I recently had the privilege to host one of the discussion round tables at the FST Victoria Government event which is aimed exclusively at government representatives. The topic on the table I was facilitating was Digital Transformation and its challenges to government agencies. To provoke discussion, I used the tagline – “If our employees and customers are more technologically savvy than we are as an organisation, how can we engage with them?”.
We’ve all acknowledged that the world is very different now to a decade ago. For instance, with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), someone’s fridge is now connected to their coffee machine, which potentially connected to their wheelchair and their mobile! How does this change the way, as government, we provide services to people with a disability?
Various themes emerged throughout the day’s discussions and there was an uncomfortable sense of urgency. There was also a constant tension between embracing the new disruptors of change and holding back because of many failed attempts; of running back to the comfort zone of audits, red tape and over-governance. Here are some highlights of the comments made during the talks:
“In order to nurture and maintain a culture of change, we only hired people that fits our culture.” –CEO, NSW Government Department
“In order to change, we need to challenge the current orthodoxies of our practices.” –COO, SA Government Department
“Procurement is not about zero risk, it’s about knowing the risks and accepting some of them.” –Director, Federal Government Department
There were a couple of recurring themes during our rounds of discussion. It seems that consistently, everyone is frustrated with the current way things are progressing. There is a disconnect between how quickly business wants transformation to happen and how quickly IT can deliver. Interestingly, government IT seems to be viewed as expensive, cumbersome and slow. These are opposing characteristics to a Digital Transformation initiative. There was also lots of discussion about the lack of innovative leadership. Business analysts assisting government leaders seem to be more efficient in scribing problems than in suggesting new solutions that are “thought of outside the box”. Lastly, there is an increasing use of Agile methods to change, however, they are still generally limited to IT implementations and not used as a transformational approach to the way they do things. Government processes, budgeting practices and procurement just aren’t “wired” to handle slow incremental and evolutionary change and transformations. They prefer to, as it seems, “fail hard and fast” rather than “take incremental risks and fail small”, as discussed in one of the rounds.
In short, here are the top 5 topics for consideration that I think should be considered if you want to “line your ducks up” as a government organisation to embrace digital transformation.
- Get ICT involved and on board. By this, it is implied that transformation needs to be business led and ICT to follow. Never the other way around.
- Consider a better approach – Agile and not Prince 2. This may be the hardest to implement. Everything is “hardwired” to Prince 2 or waterfall. Procurement, Project Managers, Business Analysts and even the way executives think! They’re so used to seeing and getting solutions in yearly cycles that they are naturally sceptical that it is possible to see solutions in fortnightly cycles.
- Dare to Fail. “I’m about to test out an innovation, but I’ll tell you now, it might fail, but it’ll cost us very little. Are you ok with that?” This was an actual statement mentioned at the table from a Manager to his executive. You need to identify, endorse and empower the innovators in your organisation.
- Culture, culture and culture! The three “Cs”. Consider initiatives to evaluate and “lift up” a change culture in your organisation as a whole. Consider changing the way you hire for cultural fit. In other words, instead of blaming the younger generation for their short attention spans and smartphone face-plants, embrace it. A lot of change managers focus on how the change impacts them, none review the culture within the project itself. Do you have innovative BAs or just scribes? Do you have stubborn developers who refuse to talk to business? Do you have Project Managers who are simply paper pushers?
- Consider “change-enabling” technologies. Imagine having to buy, update or retrofit six products to do digital change. How fast can you change? Gartner calls them Intelligent Business Process Management Suites (iBMS) platforms. Technologies that give you, open-book, rapid development, mobility, reporting, rules management and the ability to change them yourselves. These mythical technologies exist! We’ve implemented them. One such technology we use a lot is called the Appian Platform. Google it.
Don’t say, “this is impossible”. ‘Cos we’ve done it. If you want something enough, you’ll make it happen. The only core ingredient is passion. Do you have the passion to transform?
About the Author
Chief Operating Officer
As Procensol’s Chief Operating Officer Mervin brings more than a decade of experience in strategic thinking, software, systems and process-centric design for business transformation to the operations of the organisation. Mervin is responsible for Procensol’s Asia Pacific region. Originally from Singapore and now based in Brisbane Australia, Mervin has held positions ranging from strategic BPM consulting, channel management, CIO, CTO to vendor management.