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Four Realities of Digital Transformation in Government

Appian Contributor
April 13, 2018

In today's digital world, public sector departments are under intense pressure to keep up with exploding expectations, and fast-moving digital trends.

By comparison, in the private sector, 87 percent of Global 2000 companies said they were planning digital transformation projects in 2017, according to a recent LTM survey. Even more, 54 percent of respondents ranked digital transformation as their number one priority.

So, here's a few of the realities about digital transformation, and how they can help your public sector department's modernization efforts:

1. Digital Transformation is About More Than Technology

Forbes has reported that 84 percent of digital transformation plans fail, and experts have offered different viewpoints on the high casualty rate. But many agree on two things. First, the hard part of digital transformation is getting departments to change. Second, the transformation journey should start with upgrading your strategy for the digital world.

"You have to start with developing a future-facing view of your industry," says David Rogers, author of The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age.

"Think about how emerging technologies, such as robotic process automation and artificial intelligence, will impact your industry" says Rogers. "Start with that, then come up with strategies for how your organization can leverage these trends to remain relevant in this new world."

"So, first figure out your strategy," says Rogers. "Then, figure out which technologies will enable them for your organization."

But, getting people to work differently than they did before? Enabling them to work across silos the way they didn't or couldn't do in the past? This is where your department will find the real value from digital transformation.

"I like to think of it in terms of dimensions," says Vijay Gurbaxani in a recent blog interview on Gurbaxani is Founding Director of the Center for Digital Transformation, at the University of California, Irvine.

"A lot of organizations think that digital transformation is an activity or a [constituent] experience initiative. Or you can have pockets of digital here and there. But digital transformation is about operating in a whole new way," says Gurbaxani.

What it all comes down to is this. Think about digital transformation as a vision, and the technology as a piece of the puzzle, a tool you can use to transform, rather than an end unto itself.

2. Focus on Optimizing Your Strategic Vision

Better to focus on rethinking your strategic model, not just optimizing your processes. There's nothing wrong with making incremental process changes. However, focusing on process optimization can sometimes get in the way of doing something bigger.

"Digital transformation is about changing from a caterpillar into a butterfly," says George Westerman, author of Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation. "It should make you faster, more agile, and closer to your [constituents]. It should give you wings so you can fly."

"Unfortunately, too many organizations talk a good digital transformation game. The problem is, they're just thinking about being a fast caterpillar, not a butterfly," says Westerman.

3. Begin Your Digital Transformation Journey Internally

Many public sector departments talk about digital transformation as a way to validate their focus on the constituent experience because it is easy to see.

But a better place to start is with back office automation, including RPA, because if you've got a messy back office, it's really hard to get a unified view of your stakeholders.

The best digital transformation efforts start with the internal operations first. If you get that right, amazing things can start to happen, that just weren't possible before.

4. Automation is the Key to a Improved Constituent Experience

Amazonô recommends books based on books you've bought in the past. Netflixô recommends movies and TV shows based on content you watched before. Those recommendations can lead to higher sales and more subscription renewals.

That same experience can be delivered to constituents from public sector departments. Digital transformation is about transforming the user experience and operations to make you faster, more agile and closer to your stakeholders.

There are plenty of assumptions out there about what constituents want from their public departments. And one of them is that they want people to provide them with service not automation.

The truth is, these constituents want personalized service. And, they don't care whether it comes from a robot or a person.

One way to do it is with modern Business Process Management (BPM) software that's flexible enough to manage information across silos. This advanced BPM functionality allows your department to combine structured processes, rule-driven policies, data, content, across your entire organization to deliver personalized constituent experiences.

Artificial intelligence technology is another way to accomplish this outcome. There's no question AI has a lot of momentum right now, in good part due to the confluence of enablers like tremendous, inexpensive processing power, access to huge amounts of data, virtually unlimited storage and progress made in models and algorithms.

Public and private sector organizations in all industries are rapidly finding use cases where AI can be successfully applied.

The benefits of personalization are huge; if you're organization is not using automation to deliver a personalized constituent experience, it's time to make a change.

The Appian Advantage

Here's the bottom line. The secret to winning your face off with disruption is to enable your entire organization to get involved in digital transformation and digital innovation.

That's the appeal of modern low-code app development. It gets public sector and IT decision makers engaged in the digital transformation journey, by enabling non-developers to get involved in building solutions.

The opposite approach is to stick with traditional approaches to custom app development. That puts a handful of IT people in charge of innovation, and removes the program experts from the equation. This approach could also create a bottleneck. Disillusion people. And turn digital transformation into just another buzzword.

"It all comes down to focusing on the [constituent] experience, and using process automation to deliver a better digital experience by connecting the front end of your organization with the back end," says Clay Richardson, Co-Founder & CEO of Digital FastForward (and formerly with Forrester Research)."

"It's essential that digital transformation not just be about process, but also about freeing up people to do high-value work," says Richardson.

Want to learn more about how Appian can transform your digital transformation journey? Join us in Ottawa, Canada for a power lunch at the Chateau Laurier on May 15th from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm, where we highlight topics facing the Canadian government. Included amongst these topics:

    • How can IT and Business ?Partners Meet the Needs of Canadians?

    • Why DevOps Matters in Agile Development

We look forward to meeting with you. Please click here to register.

Brian Chidester

Industry Marketing Lead - Public Sector