on esteban.chinetti@the4oc.com.