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Why continuous digital transformation should be top of mind for government agencies

By Contributor, 14 May 2021

Article by Empired practice director for digital advisory ANZ, Brendon Trezise.
 

The Australian government has been investing significant time and resources into its digital transformation strategy since 2018 in an effort to deliver world-leading digital services for Australians by 2025. 

COVID-19 disruptions accelerated this transformation and created a strong impetus for government agencies to develop the agility required to pivot quickly in response to lockdowns, restrictions, and other rapid changes. As such, the emphasis for many agencies is now on the need for continuous digital transformation.

The first step in digital transformation is to move from point solutions to cloud-based platforms where possible. The Australian government already had a cloud-first approach before the pandemic. With increasingly secure cloud options available, there is little holding agencies back from embracing cloud. 

For example, the Australian government’s use of Microsoft Teams, via its GovTEAMS platform, tripled in response to the pandemic as agencies moved to remote working. Even where data sovereignty is an issue, government agencies can now choose cloud providers that offer secure onshore data centres.

In some cases, decision-makers may be reluctant to move to the cloud because the short-term cost savings aren’t as high as they may have anticipated. However, the driver should not be around short-term cost savings; building agility and investing for savings in the medium to long term is more important. 

For example, legacy systems that seem to be working currently are likely to incur significant costs in the future as they need to be upgraded and maintained. The return on investment in cloud technologies will come in the longer term as government agencies find themselves better-positioned to deliver improved services to citizens at a lower overall cost.

There are some barriers currently preventing agencies from fully adopting continuous transformation. Risk-averse agencies need to ensure they have the funding properly allocated to a strategic roadmap that includes agility and a long-term view. 

This isn’t traditionally how government agencies have operated, so a mindset shift will be necessary for agencies to embrace continuous transformation and leverage the significant benefits it offers.

Agility, in particular, is essential as the current and future pace of environmental and legislative change will not accommodate lengthy delays to implement decisions that affect the lives and well-being of citizens. As such, government agencies need to invest in continuous transformation strategies with the ability to ebb and flow as required. 

It will be important that these are supported with commercial relationships with trusted partners that can work with agencies to adapt the scope of work or pivot to a new initiative as required.

A continuous transformation approach requires a clear strategy, a well-defined yet adaptable architecture, and firm conviction in the direction taken to achieve an agile, evolving and responsive business to achieve a state of digital enablement.

For best results, government agencies must undertake continuous transformation from a holistic standpoint. Simply upgrading front-end interfaces or back-end systems won’t deliver the whole gamut of benefits. Successful transformation requires digitised operations, data that’s accessible and not siloed, and automation and cultural, policy and procedural transformation to support digital evolution.

While the rapid transition to supporting remote work was laudable, many government organisations now need to take a step back and examine the solutions they put in place during the height of the pandemic. Legacy solutions remain hard to shift, and many agencies may now find themselves with a complex mix of monolithic, cumbersome solutions and more agile cloud-based platforms. 

Security-related decisions may have been made without complete analysis, and the employee experience might not be optimal. Simplifying this complexity and transforming the solutions implemented is essential for these agencies to achieve the cost savings and flexibility promised by the cloud.

As the pace of change continues to accelerate and agencies cope with changes in the employee experience as well as the citizen experience, it will be essential to partner with trusted organisations that can help illuminate the path to success. Local expertise will help government agencies leverage the value provided by large, multinational vendors with proven solutions. This will help government agencies ensure that the proposed solution will best benefit them and their constituents.

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