Digital transformation in the public sector: mapping the challenges

by Vincent Forge - Client Executive - Public Sector
| minutes read

There’s no escaping it: the need for digital transformation is driving every industry or sector these days, including the government and public sector. Not that anyone would honestly want to escape that trend, since there are plenty of benefits attached to it. But before we get into those benefits, let’s have a closer look first at some challenges that the government and public sector in particular is facing.

All around the world, digital transformation projects and initiatives are being launched at every possible level of government – local, regional, national, supranational – and for various different reasons. Naturally, improving citizen satisfaction rates very high among those reasons. But improving overall cost savings, for instance, also acts as an important incentive for introducing new digital technologies into a government organisation and its business processes.

Flashback

It is true that, since the start of the dot-com era a couple of decades ago, many governments and public institutions have already made significant advances in digitalisation. These have taken them from offering basic e-government services to creating more advanced digital services driven by user experience and supported by IT techniques used in sales, marketing and customer service.

Still, even though most governments and public institutions have now become connected and their front-end services more or less digitised, many of them continue to focus on that basic, less advanced part of the digitalisation process. In doing so, they are ignoring or at least postponing the more difficult challenge of completely reengineering – or truly digitalising - their business processes. In that sense, their transformation has been less than revolutionary, leaving a lot of room for improvement still. 

Main challenge

With this we have arrived at possibly the most difficult and challenging aspect of any digital transformation project: aligning the existing business processes with the new technologies. As is to be expected, the longer a process has been running, the more effort it usually takes to turn it into a digitalised process. Add to this that not only the process itself needs to change but also the people working within it, who have to adopt the new technologies, and you can understand why governments and public institutions often struggle to integrate new technologies into current business processes.

More challenges

There are other challenges that organisations in the public sector have to face when planning their digital transformation, such as budgetary, regulatory and security restrictions. As their budgets for investing in technology that ensures a successful digital transformation are generally limited, it can be hard to make a case for such an investment - especially without actual data on the benefits of those technologies. Another potential stumbling block are the strict regulations and laws that can limit their ability to implement new technologies in current processes, just as they can also impact the handling of user data. Then there are certain cybersecurity issues to consider - particularly when it comes to process or product development, where rigorous scrutiny in the form of regular or continuous security checks is required.

Last but not least, there is the potential challenge of interconnectivity, as many organisations in the public sector are connected to each other in one way or another. Consequently, one organization cannot decide to digitalise its business processes without the others also needing to do so. Unless of course they no longer wish to sustain their level of collaboration and information exchange with each other.

As an expert in digital transformation, with more than 250 people dedicated for the public sector in Belgium, Sopra Steria is well positioned to assist you in taking on these many challenges. So don’t hesitate to contact me or my colleagues for more information. Or better yet: make an appointment!

In my next post, I will take a closer look at some of the potential benefits of digital transformation for governments and public institutions. I will also highlight a couple of applications or use cases for some of the new technologies.

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