To smartcities and beyond – 10 steps to get your public sector organisation ready for Digital Transformation (DX)

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By Caroline White

Technology is moving fast in today’s world. Every organisation is expected to know about – if not use – things such as the Internet of Things, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. Every city or town is now expected to aspire to be a smart city.

As newer types of technology emerge, this pace will only start to quicken. Brett Roberts, Associate Director of Datacom Auckland’s Digital, Customers & Collaboration Group likes to use Heraclitus’s quote – ‘‘the only constant is change’ so keep up or get left behind!

Digital Transformation (DX) is not just a catchphrase – technology is being employed successfully by the public sector worldwide to address important safety and security concerns and improve processes.

Body-worn cameras can protect parking officers when out in the field, sensors can be used to highlight buildups at traffic black spots and drones can be used to check tall buildings when people apply for building consents.

Compared with other countries, New Zealand has been slow on the DX uptake. PwC New Zealand say that just 50 per cent of Kiwi organisations are integrating digital and corporate strategies compared to 70 per cent  worldwide. Steffan Schaefer lists the areas where great improvements can be made: air and water quality control, environmental monitoring, energy saving, renewable energy solutions, and the prediction and prevention of natural and man-made disasters. Gartner also says councils could become a hub for technological innovation as they have access to swathes of data which could be valuable – if collected and analysed properly.

You know your organisation needs to start digitally transforming.  But what about the other people in your organisation? How do you convince the decision-makers? Here are ten tips for implementing change in  a public sector organisation.

1. Evaluate the pros and cons of digitising processes
The most common blocks for digital transformation are lack of budget, a lack of time or resource, reliance on legacy systems, a lack of technological skills and “siloed” data. However these problems will only get worse if action isn’t taken to move into the digital space.

Product Manager, Anthony Sidwell recently presented Antenno, Datacom’s new mobile app at PCA Smart Cities Conference 2017. One of the key messages of the conference was that DX isn’t just about implementing technology – it’s a way for councils to improve people’s lives as well as reduce costs and increase efficiency.

It’s an iterative process – so start small and work up. Look at where current issues are and where customer feedback can be improved. Then work out where technology can be used to solve them, e.g. does your team face a battle when dog licensing comes around as it is still done on paper rather than online?

In most cases, the pros far outweigh the cons and the sooner implemented, the sooner improvements can be made.

2. Actively look for and find solutions to any roadblocks
Once you know where the areas for DX are, look for any roadblocks – these could be change resistant or non-tech savvy members in the top team – or holes in your own rough ideas that you hadn’t thought of. Find the five most problem-focussed people you work with and ask them to pick holes in your rough plans – according to research just five people will pick up 85% of issues with a product, service or idea. Find solutions to those issues raised.

3. Impress with stats and bust myths
So now you’re armed with a reviewed rough plan, it is time to wow decision makers with some great ideas. It is important to work out how to sell it to them – find out what problem they would most like to solve, e.g. are they sick of all the complaints that the customer services teams are getting? Then find their preferred communication style so you can frame your ideas in a way that works for them. Prepare a ‘mythbusters’ pack of stats and common questions, e.g. why moving to cloud is safer and better than on premise systems?

4 . Set up a change management team
Once you have support from the decision makers, it is time to set up a change team of like-minded people to help you on the road to success. Each area of the organisation should be represented by a ‘change champion’ – someone to voice concerns for their area, make sure their requirements are covered and generally aid the change process. These people should be fully committed to the idea of change and ready to cajole those more risk-averse members of their team that change is necessary.

5. Foster an innovative culture
In his keynote at the DX2017 summit in March, Brett Roberts stressed the interlinkages between innovation and DX, advising companies to drive an innovative and adaptive digital culture at all times – it’s not just for the top team. Now is the time to reach out to the whole organisation, not just your change management team and let them know that DX is afoot. Encourage all generations and levels to get involved – particularly digital natives. You may find extra skills, expertise and ideas to add to the mix, along with new ways to problem solve.

6. Investigate different options and budgets
As a team, look into the problems you are trying to solve. Refine the requirements identified in step one, add some rough metrics and prioritise.  Once the list is complete, seek outside advice from a reputable DX expert who will be able to discuss the different options and give advice on the best possible digital strategy to fit your needs.

Don’t be afraid of speaking to people who don’t fit the normal council mould – it’s important to know what other councils are doing and where money could be saved via collaboration but it is also important to think outside of the box.

There is no reason why the public sector can’t do this too.  Antenno was born out of a need to solve communication issues between local government and their communities. Councils needed new ways of reaching people. At the same time, their customers were complaining of information overload and wanted to only have access to relevant information.

7.Write a plan with metrics
Once all options have been evaluated, it is time to write the DX plan. Datacom’s Head of Digital Experience, Fiona Monks, recommends that this should be a guiding vision or a ‘north star’ for the next three to five years with only the first six months described in detail. Every six months the team can get together and assess whether the organisation is on the right track.

Don’t forget to…

  • Include the metrics stating where you are now, where you want to be and how frequently you are going to measure them.
  • Consider all stakeholders and situations. Make sure all workflows have been reviewed and mapped – there is little point transferring archaic paper process to digital.
  • Include a disaster recovery plan – it shouldn’t be needed but as calculated risks are needed with DX it is best always to be prepared
  • Invite as many people to review it as possible before finalisation.

8. Get communication right
Communication is often cited as a reason for failure from DX projects. Plan meticulously and far in advance, working out what the best mediums for reaching different stakeholders are. Go interactive via social media aiming to build enthusiasm, excitement and confidence. Make sure there are clear avenues for feedback so worries can be quickly addressed before they fester.

9Look out for people resistant to change
However much communication is done beforehand, there will always be some people who are resistant to DX – particularly frontline employees who have not been involved with the decision- making process. Anticipate who these people are and make sure they feel safe and comfortable. Plan onboarding sessions for new technology and listen to them.

10. Have fun
A recent study by Gallup found that just 29 per cent of government workers are engaged in their job. Use DX as a time to turn over a new leaf and boost engagement levels. Share metrics and celebrate successes as a team. Have change champions at each site to drive changes forward and consider some sort of gamification, e.g. prizes for teams who adopt the new ways of working quickest. Points system with league tables and weekly updates can foster some healthy competition.

Ready to transform your organisation? If you need some inspiration, email us at digital@datacom.co.nz or find out more about our local government products including some impressive case studies here.

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